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Puppies bark for the first time when they are very young, while they are still in the care of the breeder. 

It's unfortunate, but most puppy owners never get to hear their pup's first barks, but this makes sense since puppies bark for the very first time when they are very young and still under the care of their mothers. 

While you may have missed out on this important milestone, it's still interesting discovering when those very first barks happen.

Barking as a Result of Domestication 

While wolves, (a dog's ancestors) use only four to nine types of vocalizations, the domestic dog is significantly more vocal, almost to the point of being a nuisance in domestic settings. 

Indeed, dogs were found to vocalize in a much wider variety of social contexts and this characteristic is retained even into adulthood.

The emphasis in barking behavior among dogs has been believed to have occurred as a result of domestication. 

Domestication has yielded many paedomorphic traits, basically juvenile traits such as larger eyes, bulging craniums, higher foreheads, smaller noses and smaller mouths. 

 Excessive barking is also considered a juvenile behavior. 

Barking has also been selectively bred for considering that, in the past, a dog's alarm barks turned handy in many scenarios such as alerting of intruders being either wild animals or enemy tribes. 

Puppies are Born in an Undeveloped State 

Dogs are an altricial species, which means that they are totally dependent on their mothers' care during their first weeks.

If we look at the etymology of the word "altricial" we will see that it derives from the Latin root "alere" which means to "nurse, rear or nourish."

From a biological standpoint, generally altricial species refers to animals who, unlike the precocial species, are born incapable of moving around, are sensory under-developed and are dependent to a great extent on their mothers.

Puppies are therefore born deaf and blind, cannot regulate their temperature and require to be nursed and must be licked by their mothers in the anogenital region in order to eliminate. 

The Importance of Vocalizations 

 Vocalizations from altricial animals such as dogs are important as it helps increase their chances for survival. 

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Before being capable of barking, new born puppies emit vocalizations consisting of yelps and whines. 

Some vocalizations are emitted as a manifestation of distress in case the puppies become separated from the mother. These vocalizations typically increase significantly around 7 to 9 days after birth and gradually decrease over the following 3 weeks. 

 Other forms are non-distress vocalizations emitted as a sign of relief from stress, relief from discomfort or as a result of warmth and contact with mother and littermates. 

Such vocalizations are at their highest from 4 to 9 days after birth and  and gradually dissipate by 5 weeks of age.

When Do Puppies Bark for The First Time?

Just as exciting it is to hear a child pronounce his first words, it's exciting as well hearing a puppy bark for the very first time. 

Puppies don't start barking from the day they are born, rather, it's a gradual process. From yelps and whines, the puppy expands his repertoire of vocalization as he develops. 

The very first barks generally take place between 2 and 4 weeks of age. Interestingly, the process is rather abrupt. 

Indeed, most puppies appear to be startled by their first bark as if they don't expect it, explains veterinary behaviorist Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver in the book: "Canine Behavior - E-Book, Insights and Answers."

Types of Puppy Barking 

The very first puppy barks occur when pups are starting to explore the world around them and start interacting more with their littermates.

 Indeed, their initial barks occur as a way to solicit play. 

By the age of four months (12 weeks) the first aggressive barks may take place as a way to resource guard food or directed towards unknown dogs, but most likely as a way to announce their presence more than a real warning. 

Variances in tone communicate different feelings, with the higher tones being associated with play and greetings, and the lower tones often used as threats. 

Watch These Puppies Barking for the First Time!

References:

  • Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution, by Gustav Peters and W. Chris Wozencraft
  • Bleicher N. Physical and behavioral analysis of dog vocalizations. Am J Vet Res. 1963 May;24:415-26. PMID: 13971616
  • Beaver, B. V. G., Beaver, B. V. (2009). Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers. Switzerland: Saunders/Elsevier

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