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A dog’s bark is an important means of communication, both between humans and other dogs. A bark can tell you whether a dog or puppy wants to play, if they are hungry, if they feel threatened, or if they are happy to see you.
It can depend on the individual puppy (some puppies and dogs are just not big barkers), but most puppies will start to bark around 6 weeks old, even though a young puppy’s bark will not be deep. It will sound more like whines and yelps! While some puppies of a certain breed or temperament might bark more than others, barking is a normal part of development.
So when will those little yelps turn into a deeper mature bark?
A puppy’s bark will change as they get older, but unless you have a large breed dog, it might not get deeper. You might notice a puppy’s bark starts to change between 5 months to 1 year old when their vocal cords start to strengthen and they learn to vocalize to communicate.
As a puppy matures through different life stages you will certainly notice their bark changing. While their bark might get deeper, different barks and noises will mean different things, whether reacting to environmental changes, playing, or demanding barking.
A puppy that does not grow up around a lot of barking dogs might not bark very much; therefore, you might not notice their bark getting exceptionally deeper. A deep bark depends on the dog and their individual breed, temperament, or even environmental factors. But typically, a puppy’s bark will start to get deeper, or at least start to change, when they enter adolescence and start vocalizing more to communicate with the world around them.
Puppy Adolescence and Barking
Puppies reach adolescence when they are 5-6 months old, and this is when you might start noticing a large breed puppy’s bark start to get deeper- it’s also a time that puppies can start to become tougher to manage!
They are maturing and their vocal cords are getting strong enough to support a deeper bark. They are also able to bark louder. Around this time of adolescence, puppies start learning to communicate their needs, and barking is a natural way to communicate with you and other dogs. If their bark is changing, especially if their bark is getting deeper, it is a sign they are maturing and learning how to communicate with their environment.
In this video of Hector the Rottweiler, a large breed dog, you see his bark change and get deeper as he ages.
You might notice your puppy’s bark getting deeper coincides with a fear period. A fear period can occur from ages 6 months to 14 months and is when a puppy suddenly becomes nervous or frightened of things it was previously well socialized against.
Your happy and confident puppy that always had an exciting high-pitched bark yesterday now has a deep alert bark. They are trying out their big bark for the first time because they are communicating a threat or being protective. Fear periods are a normal part of puppy development and it is important to be patient and work through them and continue socializing your puppy.
Big Dogs Versus Little Dogs Barks
A bigger dog is going to have a much longer vocal tract length than a small dog. In a study that compared the pitch of barks and growls from different size dogs, they showed that large dogs will make much deeper noises than small dogs, especially when they are perceiving a threat.
Big breed dogs and puppies are physically built to have a deeper bark and other forms of vocalization. This video of a husky puppy barking at much larger adult dog illustrates the difference between a small dog or puppy’s bark with versus the deep bark of a large breed dog.
The small dog breed might not get deeper, but it certainly can change from a whining puppy bark to a more confident adult bark.
Some breeds naturally have a deeper and louder bark than others. A beagle is going to have a much deeper bark than a chihuahua. But the adult chihuahua bark is still likely to have a different tone than a puppy. While it may not get noticeably deeper, even small breed’s barks will change as they get older, mature, and learn to bark as a way to communicate.
Some dogs, like Great Pyrenees bred to guard livestock, are natural barkers. As natural barkers and as a large protective breed, you will defiantly notice your Great Pyrenees puppy’s bark get deeper as they get older.
You might notice that as your puppy matures, their bark might change depending on the situation and the behavior they are showing. An older puppy or adult dog’s bark is often still puppyish when they are playing but will change to a more menacing deeper bark if they perceive a threat or are being protective of you or their home.
A dog barking to demand play or food might have a repetitive bark with a tone that is in between a play bark and a territorial bark. There are many different reasons a puppy may bark, and as they mature their bark will likely get deeper, especially if they are barking at something they perceive as a threat or they are being protective.
Even if a smaller adult dog might not have the deep bark of a Rottweiler, it will be a more confident bark and sound different than a puppy bark if they are scared and alert barking.
You can tell why a puppy is barking based on how deep their bark is, but you can also tell what they are trying to communicate to you based on body language. Their body language will be different too. A puppy whose bark switched from high pitched while play-bowing to a deep bark with raised hackles and a stiff body feels threatened by the current situation.
Do Dog Barks Change As They Get Older?
As their vocal cords get stronger, your puppy’s bark will change and they will learn to communicate more effectively. Even if their bark does not get noticeably deeper, most adult dogs will no longer have a default puppy-whiny bark, but instead a deeper, louder bark. But as they get older, a dog that barks a lot might sounds hoarse.
They might have damaged their larynx and vocal cords, and as the dog ages (especially into its senior years) their bark might become softer. This older Papillon has a very hoarse bark; maybe it has been barking at things outside that window all day!
Getting a gruff bark with age, of course, depends on the individual dog. My twelve-year-old large husky mix who was never an excessive barker still has a very deep and startling alert bark if she thinks there is a threat!
A dog can bark themselves into exhaustion, especially if whatever is making them bark is not removed or if the dog is not removed from the distressing situation. Dogs can even lose their voice from barking too much, just like humans! This kind of behavior can cause a dog’s bark to change as they get older and you should try to change this behavior if it is causing your dog distress.
Should I Worry If My Dog’s Bark Changes?
Some dogs are natural barkers, especially if they are a breed that naturally barks a lot. Many herding dogs bark a lot because that is how they would have moved livestock, and hounds are known to be excessive barkers; after all, that is how they would flush out game.
But unchecked excessive barking can be a greater symptom of separation anxiety, and can lead to a sore throat or possibly damage their larynx if left unchecked. You might want to get help from a veterinarian if your puppy or dog’s hoarse bark is accompanied by a cough as this might be a sign of a respiratory problem.
If you start to notice your dog’s bark is not changing deeper or stronger, but instead weaker and hoarser, they could be barking too much, and you should look into changing the behavior. Teach a quiet cue, take away the stimuli that are causing them to bark, or consider if they may need more exercise or training.
If your dog is showing other symptoms of separation anxiety like destructive chewing, pacing, or having accidents in the house it might be time to get help from a certified trainer or a veterinarian.
Whether your puppy is an excessive barker or not, their bark will change as they get older. As dogs mature their bark will change depending on the situation, and what they need to communicate. A large breed dog is probably going to develop a much deeper, louder bark than a small breed dog, but every dog outgrows the quiet puppy barks.
Their bark will also change depending on what a dog is trying to say. Are they trying to play, are they demanding food, or is there a person approaching and they are trying to protect you?
Around the age of 5 months onward, a puppy is going through a lot of physical changes that cause their bark becomes deeper, and mental changes that help them know when to use their deep mature bark. Depending on how loud and how deep their bark is, along with reading their body language, you will be able to know whether to comfort your dog from a threat, grab them a quick snack, or maybe give them attention and snuggle on the couch.