People in America communicate in ways that are quite different from those in other parts of the world. We use different mannerisms. People in America would be uncomfortable standing as close to each other as is the norm in some other countries. In other words, we are big on personal space.

Well, dogs have their own ways of doing things, too. They have their own mannerisms and ways to communicate when dogs are getting too close to invading their personal spaces or even when they are just happy to see other dogs, or you. Do dogs understand each other’s barks? Let’s look into it.

Do dogs understand other dogs’ barks?

In short, yes, dogs do understand each other’s barks. Dogs actually communicate quite well with their barks, even better with their body language, and best of all with their scents. 

Dogs bark at each other for all kinds of reasons, like announcing their location, but keep reading to find out many other reasons why dogs bark.

What do dogs say to each other when they bark?

What are they saying to each other, though? What are they saying to you? What is driving a barking dog? Here are some reasons why a dog barks.

Saying “Hello”

There are essentially three types of barking hellos. Here they are.

Saying “Hello, I’m happy to meet (or see) you”

Some dogs bark when greeting other dogs or even people. The barking is usually accompanied by a wagging tail and a wiggly body. Think about how your dog acts when you come home from work.

Saying “Hello, even though I have no idea who you are”

Dogs even do this from a distance. Have you ever noticed it when one dog in the neighborhood starts barking, then another will chime in, then another, until several dogs in the neighborhood are barking in unison? They are greeting each other from a distance or socializing.

Saying “Hello, I’m quite frustrated because I cannot say hello properly”

Dogs, again, have their own way of doing things, and often, when they greet each other in person, they approach each other from the side. For whatever reason, it’s just part of a dog’s natural language when communicating with another dog.

Keeping this in mind makes it fairly easy to understand why dogs get frustrated when trying to greet each other when leashed.

So, when you are walking your dog on a leash, don’t be surprised if she acts out of character and barks or lunges at dogs along the route. This is a sign of frustration from not being able to greet them properly.

Crying Out “I’m Bored”

Many dogs in America simply don’t get enough exercise or playtime. These dogs can be full of pent-up energy. They simply get bored, and all they need is some activity.

If you can’t get outside, some indoor playtime will do, even some form of affection, like cuddling, is still attention and will help. If you never have time for your dog, maybe you need to get her a canine companion. 

Declaring “I’m Warning You”

There is more than one reason why a dog may give out this warning bark. Here are two.

Warning “This is my territory”

A certain type of barking is given out to keep others, other dogs and people, at bay. At the barking stage, though, barking is not aggressive or violent but is only an early warning. You are starting to delve into more aggressive territory when you hear a growl.

Warning “These are my things”

When another dog starts to take a dog’s toy, gets near her bedding, or comes too near to her food, she may react with an angry bark, which, by the way, may begin as a low-pitched, drawn-out growl. This is the first warning to leave these things alone, that they belong to her, and that she will become more aggressive if the situation doesn’t diffuse itself.

Stating “This Is My Home”

Whatever area that dogs see as their territory, which, by the way, includes everything that’s your territory, they will guard it. That means when another dog, or the mailman, comes near, they will start barking to tell them it’s their domain and to go away.

Pleading “Let’s Play”

Dogs will also bark when they want to be pals with other dogs. When they want to play with other canines or with their owners, they are likely to “play bow” (extend their paws out on the ground in front of them with their shoulders down on the ground and their bottoms up in the air).

The little short play growl they let out followed by a bark lets you know that they are as excited as can be about playtime with you and ready to get underway. This play bow is also often accompanied by what is referred to as a submissive grin, which, at first, seems to be an odd name considering they look so happy.

Uttering “I’m Afraid”

There is yet another type of bark a dog will vocalize when she is afraid. When a dog feels threatened, she may bark or even growl and bark to let you know something is amiss. It will be similar to her “These Are My Things” reaction, as she will go on the offensive eventually if she feels it is necessary to protect herself.

Exclaiming “I Don’t Want to Be Away From You”

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety bark excessively when their owners have gone away. They do it to self-soothe. This is usually a high-pitched bark and will drive your neighbors insane.

If your dog has separation anxiety, you should act quickly because the problem won’t go away on its own. Think about getting another dog or consulting a veterinary behaviorist.

Shouting “I Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”

Dogs will bark when they are excited to get to do something. Some dogs love walking to the park. Some love the drive up to the mountain to go for a hike. Some just love bath time.

When a dog realizes it’s time to do something she loves, she tends to get very excited, and barking is one of the ways she shows it. She may also run around in circles and perk up her ears.

Blurting “Look at Me”

Some barking is attention-seeking behavior. This can happen when dogs don’t get enough attention, or it can happen when a dog realizes she gets attention every time she barks and makes a game of it. The latter will take retraining to stop.

Announcing “I Don’t Know What Else to Do”

When a dog is restrained by a fence, gate, leash, or any number of other ways, she can’t go but so far. So, if she sees another dog, she can’t greet them, sniff them, or retreat from them. She is very limited as to how she can react.

Barking is really the only way she has to warn the other dog not to come near. A restrained dog may even get frustrated and anxious and begin barking at all dogs that go by. This is a fight-or-flight reaction.

How do dogs communicate with each other?

Not only do dogs communicate with each other by barking but also by sniffing each other’s scents and watching each other’s body language. Let’s look.

Barks

Steady barking and tail-wagging usually come from a dog who is trying to make friends. Barking in short bursts is the sign of a dog who is alert to your presence or the presence of another dog or person. Growls or barks that are low-pitched are usually coming from a dog who is angry and has or will soon become aggressive.

The louder or more high-pitched the bark, the more emotional the dog. If you hear your dog let out a high-pitched bark or a loud yelp when she is playing with another dog, separate them immediately, as she has been hurt and has had her fill.

Body Language

We’ve talked about the play bow, but what about the infamous paw slap. This is a greeting similar to a human handshake. It is a sign that the dog trusts the other dog or you. Biting is something that can go both ways. 

Dogs don’t have arms to tickle you with, so the next best thing is play biting. Dogs love play biting, and they will be very careful not to hurt you or another dog unless it becomes aggressive for some reason. If you see the situation becoming aggressive, separate the two dogs immediately.

A dog who rests her head on another dog is asserting her dominance, while a submissive dog will lower her head.

Scent

A dog’s primary sense is that of smell. It’s crazy to think about but many dogs have up to 20 times as many olfactory receptors as humans do, and bloodhounds have up to 60 times as many. Also, the area in a dog’s brain used to process smells is around 40 times the area of that of humans.

Also amazing is the fact that dogs can detect certain odors in parts per trillion. While we smell a delicious cherry pie, our dog smells the cherries, the flour, the sugar, the butter, the nutmeg, and so on.

Then, you have the crotch-sniffers — they only do this because they gain a great deal of information from doing so, like the sex of the person or dog and whether a woman or “bitch” (female dog) is fertile.

Why do dogs bark when other dogs bark?

Dogs bark when other dogs bark because this is one way that they communicate. They are the descendants of wolves, who are pack animals. Pack animals depend on each other for survival, so communication and understanding are vital.

Not only can dogs communicate that other dogs should stay away from their food, but it’s been documented that they have a way to resolve conflicts. They can even send out calming signals that can prevent fights.

Once you learn how dogs do communicate through scent, body language, and vocalization, you will be able to more readily decipher what your dog is trying to tell you or when he is in a volatile situation with another canine.

Do dogs understand human barks?

Some dog owners make an attempt at communicating with their dogs by barking at them. How do dogs interpret their barks? Well, of course, we aren’t really sure, but what we can do is look to their barks and their body language for answers. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.