And then of course, in addition to body language there is vocalization. Just as we make sound when we talk, laugh, cry, shout, cheer, grunt, moan, sigh, etc., dogs can also express many if not all of these same emotions through their vocalizations.
The first one that no doubt comes to mind when you think of dog vocalizations is barking, and this one word, “bark”, can have so many different meanings. One bark does not fit all meanings; dogs can bark out of joy, fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, loneliness, anger, in warning or to guard territory or resources. Many of the meanings behind barks can be understood from the sound of the bark itself, and understanding them doesn’t always necessarily even require extensive experience with dogs, but this will vary from person to person. See some of the resources referenced at the end of this post for help with understanding dog barks.
A close second to barking would probably be whining, and much like barking, whining can also have multiple meanings depending on the context in which it occurs; dogs might whine out of boredom, pain, frustration, stress, loneliness, fear, or in an attempt to get some attention. If you know your dogs well and observe them closely on a daily basis the reasons for whining should not be too difficult to decipher.
Howling, which is synonymous with wolves, is loud and often contagious; once one starts, others will find it impossible to resist joining in. If you’ve ever been near a howling wolf or dog, you’ll know that it’s quite impossible to ignore. Howling could be considered a type of roll call, which is why it is so instinctual for wolves and dogs to join in when it happens, but it is often also an indication of loneliness; puppies howl and cry when left alone, and howling is also a common symptom displayed by dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. On occasion it may just be a reaction to a passing ambulance, police car, or even an ice cream van – a bit like when “Despacito” comes on the radio…how could you not join in? Company and social security are a recurring theme with all of the vocalizations listed here; dogs are not solitary animals by nature and they will often feel social pain when left alone or separated from their social circle.
So, whether it’s calming signals, distance increasing signals, or vocalizations, the reasons behind all these is always the same – communication. By using one or several of these signals and sounds your dog is trying to tell you something, so listen.