Understanding Dog Communication


Canine Communication

Dog Communication

Do you ever wonder what is going on with your dog when you hear him bark, howl, growl or whine? Here are some tips that can help you recognize what your dog is really trying to say.

Dogs Have Their Own Language

Many dog owners misread their dog’s communication and label it as a nuisance, but what many owners don’t know is that dogs have developed this language to get along with their human or canine pack. Dogs will generally try to avoid conflict so they use their vocalizations as part of what allows other dogs to tune into their emotions whether they’re in an aggressive or playful mood.

Dog Vocalizations


When a dog barks, it can mean a variety of things. It can mean he wants to play, say hello or get attention. If a dog or stranger approaches, or he becomes distressed, he’ll bark in these moments as well. Due to these communication issues, many dogs end up at the shelter.

How to Reduce Excessive Barking

Dog trainers will suggest to owners that teaching a cue, such as “quiet,” can turn their dogs’ barking into a positive behavior before it gets them in trouble with the entire neighborhood. You can also reward your dog when he’s not barking by providing him with his favorite treat or toy, which can also help curtail the barking. When a dog is demanding attention, you never want to give in to him or it can turn him into a bossy canine who will run your life.


Dogs are known to howl to connect with other dogs or even when they’re in a happy mood. Many dogs will howl due to the sound of sirens or another dog who started it. They’re sent out to keep strangers away or call out members of the pack for hunting. Dogs also howl as a response to annoying sounds like music, noise, singing and nature sounds.

They inherit this characteristic from their wolf ancestors. Each howl is different. If dogs howl in the morning, it can signal separation anxiety. Puppies howl when they’re seeking attention or when they’re sick. If your dog is howling due to separation anxiety, give him interactive toys to keep him occupied while you’re away.

RELATED: Train Your Dog to Run on a Treadmill

Exercise is also another great way to help with dog howling. Another method you can use to cease howling is to introduce things that set your dog’s howling off, such as sounds and loud noises. Understanding why your dog is howling will help you decide how to fix the problem.


When a dog growls, it can mean a clear warning, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, it doesn’t always mean a bad thing. In fact, it can be used in a play situation, such as tug-of-war. A dog may also growl when a kid pulls his tail or ears to let the child know it hurts.

Similar to humans, dogs are also known to growl when they don’t get what they want. Dogs may become assertive when they feel the need to control a situation. This must be handled the correct way by a professional dog trainer. Ignoring this behavior and allowing it to continue can lead to a very unsafe environment.

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Whining is usually the result of a puppy needing his mother’s milk and comfort. Puppies often seem to whine when they’re hungry or want to be let outside. They may also whine out of pain, abandonment or fear. Some dogs will whine when they’re by themselves outside.

Many dog owners will give in to the whimpering and, if they do so, many dogs will use this to their advantage. You never want to punish a dog for whining, as it is better to use confidence building exercises. Finding out exactly why your dog is whining could possibly save his life.

RELATED: Why You Shouldn’t Scold at Your Dog

Seek Help If You Need It

Your dog’s vocalization problems can be stressful for everyone around you. Knowing exactly why your dog is acting the way he is will enable you to work out a treatment plan to fix the problem. For help with dealing with these issues, contact your local ABC Certified dog trainer. All of the graduates from Animal Behavior College are canine professionals who can help you and your dog communicate better.

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