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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.


Pongrácz, P., Miklósi, Á., Molnár, Cs., and Csányi, 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 Ádám Miklósi and Tamás Faragó 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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