Thursday, September 27, 2012

Which Dog Breeds are the Most Vocal?

By Langley Cornwell

One of my favorite childhood memories involves me standing on a makeshift stage, hairbrush “microphone” in hand, singing full voice – with our little Terrier mutt harmonizing. Well, it sounded like harmony. That dog could sing! Every time I took the stage, she assumed her position right there beside me, ready to entertain the imaginary masses. She was my best friend, duet partner and constant companion.

My current four-legged love, an American Bulldog mix, is not a vocalist; she never sings and doesn’t bark much. If I were to put on a singing performance now I’d probably get a lot of head cocks, but I’m certain I wouldn’t hear any harmonies. (Confession: I just tested my theory. I was right, no sing-a-long. It’s a good thing I work from home!)

According to Modern Dog Magazine, scientific analyses reveal that dogs like to “sing” and they do have a sense of pitch. In fact, recordings of wolves show that each one will change his tone when others join in. It seems that none of the wolves want to end up on the same note as any other in the choir, as if they are actually trying to harmonize. That’s why a dog howling along with a recording or singing along with a group of human singers is instantly noticeable. The canine is deliberately “singing” in a different register than the other voices, and he seems to enjoy the discordant sound he is creating.

There’s no official breed standard for singing, but Huskies seem to take the unofficial prize. I suspect it’s because Mishka is such a YouTube sensation. Generally speaking, most hounds have a trademark howl that may sound musical. You can kill hours (speaking from experience) laughing at singing dogs of all types on YouTube. Oh, if only YouTube was around when my Terrier and I were in our prime… but I digress.

Most Vocal Dog Breeds

While there is no breed that corners the market on harmonic vocalization, there are several breeds that are known for overzealous barking without provocation. Benjamin and Lynette Hart, authors of The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior, developed a list that ranks dog breeds by their barking tendencies. According to their ranking, the dog breeds that are the most likely to bark when they shouldn’t include (in alphabetical order): Beagle, Cairn Terrier, Fox Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, West Highland White Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier. Following shortly behind that half dozen, the Chihuahua, Miniature Poodle, Pekinese, Silky Terrier and Toy Poodle are known for unwarranted barking.

My cousin has an affinity for Beagles and has lived with many throughout his life. The dog that got him hooked on the breed was a gentle pup named Ziggy. According to my cousin, everything about Ziggy was perfect except for one thing: she bayed excessively. My cousin got in the habit of distracting Ziggy with CANIDAE treats when he suspected a baying session was brewing. If she gave the impression that she was going to start on a spree, the mere sound of him opening the treats would get her tail wagging and she’d forget about sounding off.

Least Vocal Dog Breeds

On the far end of the spectrum, there’s the Basenji or Congo Dog. The Basenji is one of the few dog breeds that are physically incapable of barking. Even though this dog breed doesn’t officially bark, they still communicate through unusual sounds that are similar to yodels. Likewise, Shiba Inu have an unusual method of communicating, and are considered a very quiet dog breed.

Other quiet dog breeds on Hart’s list include: Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Borzois, Bulldogs, Clumber Spaniels, Italian Greyhounds, Japanese Chins and most Retrievers (Golden, Chesapeake Bay, Labrador).

These rankings seem to be the most consistent but I learned that no two lists are alike. That’s probably because each individual dog, regardless of breed, has his own individual personality. Vocalizing may or may not be his preferred method of communication. Of course there are some breeds that tend to bark more than others, but experts believe that a restless dog is likely to bark more and a well exercised, secure dog is likely to bark less.

Does your dog have an unusual way of communicating?

Photo by R.G. Daniel

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. I love to hear hounds bay and beagles too. I have always had Australian shepherds and some of them barked a lot and some not at all.

  2. Somebody dropped the ball and left Shetland Sheepdogs off of the vocal list. They will bark at anything and everything and incessantly!

  3. And collies! Collies are vocal!

    I have two that, in addition to barking and various grunting, groaning, and snorting noises also communicate by leaping in the air and "alligator snapping" their teeth together (whilst yipping or grunting).

  4. I've got a rather vocal Doberman. Not much barking, but she whines, she grumbles, she mutters, she sings to "abandoned" sandwiches...

  5. Okay, so Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies should be added to the list. Good suggestions. As I mentioned in the article, no two lists are alike so it's impossible to be definitive. It's fun to hear about individual dogs, though. I just got a great mental image of Chelsea's collies 'alligator snapping' while grunting. That's fantastic.

  6. I have a very coal Kelpie. He loves to whimper and bark when he gets excited.


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