Lots of debates have occurred over why dogs bark and what do different sounds of barking stand for. Just as humans, dogs communicate too. And similarly to humans who communicate by speech and body language, dogs also use both sound and body language to communicate. Humans have language that is explicable but the question that most dog lovers often contemplate is whether dogs have a language that humans can't interpret.
A dog may move his ears, head, tail, eyes and eyebrows in a distinctive manner to communicate. For instance, tail carried high is interpreted as a sign of dominance or dog aggression and if held low, it stands for submission or insecurity. Nevertheless, the communication accomplishments of a dog are not limited to their body language.
Dogs evolved from wolves but their barking has become significantly unlike that of their parentages, who howl or bay only in specific situations.
The howling or baying is characterized by brevity and isolation. On the contrary, a dog barks in long rhythmical stanzas. Dogs bark more often and in countless situations. The understanding behind this is attributed to the domestication of dogs.
Research on why dogs bark has established that there are different types of dog barking.
A warning bark - This is a low and quiet bark but the noticeable growl increases in intensity and finally becomes a howling growl. Dogs use this to signify a possible danger and consequently it is generally associated with territorial trespass. The dog will continue to bark and may also bare his teeth if an immediate threat is sensed.
An Alarm Bark - This type of bark involves short barks at a time. Barking of this nature may persist until the dog ascertains that some action is being taken. Such barks ensue in general from what dogs can hear but are unable to see like a car parking nearby or a doorbell ringing.
Prolonged barking - Continuous barking is the dog's way to transmit that he is alone and lonely. It is a kind of plea for companionship or attention.
Yelps - A single or a series of yelps normally emanates out of pain, depending on its severity.
Stutter bark - A bark that sounds like a halting bark in a low pitch usually means that the dog would like to play. A rising pitched stutter bark is a mark of excitation.
Humans were quicker in decoding body language in dogs. Nevertheless, there has been a consistent attempt to interpret dog barking, growling, whimpering and howling. Before attempting to attribute meanings to why dogs bark, it is crucial here to observe that animal communication acquirements are now believed to be more complex than considered earlier.
Some communications may lack spontaneity or originality or individuality. Same gestures and barks may have different or multiple meanings and some may be highly contextual in nature. Just as displaying teeth does not always mean dog biting, dog barking too does not always mean aggressive dog behavior.
A smile may seem like a snarl but there is a huge difference between the two. Likewise, it is hard to generalize why dogs bark and a lot is yet to be understood.