Are dogs really saying "God damn you!!" when barking at you?

Just wondering…


I’ve always thought it was more like " Get away from my house! Get away! If I get loose I’ll kill you! Get away from my house! I’m going to rip you to shreds! My house, not yours! I’ll kill you!" etc etc

No, its
“Come over here if you think you’re 'ard enough.”


As revealed in one of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons, they’re saying “Hey!”

Mine says “There is something going on outside without me!”
or alternately,
“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!”

Well, there’s a big difference between barking and snarling.

I think Gary Larson’s old “Far Side” cartoon was pretty much on the money when it showed a scientist with a machine that could translate canine speech. And all that dogs ever really “say” is “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

Barking denotes excitement, not much more. Not necessarily aggression, just excitement. If I walk past a strnger’s yard and a dog on the front lawn starts barking at me, I’m generally not worried. Barking COULD mean nothing more than curiosity. My little terrier barks like a maniac when anybody comes to the door, but once that person is inside my door, all she wants is for the newcomer to pet her.

It’s only when a dog is growling or snarling that I KNOW it’s seriously peeved, and spoiling for a fight.

When my dog barks at someone from the yard, I think she’s saying something more along the lines of:

“STEP AWAY FROM THE PROPERTY! DON’T EVEN THINK OF WALKING ON OUR PROPERTY! DON’T COME ANY CLOSER! DON’T OR I WILL BE FORCED TO…well…okay, okay, we both know I can’t keep that facade up forever. Since you are here anyway, pet me! Pet me! Pet me! Scratch my ears!! My entire back end is wriggling with joy!!”

Her mortal enemies The Squirrels probably hear the “Goddamn it! Damn it! Shit! Damn it!” routine as they sit 10 feet out of her reach calmly eating acorns.

Only her rare scary bark says that but she’s a rare Stealth Dog: large, black and quiet. Her rare barks are actually pretty expressive, ranging from happy woofs (“Hey, lookit that! Gee, neato!”) to howls (“Hurry up and open the door because I’ve been so lonely since you abandoned me!”) to yips (“I love you soooo much!”). She also mumbles, yodels and croons.

Her actual growls, the very few times she’s gotten seriously pissed and protective, have been unmistakeable and scarier than hell, probably because she is so mellow and easygoing. Never barks at other dogs, squirrels, etc. She doesn’t bark a warning, just drops into a tense crouch, all the hair on her back stands up in a straight ridge, and this amazing bass rumble comes out of her throat. (The only times she’s done it have been at night, inside the house, when someone who doesn’t belong has tried the door, etc.) She doesn’t start at a loud, warning “DAMNITs!” She doesn’t sweat small stuff but threaten her pack or territory and that growl says, “Stop right there, NOW. Leave or deal with me.”

Damned if I don’t love that pooch.


Yeah I think dogs are generally friendly when they bark. I think they are being protective, maybe even a bit territorial but not vicious.
My translation? “Yeah here I am. Yeah I live here. I’m letting you know that I see you. Don’t think you can just walk by without a bark or two from me. Don’t get the idea that I’m overly friendly either. Maybe after you have walked by me for a sufficient number of days, weeks, months, years, etc I’ll get the idea that you are okay.”

We took the station wagon with Big Dog in the back to a casino where we were meeting some friends. Parked on the second level of the garage (still under cover) and walked about 50 yards where we bumped into our friends. We stood there talking for some minutes and during that time several people walked past the wagon. B.D. would lie in the back until the pigeon approached, then jump up and let out a single “Woof!” – it was still impressive muffled by the car. Most of the passers by jumped about a foot.

Obviously, what she was saying was, “Boo!”


They’re actually asking for Meow Mix.

Barking at something or someone in the yard seems to be “look, look, look, look, look!” They don’t seem to do anything when they get out, it’s more a call to attention kind of thing. Of course, that’s only one time for barking! There’s also the

  • “food, food, food, now, now, now” barks when I walk near their bowls,
  • “outside? really? outside? please? outside?” barks when I accidently look in the direction of their leashes,
  • “you’re home, you’re really home, I thought you’d never come home” barks I get when I come through the front door (even when I’ve only gone out to get the mail),
  • “oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy” barks they do constantly while playing (seems they just can’t keep quiet when they’re excited, and the
  • “up, up, up, up, get UP” barks at 6:00 am every morning when I want to sleep in but they’ve decided it’s time to start the day!

