Does Your Dog Argue With You?

As a dog owner, you probably think that your dogs barking can be a nuisance, however, it can also be an incredible tool. While barking isn’t a dog’s primary form of communication—body language can tell another side of the story. It’s still an important way for dogs to express themselves and relay information, even when your dog seems to argue with you.

Before looking into the reasons your dog argues with you, there’s more to learn about what a dog’s bark actually means. Decoding the meaning as to why your dog barks at you mainly boils down to three factors: frequency, duration, and pitch.

The more rapidly a dog barks, the more urgently they’re attempting to try to communicate with their owner. While the emotional source for rapid barking could be caused by fear or excitement, a quick woof-burst is intended to get your attention fast.

The pitch of a dog’s bark can have different meanings, whether it’s high-pitched or low-pitched. High-pitched barks are typically associated with a frightened dog, while a low-pitched bark isn’t meant to be threatening. Because every dog breed has a different voice, their pitch may not always be easy to read. For example, a Chihuahua with a high-pitched bark will sound quite different from a Great Dane.

No two woofs are created equally. A quick “yip” type of bark is likely because your dog is surprised or startled, whereas a more drawn-out howl or bark will communicate other information.

How long your dog barks for is also quite important. A dog that barks at you frequently may be doing it out of boredom or over-stimulation, while if your dog is barking at you to alert you that there’s someone around, then they’ll typically stop barking once they deem the threat to be gone.

The combination of frequency, pitch, and the length of bark will have specific meanings. Here’s a quick guide to help you clarify what your dog is trying to tell you.

Demand Barking
Probably the most annoying dog bark for dog owners to listen to will be demand barking, which typically involves your dog barking and/or whining at you until you give them what they want, whether it be attention, food or something equally desirable.

The reality is that most dog owners are probably responsible for creating your barky little demand monster. Although this probably started innocently with your dog giving you the puppy eyes for you gave them a corner of your toast at breakfast, however, once your dog has released that, “if that worked, I bet the human will move twice as fast if I whine or bark.”

Of course, owners do it to keep their puppy quiet. However, once demand barking starts, the only way of ridding this behavior is by NEVER GIVING IN. If your dog barks or whines at you for food or attention, then you should just ignore them. For example, walk into another room, closing the door if you have to. If your dog is never rewarded for their demanding vocalization, it will eventually eliminate itself.

Keep in mind that if you occasionally give in, your dog will maintain hope that their strategy works and the behavior can continue.

Play Barking
It’s common for dogs to play-bark while they’re having fun playing. Barks that occur during play are often loud, quick, woofs that slip out in excitement or to encourage a chase, tug or another interaction either with you or another dog.

In a group of dogs, sometimes one will take on the role of “referee” or “cheerleader,” barking at the other pups as they run after each other.

Why do so many dogs howl as soon as they hear a fire engine pass by? Could it be because of its high-pitched noise? Howling is used as a way for dogs to communicate important information across longer distances—the sound carries a lot further and lasts for a lot longer than a bark. When your dog joins in a chorus of fire engine sirens, they’re trying to help spread the word that something is up, helping to guide their loved one’s home, or informing a stranger to stay away from their territory.

However, a howl can have other meanings, too. Howling can also be used in times of extreme distress or despair. That’s why a dog that’s been left alone may howl in an attempt to make contact with their owner. Additionally, some dogs are bred to howl more than others, when they’ve discovered something, for example, a hound that’s found a rabbit.

While it may seem as if your dog is whining for no reason, your dog is trying to tell you something. Just like barking or growling, whining is a way for dogs to vocalize their desires, excitement, pain, stress, and everything in between. The question of whether or not you should respond to a dog that’s whining will depend on the underlying reason. However, encouraging whining, even unintentionally, can turn it into a future problem with their behavior, resulting in a dog that continues to whine excessively. There’re a few things you can do to help you interpret whining, calm the dog, and maybe even stop it all together.

Why Your Dog Whines At You?

Whining is especially common for young puppies because they’re learning how to communicate their wants and needs. Young puppies also whine to get food and attention from their mother in the same way that babies cry.

It’s usually fairly obvious why a dog is whining. They could be begging for a treat, looking something from your plate or when they need to go outside. Although sometimes whining may not be as easy to decipher. In these instances, you need to look at their body language that accompanies the whining to figure out the problem. There are a few common reasons dogs whine, although they can sometimes overlap.

Asking For Something
Your dog may be looking something from you, a walk, food, or a toy. They may whine in an effort to tell you.  You may even notice your dog’s eyes shifting between you and the door or another desired object like the area where their treats are kept.

Seeking Attention
Dogs can whine as a form of attention-seeking. The whining may occur when you’re doing something that doesn’t involve your dog, for example, when you’re using the phone or focusing on an important task. Whining for attention can also happen when your dog becomes jealous of the time you’re spending with another pet or person.

Communicating Excitement
If your dog is excited, whining can be part of their way of burning energy and may be accompanied by jumping up and down or franticly running around.

Showing Boredom
Dogs can sometimes whine when they’re bored, their whining often coming across as a “woe is me” sigh-and-whine combo. As the dog whines out of boredom, they usually try to get your attention.

How To Stop Your Dogs Whining

If your dog is excessively whining, it’s best to try and learn the reason for it before trying to address the behavior. Most dog owners don’t mind a little whining now and then, while others can barely tolerate it, considering any amount of whining to be excessive and annoying. The good news is that you can train your dog to whine less—or even not to whine at all.

Pay close attention to the sound of your dog’s whining and any other behaviors that they’re showing. Over time, you may notice different volumes and pitches of whines for different reasons. For example, you may become familiar with the “I want something” or “I’m bored” whining. When you hear a whine that’s distinctly different, this can help you determine what the cause could be stress or pain.

Approach your dog carefully, handling them gently if the whining seems to be a result of stress or pain. Sometimes the whining can quickly escalate and even develop into aggression.

Look at the situation objectively, considering the potential reasons for the whining before deciding how you can respond. You should never punish or yell at your dog for whining as this will only make them fearful or anxious, becoming even more so and even leading to aggressive behavior.

If your dog seems fearful, anxious, or otherwise stressed out, you should try to find the source of the problem. There are lots of fears and phobias that can affect dogs. If you’re able to determine the reason, you may be able to work on it with training and desensitizing your dog to overcome their fear.

It’s perfectly fine to give your dog what they want under certain circumstances. For example, if your dog is whining looking to go outside for a potty break, then it’s better to let them outside rather than reinforcing indoor elimination behaviors.

Avoid unintentionally encouraging your dog to whine. If you’re certain that your dog wants something like food or attention, redirect it to another behavior before giving it to them. Ideally, you should get your dog to quietly sit or lie down; then reward their behavior with attention and praise or a treat.

Don’t give in immediately to your dog’s immediate wants, as this actually trains them to whine about everything. This is the most common cause for problem whining. Of course, it can be really hard to resist your whining puppy, but if you give in to a puppy every time, you could eventually end up with a whiny adult.

Does your dog have an enriched environment? Make sure that they have plenty of toys and get plenty of exercise. A dog with a lot of pent up physical or emotional energy is more likely to whine.

Respond selectively to whining. If you’re sure there’s no actual need, then it’s best to just ignore it. Once you notice a moment of silence, offer your dog praise, a treat, or a similar reward. You can even take this opportunity to work on a quiet command.