Tip of the Month

4/8/2011 Canine Communication - Ever Wonder What They’re Shouting About?

Understanding "Dog Talk"

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 help 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 in 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 are in an aggressive or playful mood.

Why They Bark

When a dog barks, it can mean a variety of things. It can mean a dog or stranger is approaching, they want to play, they’re trying to say hello, they want attention, or it can be a warning caused by distress. Due to these communication issues, many dogs end up at the shelter.

Minimizing Barking

Dog trainers will suggest to owners that teaching a cue such as “quiet” can turn this behavior into a positive before it gets them in trouble with the entire neighborhood. You can also reward your dog when he is 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 that will run your life. If you need help locating a professional Dog trainer try the ABC Find a Dog Trainer page.

What's With The Howling?

Dogs are known to howl to connect with other dogs or even when they are in a happy mood. Many dogs will howl from the sounds of sirens or will catch on from another dog that started it. They are sent out to keep strangers away or to 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 are seeking attention or possibly when they are sick. If he is howling due to separation anxiety, you can give him interactive toys to keep him occupied while you are away. Exercise is also another great way to help with that. Another method that 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 they are 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 indicate to them that 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. You can locate an ABC Certified dog trainer by visiting the Animal Behavior College Find a Trainer page.

Observe Whining Closely

Whining usually comes from when a puppy needed his mother’s milk and also for comfort. They often seem to whine when they are hungry or want to be let outside. They may also whine out of pain, abandonment or fear. Some dogs will whine when they are 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 they are whining could possibly save their life.

Seek Help If You Need It

Vocalization problems with your dog can be stressful for everyone around you. Knowing exactly why your dog is acting the way he is will help you be able to work out a treatment plan to fix the problem. For help with dealing with these issues, you can contact your local ABC Certified dog trainer. All of the graduates on the Animal Behavior College Find a Dog Trainer Page are certified professionals that can help you and your canine communicate together.

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