What do different dog noises mean? | Ask Our Behaviorist

Jul 28,2021

Even though dogs do not speak human, they actually can be really good at communicating with us. We get used to the way our own dogs communicate with us which makes it easier to know their wants and needs. Dogs can communicate with us in several ways. They can use body language, but the most common is vocalization. The different sounds a dog can make includes barking, growling, groaning, whining, howling and sighing. 

Here we are going to look at what these different noises could indicate and what your dog could be trying to tell you.


This is the most common type of dog communication. Some dogs bark more than others and some dogs may never bark. There are many different things that a bark could mean, such as excitement or fear. It really depends on the situation. For example, if your dog hears someone outside your house and they start barking it could mean they are excited or they are showing the person outside that this house is their territory. It will be easier to know what your dog is trying to communicate if you know their personality. If they love people, you will know that they are excited. 

You will also be able to indicate their mood by examining their body language and the pitch of the bark. If the dog’s tail is wagging when they are barking, they could be happy, excited or nervous! Check your dog’s body language. Do they look excited or nervous? Are their ears pointing back showing anxiousness? Now check their tone, if it is high-pitched it is usually happiness and low-pitched is usually indicating a threat. 


A growl usually means one out of two things; a warning or your dog is being playful. If your dog is barking at you or someone else and they sound angry, they may be telling the person “stay away I don’t want you to pet me” or something along those lines. We must respect the growl of our dogs. If we give out to them for growling, they could decide to just bite instead. We don’t want that! If your dog growls at you or someone because they want to be left alone or they feel threatened, respect their boundaries.


If you are playing a game with your dog like tug of war with one of their rope toys, your dog may growl at you. This isn’t something that should frighten you. They are just trying to intimidate you because they want to win the game! Or they are showing you how tough they are. 


Groaning usually occurs when your dog is disappointed. Although many dog noises don't relate to humans, this is one of them that does. Think back to a time when your dog groaned at you. Was it a groan of disappointment when you didn’t take them for the walk they thought they were going on? Or was it when they were bored because nobody would play with them? 

If your dog seems lonely and they start to groan at you they are pretty much asking for some attention! However, if the groaning doesn’t stop and their eating habits change, this could be a sign of pain or discomfort and you should consult a veterinarian. 


There are also a few reasons as to why your dog may whine. This may be because your dog wants something, they are in pain or they are anxious.

If your dog is sitting whining while looking at you, they probably just want some love and attention. If they are whining at the back door of your house, they probably need to go outside. If they are whining at your dog leash, they probably want to go for a walk. It all depends on the situation. 

If you find your dog whining quite frequently with changes in their appetite and slumped behavior, they could be in pain or uncomfortable somehow. Consult with your vet if this is the case.

Dogs may also whine when they feel anxious, especially with separation anxiety. Pay attention to the body language of your dog. If they whine when you aren't around, this is a sign of separation anxiety. 


Some dogs never actually howl. Siberian huskies are a very popular breed for howling, and they make quite funny and entertaining sounds when doing so. This could be to show happiness, frustration, confusion, anything at all! Just pay attention to when and where your dog is howling and what the reasons could be.


If your dog howls when you aren’t around, they could be trying to communicate with you or with someone else to comfort them. They may also howl around other dogs just as a way of communication!


The sigh could be a sign of contentment. If your dog gets cozy on the couch, they might let out a sigh of relaxation. I know you have done that before! The dog's sigh is very similar to the human sigh. They may even let out a sigh out of disappointment. It is quite similar to groaning in this way. Things didn’t go your dog's way? Sigh. 

If you are still unsure as to what your dog is trying to communicate with you, it may be a good idea to consult a professional.