Dogs use different types of vocalizations for different purposes.

Photo: ABr / EBC

Study shows how dogs use different types of vocalization for different purposes

Understanding communication is key to a successful relationship between dogs and their owners.

Dogs occupy a very special place in human life, they are considered members of the family, they live very closely. In order for this coexistence and relationship to be as harmonious as possible, communication is one of the main keys to success. Dogs are always interested in the gestures, body movements, and gaze direction of their owners, who in turn are also able to interpret dogs’ body expressions and communication cues such as appearance and vocalization.

The Laboratory of Canine Behaviorology of the Federal University of São Paulo (LECA / Unifesp) is developing several studies on this topic, the latest of which has been published in the journal Applied animal behavior science Which was in partnership with French researchers, the team identified different types of articulation for different purposes.

“Although the repertoire of dog sounds is extensive, with barking, whining, whining, shouting, and growling, among others, several studies have already demonstrated that humans are able, for example, to categorize barking into play, aggression, and fear.” , just listening to ‘plays’, without having prior information about the context in which the barking occurred. In order to have this ability to distinguish these sounds well, humans use vocal properties such as pitch and intensity,” explains Karen Savali-Ridigolo from the university. Federal in São Paulo, Professor at Unifesp, LECA Coordinator.

For example, low-pitched barks with short periods in between would typically be classified as aggressive by people, while high-pitched barks with longer periods would be classified as playful. Sobbing is usually recognized in contexts that include greetings, frustration, and attention seeking.

In the latest study co-authored by Karen, 51 dogs were observed and videotaped for 30 seconds in a situation where a desirable food is on top of a shelf, visible but out of reach. To access this food, the dogs needed the cooperation of their owners, and in this way the context sought to encourage the dogs to use communicative cues.

“Facing the scene, the dogs were communicating mainly through looks, alternating looks between their owners and the desired food. However, some of them also used vocalizations associated with these looks and the researchers sought to investigate whether there was a difference between the vocal characteristics of the teachers-guided vocalizations and the food,” she explains. Karen.

Two main types of vocalization were identified: barking and whining, and according to Karen, “euphoria occurred when dogs were looking at their owners more than when they were looking at food, suggesting that in this context where dogs need to cooperate with their owners, the use of Whispers as a way for the dog to get the owner’s attention to himself, and then show him the desired food, in an effort to get the message across as clearly as possible. A great display of interspecies communication.”

The LECA/Unifesp Coordinator highlights the following: “The complex and detailed communication between dogs and humans is a unique phenomenon in the animal kingdom. It involves two species with different sensory mechanisms, but they have developed their abilities to mutually understand each other. These skills foster closeness and make this relationship one. It is one of the most important relationships for both dogs and their owners.”


An exploratory study of dogs’ pronunciation of their owner and food in an unsolvable task
Applied animal behavior science
Volume 246, January 2022, 105529

In EcoDebate, ISSN 2446-9394, 04/27/2022

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