UNDERSTANDING YOUR DOGS VOCAL COMMUNICATION -  what makes dogs bark, whine, growl or grunt ?

Dogs make communication sounds in various ways, how well do you know the communication differences?

They howl, growl, grunt, whine and bark.

The Howl  – dogs communicate with others long distance by howling, howling can also indicate extreme loneliness, separation anxiety. The reason,  if your pooch is at home alone, this could trigger this behavior. REMEMBER if you plan to only keep one pet, a dog, take a lot into consideration before buying that dog. If the dog is at home alone all day, is it really a good idea to buy the dog? If you are at home all day, in and out, work from home, different story.

THE GROWL - This can be interpreted in different ways and the best way to recognise the meaning of this GROWL is body language.  Is the dog standing its ground over possibly another dog ? Showing dominance, I am the boss around here – you will submit to me. Growling and standing and watching and listening, this GROWL will be interpreted as a threat nearby, an approaching stranger, something the dog may be unsure about, but is convinced that danger is looming.  The GROWL in play. The dog should be playing, around, tug of war with a toy you are holding or another dog is holding on to. Very easy to distinguish.


GRUNTING.  Normally means I am content, leave me alone CHILLING for the time being. Grunting is a statement, I am a happy chappy

WHINING… Can be a form of defence, submissiveness often if a dog is standing over another dog, in a domineering position, the dog being dominated may whine, as if to say “OKAY you are the BOSS dog”. Sometimes when in pain, if you are looking e.g. at the leg, which has been hurt, you often hear the dog whine and whimper. The dog is acknowledging that it has been hurt. Whining can be a form of attention seeking, and if you acknowledge that you have heard, the whining will normally stop.  Frustration – nothing much happening here, I am bored.

BARKING. The dog will often bark in excitement, happy to see you return home. Barking can be a communication between dogs. Barking can be a warning that a stranger is around. If the dog feels danger is close by the barking will become more frequent and possibly louder, the dog will be agitated.  Some dogs are bred for herding and guarding and these usually bark and that is normal. Again you can monitor the dogs body language. The dogs that can, short haired dogs, ridge on the back will stand up. Obviously does not happen with a yorkie.  Barking can mean a very lonely dog with nothing to do, very bored. If a dog is startled, barking often follows. If a dog finds something in your garden, a snake a cat up a tree, you can be sure they will bark. The cat up the tree the barking should have a wagging tail attached. Again watch the dogs  body language.  If a dog is being teased by a passerby or a child next door, barking out of pure frustration often follows.

INTERPRETING that BARK….  As we mentioned above if the dog feels there is danger looming, the barking will become more frequent and the bark may get progressively louder. Barking for your attention, is something you do not want to encourage and best dealt with as quickly as possible. Do not let your dog bark and bark for your attention, that may just become a BAD habit. Acknowledge the dog, and the barking should be over with. If your dog continues to bark at you for attention, time to start letting him know that that is unacceptable behavior.  This is where your voice training will be applied, something we have discussed  about a good few months ago. A loud NO from you should stop the dogs in its tracks. Please remember DOGS can be controlled by your voice, the tone to your voice, they are highly intelligent and the Yorkie and Biewer Yorkie are no exception. We do not believe a dog needs to experience physical punishment to let it know it is in the wrong.  If you develop a good relationship with your dog, and take the time, and make the effort, your dog will be a pleasure to own, if you are just buying a dog, and it stays in the back yard, and you give it food twice a day, or you have a little yorkie, that can help itself whenever to food, (that is HOPEFULLY kept indoors) you need to make the time to play, fuss etc with your lap dog. No use having a dog that you look at to feed end of story…  

Excitement in a bark, the dog is happy and the barking will be short and sharp and for a short period of time (HOPEFULLY) Dogs usually behave in this way when children are swimming and they get the odd splash and run up and down. AGAIN not something you want to encourage, a short period of fun and then NO NO NO.

Barking when the dog next door is barking, just telling the dog in close proximity not to forget he is around.

