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The Meaning of Dog Barks

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 10.28.10
  • NOVA

Can you tell the difference between a dog bark that says "I'm lonely, don't leave me!" and one that warns "Don't get close, I might bite!"? Researchers in Hungary have found that we humans have a remarkable ability to categorize various types of dog vocalizations and understand their emotional content—in effect, to "speak canine." Try it yourself, and learn what this inter-species communication might mean about the evolution of dogs.

Launch Interactive

Listen to a variety of dog barks—from woofs to whines—and try to interpret their meaning.


Pongrí¡cz, P., Miklí³si, í., Molní¡r, Cs., and Csí¡nyi, V. (2005) Human Listeners Are Able to Classify Dog (Canis familiaris) Barks Recorded in Different Situations. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119, 136-144.


Susan K. Lewis
Tyler Howe
Dan Hart
Special thanks to ídí¡m Miklí³si and Tamí¡s Faragí³ for providing recordings and editorial review.


(sad whippet)
© Andrew Dorey/iStockphoto
(Labrador retriever puppy)
© Erik Lam/iStockphoto
(German shepherd)
© Erik Lam/iStockphoto
© Eric Isselée/iStockphoto
(American Staffordshire terrier)
© Erik Lam/iStockphoto
(Jack Russell terrier)
© Mikko Pitkänen/iStockphoto

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