Dog Communication – Level 4
Vocalization: They Talk – We Listen?
By Christina Cox-Evick
From birth, puppies display a range of vocalizations: soft whines, grunts and burgeoning barks help the pups communicate to mom and littermates. The vocalizations learned under mom’s care prove vital to a puppy’s ability to communicate sensations or emotions using canine “speech.” Yet much as children learn the finer points of communication by interacting with other humans, puppies learn vocalization variations, combined with body signals, to convey different messages as they socialize with puppies and mature dogs beyond their family.
Patient adult dogs regularly teach canine “pack” vocalizations through clear lessons. A male German Shepherd Dog may teach a female puppy the meaning of a “warning growl” by picking up a chew bone, showing it to her and lying down to chew. If she starts toward him to grab the temptation, he stiffens and directs a low growl her way until she yields. At that point he chews another minute, then relaxes his body and quietly allows her to approach and take the bone.
Dogs who live together form their own pack, and vocalizations frequently relate to pack behaviors. For example, howling together broadcasts a pack’s territory to other dogs.
Transferring vocalizations to the human pack comes naturally to dogs, who judge our responses to different sounds and use them accordingly. Your puppy learns that a whine prompts you to take him outside for a potty trip; a few short yaps when you run late on dinner gets you out of your chair to prepare food. Vocalizations that earn our attention continue while those we ignore, such as excessive whining, generally fade.
Vocalizations mean different things depending on the situation. Here you can learn about and listen to a variety of canine vocalizations. (Note that as in humans, pitch and tone are all relative to the dog’s normal “voice” — a high-pitched and excited prey bark from a dog with a naturally deep bark won’t sound as high pitched as a dog that starts with a higher pitched bark.) Next time your dog barks, whines, howls or mixes vocalizations, listen hard — you might find your dog says more than you ever realized.
Author of countless articles and several books, dog writer Christina Cox-Evick lives in Ohio with her husband, dogs of assorted breeds and three cats. A trainer, instructor and competitor, she has titled dogs in multiple sports and taught classes at Columbus All-Breed Training Club for many years. In her spare time, Cox-Evick says she enjoys quiet times with her husband walking their dogs.