Do Dogs Have Accents? (What Affects Their Bark)

Do Dogs Have Accents

Animal communication is something that we’re still trying to understand. Though animals don’t technically have languages as humans do, there’s no denying that they have complex forms of communication.

So, if two animals of one species live on opposite sides of the world, can they communicate?  Will they sound different and have “accents” like humans do?  And, what about dogs?

Do dogs have accents?

Dogs don’t have accents in the same way that humans do, but their vocalizations sound different based on a few factors.  Different breeds have different barks. Training and environment can make a dog’s bark sound different and some dogs may even mimic their owners, creating a very distinctive “accent”.  

In this article, we’ll discuss dog accents and whether or not they actually exist.  We’ll also talk about how different situations can influence pets to vocalize in different ways.  First, we’ll define what an accent is and if any wild animals have them.

What Is An Accent?

In the realm of linguistics, an accent is defined as a different pronunciation of the same sounds or words in a language. Accents are distinctive and are usually formed geographically.

Accents can vary based on region and culture. For example, the same sentence in the U.S. sounds completely different in the U.K. Even though both of these countries speak English, they use different sounds and even different words.

Technically an accent is associated with a spoken language. So, most animals can’t really have an accent. But, for the purpose of this article, we’ll consider an “animal’s” accent as a difference in the bark of a dog or a chirp of a bird.

Do Wild Animals Have Accents?

In the wild, there are a few recorded instances of animals of the same species communicating in different ways based on location.

In 2016, a study at Prague University looked into s group of songbirds called yellowhammers. Some of these birds were found natively in England and others were introduced to New Zealand.

The yellowhammers in New Zealand stopped using the same songs that the birds in England were singing. While this isn’t necessarily an accent, it shows that the environment certainly affects communication for animals.

Another scientific study on sperm whales showed that the clicks they use to communicate varied based on age, and location, and yet the whales could still understand others of their own species.

So, it seems that communication can be changed with a species based on external factors, thus changing an “animal’s accent”.

Do Dogs Have Accents?

Since wild animals have different accents, it’s easy to assume that pet dogs can also pick up accents.

As someone who lived part-time abroad, I always wondered whether my dog had a different accent than the European dogs. Could they understand each other?  Could my dog even communicate well with the dogs on another continent? It always seemed like there was a communication barrier for my American dog when we were in Europe.

There are many theories that speculate that dog barks can change based on a few different factors. For example, two dogs from the same litter who grow up in different circumstances might have completely different barks.

So, in a way, it seems like dogs do have their own accents. They communicate differently, but can still understand one another.  while they aren’t using language in the human sense, they’re still talking to other members of their species.

So, what exactly affects a dog’s accent?

We’ll talk about some theories on that now!

What Can Affect A Dogs Accent?

Why do some dogs bark differently than others?  The most obvious factors affecting a dog’s communication style are breed, environment, and training.

1. Breed

Breed plays a huge role in the differences between dogs.  Breed determines so many things and can decide something like whether or not your dog is good at swimming, is a picky eater, or will have long legs!

Breed will also play a big part in how your dog’s bark sounds. This is mainly because a dog’s breed dictates what its throat is shaped like and how big or small its vocal cords are.

Vocal cords are incredibly important in how sounds are created from a body.  In humans, the shape and size of vocal cords affect pitch.  This is one of the reasons why certain people can hit high notes while singing and others can’t.

Think of the difference between the “accent” of an American bulldog compared to a chihuahua. The bulldog’s bark is usually muffled, low-pitched, and almost growly.

This is due to the large size of the bulldog but also the fact the bulldog has a crowded trachea with many folds of tissue inside.  On the other hand, a chihuahua’s bark is sharp and high-pitched. This is because the chihuahua’s mouth and throat are smaller and the vocal cords are thin and don’t vibrate as much.

The breed is definitely a huge factor in the way a dog’s bark sounds and the accent they’ll have naturally.

2. Environment

The environment a dog has been raised in plays a huge factor in their accent. Dogs are social animals, and instinctively, they’ll mimic the dogs and humans around them from a young age.

This is why it can be easier to raise and train a puppy if you already have another well-trained dog.  Puppies can learn sounds from both their owners and other pets in the household.  They’ll look to older individuals as the alpha and try to emulate their sounds.

So, if you have a quiet household with no pets, you might find that your dog doesn’t bark as much or that they only pick up new accents from their friends or from the dog park.

More interesting though is to observe a puppy that grows up with another dog or even a baby in the house.  The puppy might start to learn to howl and whine just like the baby does. Or, they’ll bark in the same way and time as the adult dog in the house.

A dog’s environment greatly influences its “accent” and can change how they communicate with the world around them.

3. Training

The last thing that can create a dog accent is training.

Training can influence just about everything in your dog’s life. Endless things can be taught to dogs and the smarter the dog is, the more nuances it can learn.

Many people train their dogs to “speak.” Often, you’ll notice that the owner’s tone is a close match to the dog’s attempt to speak. That’s because usually this command is taught through mimicry.

If you say “speak” in a quick sharp tone, your dog will likely sound the same way.  Plus, if you try to teach your dog to whisper or sing, they’ll bring those sounds into their regular vocabulary as well.

You’ll start to notice that their bark vocabulary expands as you encourage them to speak.  If you want to try to teach your dog to howl or bark on command, you can use a video like the one below to start the training process.

But, we warn you that once you start encouraging your dog to bark, it can be tricky to get them to stop!

Can Dogs Understand Different Languages?

To further support the idea that dogs can have accents in their own ways, we’ll talk about how dogs hear and perceive different languages.

According to a recent study, dogs can be bilingual and can differentiate between languages. Essentially, this study used brain scans to show how responses differed in dogs with a familiar language and a novel language.

Certain receptors in the language area of the brain were active while the dog was listening to their native language. Similar sounds in another language fired off in different areas of the brain. This study proved for the first time that an animal brain could differentiate between different languages.

I would have to agree with this assessment. As a vet tech, we sometimes received stray animals at my place of work. These animals would come from all different areas and families.

Some of these animals definitely “spoke” English but others would respond much better when they heard the same words in Spanish. It was widely agreed upon there that dogs understood different languages.

While human language isn’t necessarily the same thing as a dog accent, it certainly helps support the theory that dogs are smart enough to understand and mimic small nuances in language.

Final Thoughts

If we’re being technical, dogs can’t have accents because they can’t speak human languages. But, if we put technicalities aside, it certainly seems like dogs do have accents in their own ways.

Dogs of different breeds have vastly different barks. Plus, dogs that are trained to bark might sound different than dogs that just bark spontaneously. Even the environment a dog is raised in influences the tone and frequency of their bark.

While there aren’t any studies proving the dog accent yet, we expect to see some in the near future!

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