The Beagle stopped dead in his tracks. It. Was. Coming. As the fire truck neared, the Beagle held his stance, put his head back, and out came a long, deep howl. The Beagle’s human companion waited patiently by his side for the inevitable to conclude.

Dogs make noises. There's no getting around it. To bring a dog into your life is to bring another vocalist into your home. And dogs don’t limit themselves to just the well-known barks and growls.

Some vocalizations we obsess over, like a dog who kind of maybe definitely sounds like he's saying 'I love you.'"

A dog’s high-pitched, whiny bark when wanting to play—with you or a statue—can make us laugh until there are tears.

A dog’s play growl can put some people on alert, particularly if they aren’t familiar with the muffled, garbled sounds coming out of a dog, while a ‘go away stranger’ bark is typically better understood.

Canine researchers of late have taken to investigating dog vocalizations. Studies tend to focus on either a specific type of vocalization or a particular context, with barks and growls receiving the bulk of the attention.

Your Dog’s Vocalizations Go Here

Missing from studies to date is a widespread inquiry into the vocal habits of dogs, something that Péter Pongrácz and his colleagues at the Family Dog Project at the Ethology Department at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest hope to put together. They have recently launched an international, multi-language study, Is Your Dog Loud, to gain a more detailed understanding of just what noises are coming out of our dogs (rear-end noises not included).

Pongrácz explains, “This is (by our knowledge) the first large-scale investigation of the vocalizing habits of dogs. The questionnaire involves not only questions about the occurrence of five of the most common types of dog vocalizations, but tries to survey the contexts that may elicit these vocalizations.”

The questionnaire gathers information on the whens and whys of growls, whines, barks, cough/woofs and howls. The researchers hope to get a better sense of the social conditions in which these vocalizations are emitted, not only between dogs and humans, but also between dogs and other animals. Equally important is understanding environmental triggers of dog vocalizations. For example, does your dog whine when you come home? How about when ill or in pain? What about howling? Does your dog howl when hearing a siren? And my favorite follow-up question: Which type of siren? Ambulance, police or fire truck, ice cream truck, or house or car alarm?

Doggie DNA, Too

When you reach the end of the questionnaire, you’ll find you can provide the researchers with one final detail about your dog: a cheek swab for DNA analysis. That’s right. Following a few simple steps, you can extract cells from the inside of your dog's mouth and send them to the researchers. This will further provide information on breed-specific aspects of dog vocal repertoires.

Researchers need many participants to expand genetic comparisons based on differences in vocal habits. According to Pongrácz, “a vocalization-based genetic 'tree of relatedness' would be a really exciting addition to other molecular studies sorting breeds based on relatedness.”

The Family Dog Project needs thousands of owner responses to investigate the different vocal habits of even the most popular breeds. Participate in English, Spanish or Italian and get them started!

Complete the 'Is Your Dog Loud?' questionnaire

in English:

in Spanish:

in Italian:

in German:


Recommended Reading:

Hecht, J. 2013. Dog Speak: The Sounds of Dogs. More than just noise. The Bark

London, K. 2014. Statue Won’t Play Fetch. Dog remains ever hopeful. The Bark blog

Photo: Flickr creative commons, PhotKing

Researchers Thank: This survey could not happen without the financial support of the Hungarian Research Fund No. K82020. Zita Polgár, Julie Hecht, Celeste Pongrácz (English version); Lisa Horn (German version); Beatriz Sanjurjo (Spanish version); and Claudia Fugazza (Italian version) provided substantial help in making this an international effort. And of course, the driving force of this study comes from each corner of the world, from the dog owners who sacrifice their time completing the questionnaire.