Your dog’s language

It’s important to understand dog language and how your dog communicates. You’ll gain insight into what he’s feeling and be able to interact with him in a way that he understands. This can make training easier, keep your dog from developing behavior problems, and deepen your relationship with him.

Dog’s have a number of ways to express their feelings through sounds:

Whimpering or Whining

A whimpering or whining sound is used in dog language as a sign of greeting, submission, or desire. Many owners unintentionally reinforce whining or crying because they don’t understand what a dog means when he does it. If you let your dog out of his crate when he whines, he’ll learn to whine in similar situations to get what he wants.


A dog growls to threaten or warn. The growl may be accompanied by a snarl for added effect. This expression can be used against an owner to assume dominance. For instance, your dog may growl if you try to take food away from him. If the growling works and you back away, your dog will growl at other times such as when you try to take toys or when he wants to be left alone.


Barking is an essential part of dog language and communication. The tone of the bark says a lot about your dog’s state of mind.

High pitched: This is used for greetings. High pitched barks may also be accompanied by whimpering to signal excitement or enthusiasm.

Prolonged or anxious: Also known as yelping, a dog uses this to communicate pain or stress. You’ve likely heard this sound if you’ve accidentally stepped on your dog’s tail.

Deep or low and short: This bark tone denotes warning, such as when your dog senses an intruder or something that may pose a danger.

Really low: An extremely low, short bark allows a dog to communicate aggression. Growling may be included to make the message of hostility undeniable.


It’s not entirely clear where howling fits into dog language. You can often hear dogs howl when their owners leave them, or you may be able to prompt your dog to howl if you howl yourself. Whether it’s out of loneliness, boredom, or celebration, howling is one of the many expressions that reveal your dog’s wolf heritage.

Mimicking dog sounds for training

By altering the tone of your voice, you can use your dog’s subtleties of communication to make obedience training commands more effective.

Use lower, shorter tones for corrections or warnings

If your dog makes a training mistake, or is tearing up your new rug, use a low tone of voice with short commands to mimic the warning bark in dog language. Your dog will get your meaning just from your tone.

Use higher tones for praise or encouragement

Raise the tone of your voice to praise or encourage, like an excited bark. Be sincere and don’t poke fun at your dog in the process.

Dog language is amazingly complex, but learning a little about how your dog communicates can make life with him that much more enjoyable.


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