Dogs can discriminate barks from different situations

Source: Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2008, vol 114, issue 1-2
We investigated if dogs can discriminate barks of another individual recorded in two markedly different situations: (a) when a stranger entered the property where the dog lived, and (b) when the dog was tethered to a tree and left alone.
We used a habituation–dishabituation paradigm for testing discriminatory abilities. Three 25-s long samples of “stranger” bark were followed by a single “alone” bark sample. As a control, we used two types of mechanical noise (an electric drill and a refrigerator). Dogs (n = 14) were equipped with a portable heart rate monitor which recorded the data during the whole experiment. Upon hearing the first barking sound, the heart rate of the dogs increased significantly, followed by a habituation when the same barks were played back the second and third time. The fourth, different bark caused dishabituation of the heart rate. This suggests that heart rate can be a sensitive indicator of changes in attentiveness. The dogs did not show any significant evidence of dishabituation to the Control condition of the mechanical noises. Our experiment showed that dogs can perceive the difference between barks originating from different situations, thus barking is perhaps a communicative tool not only for dogs to humans, but for dogs to dogs as well.

Title: Dogs can discriminate barks from different situations

Authors: Katalin Maros, Péter Pongrácz, György Bárdos, Csaba Molnár, Tamás Faragó and Ádám Miklósi