Why Puppies Bark | time

PPuppies are not born barking, just like children are not born chattering. They learn their voice, and then they learn to use it – partly from others, partly from the effect the behavior has. In the litter of eleven mixed breed puppies that I observed from birth, I first heard barking coming from a puppy’s mouth at three weeks old. It was the suggestion of a bark, an incantation of a bark—like saying “bark” in quotation marks. Two weeks later, most of these puppies, who grew up in a home with several other barking dogs — and a noisy cockatoo — barked and even barked in dreams. I remember the first day I heard the dog I lived with in my early adulthood, Pumpernickel, bark: She was two years old and her canine friend Lindy, an imperious German shepherd, started barking at a squirrel . Pump followed her friend’s lead; the squirrel noticed and fled. From then on, my dog ​​was also a squirrel barker.

I now live with a dog that barks. She came from this litter; She was essentially barked at by other dogs. I have to admit I hate barking. Intellectually, and as a canine cognition scientist, I totally accept that. A bark is simply a communication – and like everyone else who lives with dogs, I want to know what my dog ​​is saying. Wolves rarely bark, so it’s likely that we humans made the offspring of ancient wolves (soon to be dogs) bark through domestication. Because barking is produced within the audible range of speech sounds, it is believed that barking evolved to allow dogs to communicate with us. After all, we bark for dogs all the time.

Furthermore, barking is a communication with one function – or actually many functions. There are barks in play, barks to request play, barks to warn, barks, barks to request. Each bark is, to use the audio term, “noisy”: broadband sound, varying frequencies without a clear tone. But they vary in length and pitch and even rhythm, and the attentive listener can distinguish them. Dogs bark when they’re happy, angry, scared, or insecure. They bark when excited. Of course, they will bark at strange noises and strangers when in conflict or conflict. They bark when they find a trail; They bark to get attention. Even though my scientific mind knows this, my emotional response is stop it. Our dog Quiddity, whose first year of life I describe in detail in my new book The Year of the Puppybarks what I would call roughwith human measuring devices. She barks at visitors in our house. She barks at kind-hearted strangers who want to pet her. And she barks at dogs that are smaller – and only those that are smaller – than she is. While I admire the sharpness of their perception of their relative size, people with small dogs don’t share my admiration. And their bark is sharp: shrill. Inevitable. The fact that she briefly stops barking and often casually walks away does not reduce the effect. It’s a shocker.

In cities, the most problematic barking for local residents is the “alone” bark: the barking heard in neighborhoods — except from the owners of the dog who left them home alone. Barking from even a few minutes — a bark that screams, “Hey, I’m alone! hello!” – is considered a public nuisance. Landlords can measure the length and frequency of barking to begin gathering evidence of this civil violation; Tenants may be evicted because of this noise pollution. Some people give their dogs to a shelter, to another pair of hands, for fear of losing their homes. I was on the receiving end of the non-stop barking from neighbor dogs. While it’s not pretty, I can’t help noticing the dogs’ plea for company that leads to their possible loss of family. I will not report on this dog.

I think it’s a mistake to consider barking a “misconduct,” as is often the case. We define dog misbehavior as the things they do that we simply do do not like, regardless of whether the dog is able to understand or appreciate the rules it is breaking. When our new pup chewed up several rollerball pens and left expressive blobs of black ink on our carpets and floors, I could have scolded this “bad” behavior. But really, I reflect, it’s my fault: I shouldn’t have left out those rollerballs—and nothing else for the pup to chew on. And likewise, if she barks at a person entering our apartment, I see that as my fault now: I have to give her something else to keep her occupied when the person arrives – or introduce her outside, or with a tennis ball, her favorite toy.

In the end, the problem with her barking is my problem. I’ll give myself a break on this one. Finally, in my heart, I know that I am a good dog.

More must-read stories from TIME


Contact us at letters@time.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.