If I Could Talk to the Animals

I was recently reading an article about a study conducted in Budapest. The researchers recorded dogs barking in different situations such as while left tied to a tree or while guarding their yard or at the dog park. Without giving any other information the researchers let humans listen to these recordings. They found that almost all of the people could tell what the dog’s emotional intentions were from the sound of the bark alone.

Bettina greyhound with boneAccording to the scientists, both researchers and mere mortals measure three things in a dogs bark in order to determine the dogs’ state: frequency of the bark, tonality and the interval between the vocalizations. Now ain’t that something. I think for most of us, this isn’t any earth shattering news. Live with a four legged creature long enough and you get to know quite clearly what their emotional status is and what their intentions are.

That set me to thinking about my greyhounds, Blue and Bettina. Most greyhounds are not barkers. They may whine from time to time. Get them together in a group and you can usually elicit a group roo which is somewhere between a howl and a whine. But that tends to be the extent of their vocal range. It is one of the many things that make greyhounds such great pets. No dog barking all day when you’re at work. On the other hand, it would make life difficult for anyone trying to determine a greyhound’s intention from their bark alone.

Blue is a typical greyhound in that sense. He doesn’t bark. He whines on occasion (much more now that Bettina joined us and acquainted him with her bad habits) and he likes a good roo every now and again. Bettina on the other hand starts making noise from the moment she opens her eyes until the moment she closes them. She only stops for sleep and chewing.

Blue greyhound lounging on couch
While the researchers in the study identified a list of different emotions/communications in dog barks such as anger, fear, excitement, and happiness, I am under no illusions about Bettina’s emotional range. Her barks mean only two things: “I want.” Or “I want more.” Bettina has an amazing range of vocalizations. She makes noises I haven’t ever heard coming out of dogs. And she missed the memo on greyhounds not barking. But all her noises are employed for the same purpose. It’s, “I want food” or “I want more food.” She’ll throw in an, “I want attention” or “I want more attention” for good measure. She usually ends with, “I want to go out” or “I want to go out again.” I didn’t get a complicated girl in Bettina.

This study is seen as a big step forward in our understanding of the canines that share our lives, though it may seem a little silly to some. Science had previously considered dog vocalizations to be random noise (Really scientists?). Any dog lover can tell you differently, but very few dog lovers are scientists and therefore cannot be trusted. I wonder what the scientists in the study would have made of Bettina? If they had included her in their sample, I expect they would have lost their government funding.


  1. Ha ha ha! I could send Blueberry over to your house for a week! Bettina's barking would sound like music after hearing Blue whining. She's a big communicator, too. I love her dearly, but oh, that whining!

  2. Bettina. A girl who knows what she wants. And wants you to know too :)


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