Barking in domestic dogs: Context specificity and individual identification

Sophia Yin, Brenda Mccowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


In this study we sought to determine whether dog barks could be divided into subtypes based on context. We recorded barking from 10 adult dogs, Canis familiaris, of six breeds in three different test situations: (1) a disturbance situation in which a stranger rang the doorbell, (2) an isolation situation in which the dog was locked outside or in a room isolated from its owner and (3) a play situation in which either two dogs or a human and a dog played together. We analysed spectrograms of 4672 barks using macros that took 60 sequential frequency measurements and 60 sequential amplitude measurements along the length of the call. Statistical analyses revealed that barks are graded vocalizations that range from harsh, low-frequency, unmodulated calls to harmonically rich, higher-frequency, modulated calls. The harsh, low-frequency, unmodulated barks were more commonly given in the disturbance situation, and the more tonal, higher-pitch, modulated barks were more commonly given in the isolation and play situations. Disturbance barks were also longer in duration with more rapid repetition than the barks given in other contexts. Discriminant analysis revealed that dog barks can be divided into different subtypes based on context even within individual dogs, and that dogs can be identified by their bark spectrograms despite the context of the bark.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-355
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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