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Whether dogs have a voice box is ultimately an interesting question.

Since dogs don't talk, one would assume there is no need for having a voice box, but we cannot deny that dogs do make vocalizations and even lots of them too!

Whining, yipping, growling and then you have many different types of dog barking! So do dogs have a voice box? Let's discover more about that!

Do Dogs Have a Voice Box?

Since dogs don't talk, one would assume there is no need for having a voice box, but we cannot deny that dogs do make vocalizations and even lots of them too!

Whining, yipping, growling and then you have many different types of dog barking.

So do dogs have a voice box or not? Yes, dogs do have a voice box. Their voice box, just as in humans, sits in the front of the neck below the chin.

A dog's voice box is a complex structure composed by muscles, cartilage, and tissues located in the throat of dogs.

A dog's voice box, is also known as larynx and its function is much more important than most people realize. 

Did you know? The Adams' apple is due to the prominent voice box found in male humans. Do dogs have an Adam's Apple though?  

In dogs, the largest cartilage of the larynx (voice box), is U-shaped and consists of two laminae that meet and fuse in the middle of the laryngeal prominence, which is where the Adam's apple is located in humans, only that in dogs, this structure does not stick out like in humans, explains veterinarian Dr. Gabby.

Do Dogs Have Vocal Cords?

Yes! Dogs have vocal cords. They are contained in their voice box, and as air moves through these structures, a dog's "voice" is produced under the form of barking. 

A dog's vocal cords open and close to control the movement of food and air through their trachea (wind pipe). When closed, the voice box seals the throat, which helps prevent food and liquid from getting into the lungs.

Vocal cords play a vital part of in a dog's communication. Indeed, as social animals,  vocalizations play an important role in alerting about threats and maintaining social order. 

Did you know? Sadly, there have been cases of dogs undergoing surgery to remove their vocal cords so to stop them from barking. A self-proclaimed veterinarian in Chengdu, China, has been under investigation for de-barking dogs. 

If Dogs Have Vocal Cords, Why Can't They Speak?

Speech requires more than just vocal cords. In order to speak, dogs would need to have a human-like mouth, lips, a more mobile tongue, the right shape and position of the hyoid bone.

Voice is created by the combination of air pushed from the lungs and sound resonance in the vocal tract. 

Voice production is also dependent on the orchestrated movements of the tongue, jaw, and vocal folds, which are two elastic bands of muscle tissue located in the larynx (voice box). 

Not to mention the emission of voice to verbalize words and sentences also requires specialized brain power. 

What About Dog Trained To "Speak?"

You may have stumbled at one time or another on videos of dogs who appear to be able to speak. Well, their "I love you" sounds more like "Ahh rooo uuu!," but it's enough to really melt our hearts!

But how are these dogs trained to "speak" so to say? We should never underestimate a dog's intelligence. 

Since on top of using their body language, dogs convey their emotions as well through vocalizations such as barks, whines and howls, we can deduce that this requires a certain skill-that is, being sensitive to different tones. 

Most likely, dogs are able to imitate humans considering their abilities to pick up on differences in our tonal patterns.

 "It's more appropriate to call it imitating than talking," observes  Gary Lucas, a scholar in psychology at Indiana University Bloomington in an article for Scientific American. 

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Dogs Do Understand Words?

Dogs may not be able to speak as we do, but they do have the uncanny ability to understand words. 

As far as 1928, psychologists C.J. Warden and L.H. Warner documented studies on dogs to validate their ability to respond to spoken commands. 

In a more recent study, researchers at the Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary measured brain activity in dogs while they listened to their trainer’s "speech."

Dogs were found to distinguish between words played frequently and infrequently and they also were able to recognize nonsense words.

 And when praise was given, the reward center in dogs' brains became activated, proving to us that our words of praise are like music to their ears. 

While the average dog has shown the ability to being capable of learning 165 words, including signals, there are "super dogs" that can learn even 250 words, explains Stanley Coren in an article on Science Daily. 

Intrigued? Discover how dogs learn words courtesy of "fast mapping."

Did you know? Betsy, a border collie, showed that she was capable of understanding over 340 words, but as of 2010, Chaser, another border collie broke that record with a vocabulary of an astounding 1022 words! Yes, you read right, that's 1022 words!

Problems With a Dog's Larynx

Did you know? Occasionally, dogs may suffer from problems with their larynx. 

In these cases, the voice box function is compromised and the dog may be unable to bark normally and may often choke and cough. Some dogs may appear to be smiling while panting as they pull their lips way back. 

This condition is known as laryngeal paralysis. Laryngeal paralysis in dogs occurs when the cartilages in the arytenoid (voice box) fail to open during inspiration. 

Basically, in a dog with a normally functioning larynx, the vocal folds of a well innervated larynx will move so to widen the airway when the dog breathes in air.

When a dog is suffering from laryngeal paralysis though, the arytenoid cartilages and vocal folds do not pull open, failing to widen the airway as they should.

This degenerative disease that affects the muscles of the dog's voice box, cause difficulty swallowing and breathing. 

 Laryngeal paralysis is often an symptom of a larger, more widespread, neurological disorder, that is known  as GOLPP. 

In this case, on top of affecting a dog's voice box, this degenerative disorder also affect the dog's rear legs and causes other symptoms such as megaesophagus.

Treatment of Dog Laryngeal Paralysis 

Treatment involves surgical intervention. The most common option is what's called a tie back procedure where the arytenoid cartilages are "tied back" so they always remain in the open position and no longer cause difficulty breathing. 

This surgery should be performed by an experienced board-certified veterinary surgeon.

 Mild cases of laryngeal paralysis though may not require surgery. In these cases, conservative management may be needed, including limiting exercise in hot weather, and using a chest harness in lieu of a collar.


Scientific American, Fact or Fiction: Dogs Can Talk, by Tina Adler

Science Daily, Dogs' Intelligence On Par With Two-year-old Human, Canine Researcher Says

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