6 Types of Dog Barks and What They Really Mean

A Labrador barking to show types of dog barks.

Dogs aren’t only man’s best friends but also masterful communicators. Barking is a fundamental way for dogs to express needs, emotions, and warnings. Understanding the nuances of a dog’s bark can significantly enhance the human-canine bond. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the six main types of dog barks, deciphering their pitch, frequency, and context to help you interpret what your furry friend is trying to convey.

1. Alarm Barks

Pitch: Deep and resonant 

Frequency: Non-stop 

Context: Indicating a threat, often when a stranger is approaching 

Alarm barks are a type of dog bark characterized by a lower pitch and continuous frequency. These barks are a dog’s way of warning their owners of a potential threat. The American Kennel Club notes that the lower the pitch of the bark, the more serious the dog believes the situation to be. This type of dog bark tends to persist until the dog is assured there is no danger. 

Alarm bark example: A deep, frenzied bark at the window when a stranger approaches the door. 

2. Playful Barks 

Pitch: Higher and more enthusiastic

Frequency: Variable 

Context: Expressing excitement or playfulness, often during playtime or when anticipating a walk 

Playful barks are higher in pitch than alarm barks, conveying excitement or eagerness. This type of dog bark can be directed towards either humans or other dogs. 

When directed towards other dogs, this high-pitched bark serves as an invitation to play. It is often coupled with friendly body language, such as play bows and sneezing. When a playful bark is directed towards humans, it shows that the dog is anticipating an enjoyable activity, such as playing fetch. 

Playful bark example: A shrill bark when the dog sees you reaching for its leash. 

3. Territorial Barks 

Pitch: Low and prolonged 

Frequency: Variable

Context: Marking and protecting their territory– often occurring at windows, doors, or around fences 

Territorial barks are low-pitched and long, signaling a dog’s assertion over “their” territory. While this behavior is most common in places well-known to the dog (such as in the home at the front door, or in the car), it can happen in public spaces too. 

Territorial barks are often accompanied by aggressive displays. VCA Animal Hospitals notes that these territorial displays can range from growling to lunging, chasing, snapping, or even biting. 

Territorial barking and aggression can be minimized with good training. It’s important to note that bark control collars do not work on territorial barking, as it is something that needs consistent work and reminders to stop such behavior.  

Territorial bark example: Deep repetitive barks at passersby near the window. 

A dog barking on his lawn.

4. Anxious Barks 

Pitch: Varied, often accompanied by whining or howling 

Frequency: Intermittent or continuous 

Context: Expressing distress, often due to separation anxiety or fear 

Anxious barks are a dog’s way of showing distress. These barks can vary in pitch but tend to be accompanied by whining, yelping, or mournful howling. 

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety may bark excessively when left alone. Beyond non-stop barking, signs of separation anxiety in dogs include trembling, panting, destructive behavior, and vomiting. 

With the neighbor’s dogs, it’s hard to tell if it is a nuisance or attention-seeking barking. But for our own dogs, we are often able to tell based on other contextual clues. We would not recommend products to people who know their dog is actively suffering from anxiety, as the loud noise from devices can make the anxiety worse and scare the dog into a panic.

Anxious bark example: barking for an extended period of time when left alone at the house. 

5. Attention-Seeking Barks 

Pitch: Higher pitch; short and specific barks

Frequency: Repeated 

Context: Seeking attention or alerting to something 

Attention-seeking barks and short and sharp, often directed at a person to gain their attention or highlight something. It’s the dog’s way of saying, “Look here!” or “Pay attention to me!”

This type of barking can become obsessive for dogs, especially when they are left alone. If this is the case, Good Life Inc.’s training tools work well to curb excessive barking.

Attention-seeking bark example: Quick, repetitive barks when the dog wants your attention. 

6. Boredom Barks 

Pitch: Monotone and repetitive 

Frequency: Persistent 

Context: Signifying boredom and a need for stimulation 

Boredom barks are characterized by a monotonous tone and repetitive pattern, suggesting the dog is in need of physical or mental stimulation. If your dog is left at home during the day, this type of bark may be common from them. If you live in a small apartment, make sure your dog has enough toys and activities to keep them occupied and prevent boredom. 

Incorporating a training tool such as the BarkWise™ Complete can humanely and effectively teach your dog not to boredom bark; no shock involved. Bark control collars and training devices can go a long way in helping minimize excessive boredom barking. 

Boredom bark example: Continuously barking in a monotone manner when left alone and understimulated. 

Key Takeaways 

Understanding and interpreting these various types of dog barks can significantly enhance communication with your canine companion. It’s important to respond appropriately based on the bark message to address your dog’s needs and emotions effectively. 

To delve deeper into the world of types of dog barks and to debunk common myths surrounding bark control, check out this informative resource on why dogs bark and bark collar myths. Remember, attentive listening to your dog’s barks can pave the way to a stronger, more harmonious bond between you and your loyal companion. 

Visit the Good Life Inc. blog for more insights into your pup.


American Kennel Club – Learning to Speak Dog: The Meaning of Your Dog’s Barks

Florida Veterinary Behavior Service – Canine Body Language: Play Bow

American Kennel Club – Why Do Dogs Sneeze?

VCA Animal Hospital – Aggression in Dogs – Territorial 

RSPCA – Recognizing Separation-Relation Behavior in Dogs

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