Did you know Dog BARKING is our dog’s imitation of human speech?

I found this concept absolutely fascinating when I began reading about it. It all made sense to me too, since I’d been observing a pack of wild coyotes within range of our property. You won’t believe what I discovered when I looked into the most recent studies on this.

Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC of the “Canine Corner” says,

“Although wild canines do not bark much, they do bark as puppies. In the safety of the den area there is little harm in such noise, however, as the puppies grow older and begin to accompany the adults on hunts, such barking becomes counterproductive since the sound could easily alert potential prey that the pack is near. Barking could also attract the attention of other, larger, predators, who might have developed a taste for wolf meat. To stop this, a simple communication pattern has evolved. It obviously does not involve any sound signal, since the major aim of the behavior is to stop noise. The signal to stop should also not involve direct aggression against the noisy individual since nipping or biting the barker is apt to cause yelps of pain, growls or dashing around to avoid or respond to the aggressor’s physical violence which is just as likely to alert other animals as the original barking itself.

The procedure worked out by wild canines to stop barking is really quite simple. The pack leader or the puppy’s mother places its mouth over the offender’s muzzle, without actually biting, and then gives a short, low and breathy growl. The low growl will not be heard very far, and it is short in duration. The mouth over the muzzle is not actually inflicting pain, so there is no yelping or attempts to escape. Silence usually follows immediately.

Humans can mimic this behavior to stop barking. With your dog sitting at your left side, slip the fingers of your left hand under the collar at the back of your dog’s neck. Pull up on the collar with your left hand, while your right hand folds over the top of the dog’s muzzle and presses down. In a quiet, business-like and unemotional tone, you simply say “Quiet.” You repeat this silencing maneuver whenever it is necessary. Depending upon the breed, it may take anywhere from two to a couple of dozen repetitions to associate the calmly stated command, “Quiet” with an end to barking.

What you have done in this instance, is to effectively copy the way in which the pack leader will silence a noisy puppy or other pack member. Your left hand on the collar simply immobilizes the head. Your right hand serves the same function and communicates the same message as the leader’s mouth over the noisy animal’s muzzle. The softly spoken “Quiet,” mimics the short, low and breathy growl.

Returning to the obedience class and the barking Border Collie, I signaled to George that I would silence the dog’s din. Richard was in full frantic barking mode when I arrived beside him. I used the hushing signal that I described above, and a low voice saying “Quiet!” Richard only required three repetitions of this action to end his barking for the evening. I later learned from his handler that within a week, a low, matter of fact “Quiet!” became all that was needed to stop his barking.

Be sure, however, that you only use this procedure to stop a dog from barking when barking is unnecessary, as in an obedience class or a public place. Remember that we specifically bred dogs to bark, so if your dog sounds the alarm at the approach of stranger, or even at the sight of a cat outside of your window, don’t correct him. If there is no cause for any action, just call him to your side and give him a quick pet or a rub. By barking your dog is only doing the job which we designed him to do thousands of years ago.”


Csaba Molnar, a former ethologist at Eotvos Lorand University, has been studying how barking evolved in the dogs we love. Barking is common in domesticated dogs, but not wild dogs.

Since barking is common in domesticated dogs, but not wild dogs, Molnar believes that the behavior is linked to selective breeding by humans. Molnar’s studies have uncovered some interesting findings.

  • In terms of pitch, repetition, and harmonics, canine barks are fairly universal. In other words, one dog’s alarm bark fundamentally resembled another dogs’ alarm bark. Molnar found that even sheepherders, people who are certain in their ability to recognize their own dogs’ vocalizations, couldn’t distinguish their dogs’ barks from others.
  • The most variation in barking is made by dogs at play. According to Molnar, this shows human influence. While warning barks are important for people to be able to identify, play noises are relatively unimportant.
  • People can reliably identify the context in which barks are made, by hearing audio clips of dogs in different situations (e.g., confronting a stranger, playing). In short, we have some ability to understand the canine language even without any visual clues.


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