I thought for a long time Bo just liked the sound of his voice.

Now I just think when he cant think of anything else to do he barks. My big gray tom will sit just out of Bo’s leash range and watch him. Bo barks his fool head off at the cat. In fact its 4:30 am and he is barking right now. Probably a cat is within 100 ft of the yard…

Mostly I think it’s to get attention. There was a big dog barking at me on the footpath while I was out walking a week ago. I thiought it was being mean and nasty until I got up close and he came over to me and looked at me with his big brown eyes. Eventually he communicated to me that he wished me to open the gate to (presumably) his home.

I think they just bark because its the only sound they can make other than growling (which is unfriendly) and whimpering (which makes them look wimpy).

Dogs bark for many reasons. Any dog owner can tell you that. My German shepherd dog has distinctive barks I can identify from the back of the house. One for neighbors coming home (high pitched), visitors she knows (similar but more frequent), one for deliveries (lower), one for a person with a big dog walking by (serious), and one for someone walking around in the yard (tweaking serious).

One interesting note, wolves don’t bark. I should say, I think they don’t. What is the bark if dogs descended from wolves? I wish I had a cite on this. I remember seeing a documentary on TV that suggested a dog’s bark is part growl part whimper. What that means is still very open for interpretation, IMO.

Oh, I forgot the “scratch my butt” growl, and the “feed me” or “walk me” bark (really high pitched). Those are often used in combination with one another, along with hip checks. She swings her butt around—BAM! My GSD will paw at a closet door to let you know she wants to go for a walk. It’s annoying sign language, and she’s loud a lot of the rest of the time, but I have to give her credit for communicative effectiveness.

Well, wolves don’t bark the same way, or to the same extent that domesticated dogs do, but it’s not QUITE acurate to say they don’t bark at all.

A mother wolf will issue a short, low “voof” sound to her pups from time to time- usually just to get their attention. True enough, you’ll never see a wolf engage in persistent, loud barking. But the difference is one of degree.

It MAY be that, over time, domesticated dogs started using their old “voof” sounds more emphatically and frequently as a way of imitating human speech. Or perhaps the first domesticated dogs who used their standard “voof” sound to get their human companions’ attention found that it didn’t work very well- that they had to be much louder and more persistent to get their people’s attention.

Mine only barks when she feels threatened or when I leave her. The threatened bark is loud and very quickly repeated. It’s also deep and sounds like WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWO!. I’m pretty sure she’s saying, “Get the F*$% AWAY!” with that one. The bark she does when I leave her is higher and sporadic. The leaving bark, which I’ve gotten her to stop doing 90% of the time, is more of the, “Crap. Come back here. Don’t leave me here alone. AARGH! Crap.” It sounds like rit rit rit rit!

I’ve never heard her do a full growl, and don’t really want to. She does these half-growls, which I call grrrs, with me when I get too lovey for her tastes. They mean, “Cut. It. Out. Do. Not. Use. Me. As. A. Pillow.” (Or whatever infraction I’ve made.)

But she has a ton of other vocalizations. She’s part hound, so she yawns with flair (both when waking up and when excited), she grumbles, she has even bayed a couple of times. Plus, there’s her world class snoring and sighing, but those don’t come from the vocal cords, so they don’t count.

The grumbling is probably the most varied of her noises – it’s a typical hound noise. Sometimes it’s rorwrworwrwro, sometimes it’s arhhhhharraaaraar and sometimes it’s yawyawyawyawrrrrrr. I’m sure they all mean something specific, but since we’ve only been together a year, I’m still learning the syntax. They’re mostly used to convey impatience. “Feed me already!” “You should take me out BEFORE you go to the bathroom! That way I don’t have to WAAAAIIIIIIIT!” “Get the heck up already. Please!”

No. Definitely not. My dog’s an atheist.

I think he’s saying, “IT’S BACON !!!”