A puppy howling in a field

What do different dog noises mean?

Dogs talk to us all the time. Even though they can’t speak human language, the noises that dogs make reveal a lot about how they see the world; their wants, needs, fears and pleasures. However, it can be difficult understanding exactly what your furry friend is trying to say if you don’t know their bark from their growl. James Wellbeloved looks at the different types of dog noises and provides expert advice on what they might mean.


Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, depending on the circumstances. Dog barking noises sound different with each distinct purpose. Knowing the intent behind your dog’s bark means recognising each unique pitch and level of forcefulness; for example, an alert bark will often be sharp, repetitive and intense enough to attract your attention straight away, whereas a more monotone noise generally indicates boredom.

However, your dog’s bark will be unique to them. It’s up to you as a responsible pet owner to learn what each noise means, so they can feel as heard and understood as possible.


As with other forms of communication, dogs growl to let us know how they’re feeling. Not every growl means your dog is angry or being aggressive, and it’s important to recognise the situation they’re in before jumping to conclusions.

It’s important to watch your dog’s body language, too, as this should give a better indication of what they’re trying to say rather than relying on sound alone – especially when it comes to something like growling! A dog will likely to have shown many other subtle body language changes before they even begin to growl.

Dogs growl for three main reasons:

  • Pleasure

Dogs may not purr in the same way as cats, but you’ve probably noticed a quiet rumbling sound they make from time to time – perhaps when you’re rubbing their belly. This low sound means they are happy and will often last longer than other growls.

  • Frustration

Usually occurs when your dog is anxious, whether around new people or other pets, but can also happen if they’re excited to see you, such as when you return home.

  • Aggression

Loud, low rumbles that are typically used along with changes in stance. This type of growl is also often accompanied by some teeth-baring behaviour. Such behaviour should be dissuaded and is usually attributable to some form of provocation, such as encroachment on your dog’s personal space.

A dog barking indoors




Contrary to popular belief, a whining dog doesn’t usually mean that your pet is in any pain. Pain-related sounds may be more of a whimper or a yelp. Instead, if your dog whines, it’s more likely they want something. Generally, your dog will whine when they need to go outside, want a treat, want to go for a walk, or simply attract your attention.

However, if your dog is more senior and they start to whine more, this could be indicative of age-related ailments such as disorientation or anxiety. Any concerns you have about your dogs whining habits should be directed to a qualified vet immediately.


Sighing or groaning sounds are some of the more subtle noises that dogs make. Usually dogs will sigh or groan from contentment or tiredness, similar to how humans relax; however, this can also be a sign of irritation brought on by not getting what they want.

A common scenario may be that your dog is hungry but has already consumed their daily caloric need. As such, they could sigh at you as a way of expressing frustration.


Just like wolves, howling is your pooch’s way of communicating with their peers. This means you, so always pay attention to these types of dog noises, as they could mean something important.

Some dogs never howl, while others – for example, the Siberian Husky – are very vocal. Regardless of breed though, excessive howling can sometimes indicate a bigger problem, such as separation anxiety or an injury that needs treatment.

If you’re concerned about how much your dog is howling, get advice from a vet as quickly as possible.

When it comes to dog noises, you should at least have a good idea of what your canine companion is vocalising. Remember, if you start to notice them crying or whimpering much more than usual, it could be time to make an appointment with the vet.