Bored dogs, bark. Lack of exercise and attention, they have too much energy and become totally frustrated. Dogs like this need to be stimulated by their owners.

The LONELY dog bark, is high pitched and continues for lengthy periods, that is when your neighbour threatens you…..  again separation anxiety and lack of stimulation and lack of attention.

Old dogs will often stare into space and bark out every now and then.  It is old age unfortunately, and often the dog is deaf as well and cannot hear itself.  A gentle nudge from the owner should be all needed to stop the barking instantly.



Firstly you have to understand what the bark is about. You then have to teach the dog that it can bark at looming danger, you then choose a word and if you have ever trained a dog in attack work, you should be familiar with the word WATCHHHHHHHH drawn out as said. Your choice of word, you then encourage your dog to watch and the barking that will accompany that command is acceptable, you however, must have another word to teach the dog, to stop that barking when you tell it to. Choose a word, STOP is often used.  You must always give your dogs treats when they do what you want them to while training, do not give them a treat 10 minutes later, they will have no idea what that is all about. It must be within a couple of seconds. Those treat pouches you attach to your waist belt can be bought at your vet or pet supply store.

Remember to train a dog successfully is to train it repeatedly, You cannot train it today and two weeks later, expect it to do what you trained it to do. Repetition will teach your dog and fast. The dog will also enjoy the attention paid to it and you and the dog’s relationship will develop from there. 

If the dog howls or barks from separation anxiety, best give him something to take his mind off of you departing, a toy a hoofy,  you then praise him as you leave, slip him a treat. On your return, you fuss like crazy tell him /her good dog, give her/him a treat. Your dog must realise that when you leave home, you will return. There are a few exceptional things available for your pet. Talking food bowl. Recorded with a number of different lines, your own voice. As the dog approaches to drink or feed the bowl starts talking to him.  You could record, things like, Good boy, Dad will be home soon. Calming words obviously, you do not want Poochie to go nuts with excitement thinking you are down the passage.

Praise and treats work wonders with dogs, and obviously you will not have to use treats continuously for your dog to behave. After a period of time your dog will be more than happy to listen to your commands and will derive pleasure when you again tell him GOOD BOOOOOOOOOOY….

Remember the dog owner who invests the time, trouble and effort, is the winning DOG owner at the end of the day.  The Dog owner who has a happy, content well adjusted, dog.

Remember sterilization of your pet, makes for a much more stable dog, much more content dog, the hormones are not raging through the dogs system, encouraging all sorts of behavior. It is just as important to neuter a male. The neighbour may have a bitch on heat, and that alone will cause another lot of problems with your dog. Males must be neutered, they will not take exception to the male next door who may not be sterilized. They will not show the aggression that could be shown to an entire male on the otherside of the wall.

If you take that little bit more time and make the effort, your dog will become an absolute pleasure to own, not a frustrating, noisy canine.

IF you have tried and don’t come right. You have two options, enroll at a Dog Training School and learn to train your dog.. It is most rewarding and once your dog has started to progress he/she will almost rush you off your feet to get to that training session. The dogs just LOOOOOOOVE training.  You meet interesting people and you begin to look forward to those sessions yourself. As your dog learns how to be obedient, sit stay, and if you are really keen, you can train them in scent tracking and attack work. Obviously your yorkie will not be doing the attack training.

IF this is not your idea of fun, call in a Behaviorist Specialist who will come to your home, and be able to assist you. Very often a couple of meetings like this solves the problem. The Behaviorist will pick up where the problems are and advise you how to sort them.

Finally if you have an only pet, you are then that dogs everything, he has no other canine friend to relieve boredom, frustration, separation anxiety. You have to spend time with your dog, you have to do what it takes to ensure your dog, is a happy, content, stable animal.  DO NOT rush into buying a dog, if you are never at home, go away a lot. Dogs love companionship, be it human or canine and in some cases feline.

Best of luck………

Dog Behaviourist contact details appear on our front page of our website.

Dog training in your area? If you are not sure, ask your vet, they usually will be able to refer you.