You Heard It Here: The Language of Woof

And I really do mean “woof”. Not “love.” I’m off-roading this blog so bear with me.

As many of you know, I’m an animal lover. (One of my favorite characters is Roamer from Dangerously Close. Roamer is a combination of my old dog Sam and my new dog Zach.) I’ve had dogs for much of my life and I adore their furry unconditional love. I love taking them for walks and watching them interact with the other animals in our neighborhood. (Here’s a shot of current fur babies.)


Like people, dogs all have their own personalities – of course – and it always fascinates me how they react to other animals. I’ve had my current dogs for almost 2 years now and got them when they were 7 years old. (Yes, they are rescues.) The Pit mix, Zachary, loves other animals. He’s a big playful guy. The Border Collie mix, Elizabeth, is the opposite. She loves people and pretty much despises anything else with fur other than Zach (since they were raised together and Zachy takes excellent care of her as you can see from the pic above!). He adores her and is very much whipped as she is the Alpha dog. (I call her Queen Elizabeth because she rules the roost where Zach is concerned.) Okay, I got off track, LOL. So here’s what I find interesting about animals, dogs in particular…

Every day when I walk the dogs we pass by the same houses and they interact with the same animals behind fences. I’ve been in my house a long time and neighborhood has changed a lot. It always make me laugh when the little Chihuahuas lunge and bark and in general try to attack my dogs (who are – I kid you not – 10x the size). My dogs get all riled up and bark/prance/dance to get at them as well. (Zach just wants to play whereas Elizabeth would like a snack.) There is also a small Cocker Spaniel that is very aggressive and lunges through his fence to try and get my dogs. I know for a fact that the most aggressive animals are pets of people not born in America. My neighborhood is fairly diverse. We have Hispanic families, Asian families, Armenian families just to name a few.

What’s interesting to me is watching how my dogs interact with all these other animals. When you think about it, all these animals in non-English speaking homes “speak” a different language. There is no reason for them to know English since the inhabitants of their house speak their native tongue when at home, right? So when they bark at my dogs and aggressively attack the gate when we walk by, I wonder if my dogs are upset because they don’t understand the other dog’s language. Know what I mean? I certainly don’t understand Japanese, Chinese, Armenian and my Spanish is a little rusty. These animals understand their owners commands in those languages so does that mean when they bark, they are barking in those languages? I kind of feel silly even bringing it up, but when you think about it, how else would they bark? Aren’t dogs conveying certain emotions and language with the bark? So when my friendly, Zach, who really only wants to play with other animals, goes crazy at a little dog barking at him, I wonder if it’s because of what the dog is “saying” or just the fact that Zachy doesn’t understand what he’s saying. Then I take it another step further and wonder if the particular language makes a difference.

What about you? Have you noticed if your animals react differently to other pets that speak another language? I’m so curious to know if I’m the only person to wonder this.


You Heard It Here: The Language of Woof — 18 Comments

    • Hi Veronica,
      I only thought of it myself watching how my friendly dog goes nutso when confronted with dogs who “speak/bark” foreign language. It’s fascinating. I want to know what those dogs are saying. LOL. Thanks for coming by!

  1. What a fascinating question. Have you read Water fir Elephants. Not the movie but the book. The language with animals comes up. Thanks for asking. Something to ruminate about.

    • Hi Evelyn!
      Welcome to the blog! I haven’t read Water for Elephants but I did meet and work with the elephant who starred in the movie. LOL. I don’t think that counts though. Haha. I find Zach’s interaction with the little Spaniel fascinating. I’ve even seen the owner urge the dog to attack the fence as we go by. I don’t know what country the family is from, but the language is very “hard” so to speak. And his tone is universal. I didn’t need to understand his exact words to know he was urging his dog to attack. Very sad, because if that little dog ever got free and really attacked a bigger dog as he’s being trained to do, he won’t stand a chance. Anyway… that’s why the language thing came to mind. Thanks for dropping in!

  2. Your furry babies are adorable.

    Sadly, my Chihuahua, Bebe, who is perfectly silent all day in the house, (unless accosted by the 4-yr-old human), is one of those barky little critters who tries to tell every bigger dog she meets, (which is every dog she meets), exactly where to go and how to get there. Our one and only trip to the local dog park was a disaster. Our photo is on the wall and we are not invited back.

    • Hi Sam,
      Ah… I hear your pain. I can’t even attempt the dog park with these two. Lizzie will eat anything in her path and Zachy gets attacked by all the big dogs because he looks so ferocious. A bit of irony there. I will say… there is not one friendly Chihuahua in our neighborhood. Must be something in their blood that they feel the need to boss the big dogs. LOL. Thanks for coming by. P.S. thanks… I love my fur babies.

  3. Well, you’ve stated your thoughts, and here are mine. Dogs speak dog, they do not go through the conduit of their owners, no matter what language the owners speak. Dog is dog.

    Although I do wonder if dog language is different from breed to breed.

    Zachy (or Jake as I am won’t to call him) is so sweet for taking such good care of Elizabeth. As I recall, sometimes she gives him a hard time.

    Gott love our furry friends.

    • Hi Lynne,
      Yes, Lizzie definitely gives Zachy “what for” on occasion. She’s a pistol. Poor Zachy just goes with the flow. I respect your opinion, but not sure I agree with it. If a dog understands one language and not another, I think the possibility exists that his bark would represent that language. Or not… LOL. It’s one of those things that will forever remain a mystery. As far as language changing from breeds… I don’t see that. To me, in that respect, a bark is a bark, as you said. Species are different of course… I doubt the dogs are going to understand the elephants. LOL. Ah, well… it was just something to ponder.

  4. Interesting topic.
    I think a dog’s heightened sense of smell is what guides him more than the spoken voice. I think dogs speak a universal language of woof: you sniff and I’ll bark kind of thing. However, they do respond to the language of the human they have adopted so I think the tone of voice, plus the repetitive command (and the reward) has a lot to do with a dog’s behavior, that and being able to smell fear.

    • Hi Robena,
      Very good point on the repetition and behavior aspects. Still… there’s a part of me that wonders… Would a dog not trained in English respond to my commands in English? Therefore I wonder about his overall language. Ah, the silly things I think about. LOL. Thanks for stopping in!

  5. Great post! As you know, I’m a dog lover. I hadn’t really considered what human languages dogs understand, although that makes sense. Me? I just have a fun time interpreting Barklish.

    • Hi Linda,
      Haha. Barklish! Love it. Hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for swinging by!

  6. I lean toward the doggie language being universal. I think dogs pick up on intonation and emotion–not words per say. No matter the language, a dog will recognize “no!” versus “Good boy!”
    Fun to think about.

    • Hi Christine,
      I agree with the intonation part, but I wonder if I say, “sit” without any hand gestures (to put the tush on the floor) as opposed to the same word in a different language if the dog understands just because of the “sound” of the word. Ah… as Roz mentioned… I’ve spent way too much time on this. LOL. Thanks for stopping in!

  7. Fun post. Your dogs are adorable. My dog only listens to 2 words “stay” and “treat.” But it could just be our tone (serious vs high-pitched).

    • Hi J.L.,
      Thanks! They are sweeties. We love ’em. Yes, “treat” is big in house too. Since we got the dogs after their owner died, we never did know exactly how much they knew. (The commands we trained our old dogs with vs what these two grew up with.) But we’ve muddled through. Tone is a big deal, absolutely. Thanks for stopping in!