Imagine you’re out for dinner and decide to check your dog camera to see what the little scamp is doing.
You can’t see him as he’s just behind the sofa, but you can hear a sound.
He’s barking, but it’s a much higher-pitched bark than normal.
You’re unable to tell if he’s seen something, like a cat, for example, but nor are you also able to see whether he’s injured himself or in pain.
You now face a dilemma. Do you urgently rush home in case it’s something serious?
Do you immediately phone the vet so you can ask for advice? Or are you over-reacting?
Our furry friends are precious to us, so it’s important to know how best to respond.
Why is my dog’s bark high-pitched?
Dog barks are similar to human voices in that both come from the larynx, also known as the ‘voice box’.
When a dog barks, air comes up from its lungs to the larynx and makes the vocal cords vibrate.
High-pitched dog barks, along with whining, can be caused by a number of different reasons. The most common factors are excitement, loneliness or distress.
Here’s where dogs are also similar to humans. Our voices are high-pitched when experiencing the same emotions!
Such barking is usually accompanied by bodily actions that can help determine the root cause.
The length of the barking, along with the frequency and actions that accompany it, can be a window into what your dog is currently experiencing.
When do dogs use a high pitched bark?
The most common situations are when your dog is experiencing excitement, loneliness or distress.
A high-pitched bark is generally normal in dogs, although a veterinarian must be consulted when you notice any change in tone. Barking is one of our pets’ only ways of communication with us and can sometimes be indicative of a more serious health problem.
As a dog owner, you’ll be able to identify most of the reasons for your dog barking.
If you’re unsure of the cause, it may be that your dog is in pain. In this circumstance, it’s always best practice to contact a vet.
What situations do they tend to be in?
You’ll know your dog’s unique habits. If their tail is wagging whilst emitting a high-pitched bark, the chances are they’re excited by guests. Or maybe they think they’re going for a walk!
If they’re on their own or missing a family member, the barking could likely be loneliness.
Dogs can bark high-pitched whenever they feel distressed or panicky. You’ll most likely hear this bark if they notice a threat to the home.
Do dogs use a high-pitched bark when they hear a high-pitched sound?
Dogs do respond to high-pitched sounds. Sirens in particular are triggering for dogs. They will often respond with loud, low-pitched barking.
They can also be responsive if humans use high-pitched sounds, such as when we are excitable or crying. It’s not uncommon for dogs to directly respond to this with their own high-pitched barks.
A slower bark, or one that is drawn out, will generally typify sympathy from your dog.
Is there a way to get a dog to stop using a high-pitched bark?
You could try distraction techniques. If your dog constantly responds to outside noise, playing the TV or radio will mask the sound of the many sirens, vehicles and voices. Nature sounds can also attract their attention.
Keeping your dog active is another great way. If they’re barking due to boredom or restlessness, taking them for longer walks, or playing with them in the garden, will definitely take the sting out of the situation.
For boredom, you could also try changing the dog’s routine.
If your dog is barking for attention and you’ve ruled out anything serious, you could try discouraging them through your own responses. It’s too easy to look at your ask and ask what the problem is, but this might only make them more excitable.
Do dogs copy what they hear?
We already know dogs can respond to sirens and high-pitched noises by responding with imitation.
It’s well-known that dogs have ‘deferred imitation’ when it comes to copying their humans’ behaviours.
In terms of copying what they hear, dogs can in fact mirror emotions. If us humans get caught up in the excitement or start shouting, dogs can think it’s a game and join in.
Similarly too, if we are crying, dogs can also whimper in response. It’s nice to think this is because they also feel our sadness.
Why do dogs use a low-pitched bark?
Whilst high-pitch barks seem to represent excitement and playfulness, high-pitch ones seem to occur at the other end of the emotion scale.
Dogs emit low-pitched barks when they sense danger or when they feel to need to act out aggression. Here, paying attention to your dog’s body language can be important. So too can the length of the barking. It may be that your dog is in pain.
If a dog is making long barks at the same spot in the wall, maybe it senses something behind which may pose a threat. This could be a stranger, a rodent or another dog. If you’re woken up by your dog barking in the night, and the barking is incessant, they could be trying to wake you up to alert you to danger.
How else do dogs use their bark to communicate?
They can ask us to go for walks. Barking is common if they’re hungry or have a toilet emergency. Dogs can use their bark to alert us to certain dangers or triggers too. If they are in pain, they could be signalling for us to provide urgent help.
Dogs can also use their bark to ward off threats, such as home intruders or larger dogs.
What other pitches of bark or strange noises are dogs known to make?
Bark pitches are usually high or low, however, the frequency and duration can vary.
Has your dog ever done a single bark whilst staring at you? This could be them demanding your attention. Low, gruff barking interspersed with squeaking noises can also indicate pining.
A ‘bark and growl’ is typical when your dog recognises a threat. They will growl for what seems like forever, then start barking. This is usually when they see a cat! You’ll know this from your own pooch!
Dogs can also make those funny sounds that we don’t always recognise, but are completely unique to our own little furry friend!
Are there any dog breeds who don’t bark at all or who bark very little?
Most dogs bark, although a lot are known for being on the quiet side.
French bulldogs are known for rarely barking, They will alert you to danger should it be on the horizon, but they are quiet dogs to have around. Italian greyhounds are very similar. They are very low maintenance and quiet to boot.
Boston Terriers do not bark a lot – as long as their house is not under threat! The Japanese Chin also does the same.
Have you ever heard of the Basenji dog? They are known for actually not barking! Instead, they make a noise that can only be described as a ‘yodel’.
Is there a condition, illness or disease that raises the pitch of a dog’s bark?
High-pitch barking can often be a symptom of an underlying illness. Dogs can yelp, particularly when they’ve hurt themselves. The barking could also be caused by a behavioural issue, such as separation anxiety.
Whilst high-pitched barking is associated with more positive situations (except for pain), anything that does not seem right should always be escalated to a vet.
A sudden change in your dog’s barking should never be ignored. Underlying issues could range from laryngitis to cognitive dysfunction syndrome.
Can dogs lose their bark?
Laryngitis can cause dogs to lose their bark. Something like this is generally associated with the condition of the voice box. Temporary illnesses can cause anything from hoarseness to wheezing and temporary loss of bark.
Getting older can also be a factor in this. Naturally, as your dog ages, its bark can get weaker or muffled.
However, as advised previously, any changes must be checked out by a vet.
What strange circumstances or situations are dogs known to bark in or at?
Boredom or attention-seeking is a frequent one. Sometimes your dog just wants attention!
It can be humorous when we see our dogs seemingly barking at nothing, all while staring out of the window at a fixed spot! It’s easy to forget that our loveable friends have twice the hearing compared to that of humans. They can also hear sounds four times further away.
As always, body language is a crucial indicator here that can help a dog owner identify a simple barking issue from a more serious one.
Tarantino, Monica. “7 Reasons Why Dogs Bark.” PetMD, 8 January 2020, https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/why-do-dogs-bark. Accessed 7 June 2022.
Thompson, Dennis. “8 Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog From Barking – Pet Health Center.” Everyday Health, 22 September 2010, https://www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/simple-tips-to-stop-your-dog-from-barking.aspx. Accessed 7 June 2022.
“Why is my dog’s bark suddenly high pitched?” Pet Dog Owner, https://petdogowner.com/why-is-my-dogs-bark-suddenly-high-pitched/. Accessed 7 June 2022.