Most people don't think of dogs as being a non-barking animal, however there are actually several different breeds of dogs that don't produce a regular dog bark. This is not to say that these dog breeds don't make a noise, some are very loud and vocal, but they really don't bark, at least not the ordinary sense.
Non-barking breeds can be found from around the world. Not all are common dogs and many are not recognized by all Kennel Clubs, although they may be recognized by other groups and organizations. Some of the common northern breeds as well as the hounds all have their own unique types of sounds, however these dogs also have the ability to bark as well as make the alternate sound.
Perhaps one of the best known "barkless" dogs is the Basenji. This is one breed that is not rare although it is also not extremely common. It is recognized by the American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom. It is actually from Africa and is one of the oldest domesticated breeds of dogs, highly recognizable because of its very specific coat coloration and physical appearance. They are typically a copper, red, brindle or black with significant white markings on the chest, face and bottoms of the legs and feet. They have a very alert appearance with large, pricked triangular ears and wrinkles across the forehead. Most Basenji's are described as having a fox-like face and very athletic body appearance. The tail makes a tight curl over the hips and is a requirement of the breed standard.
The Basenji is not a large dog, weighing about 20-25 pounds at maturity, which means they are a good size for apartments and small house living. They do self-exercise indoors but also need routine walks and exercise. While they don't bark they do make a lot of other noises, some which have been described as crows, yodels, screeches and even howls. Some almost seem to sing or hum, which can be just as penetrating a sound as a traditional barking dog. Typically these vocalizations are used to signal that the dog is distressed, happy, excited or interested and different Basenji dogs will "talk" more than others. In some situations, especially if there are other companion dogs in the house that do bark, the Basenji will let out an occasional bark, although this is not typical behavior.
Another type of dog that doesn't tend to bark is the Beagle. This is not to say that Beagles aren't noisy, in fact they may be some of the loudest dogs in the neighborhood. While Beagles can bark, they prefer to bay, which is actually a long, drawn out deep toned sound. Baying is typical of hounds and almost all hounds use this as a way to let hunters and the rest of the pack know where they are while they are tracking.
Beagles use their baying sound for any number of reasons. It can happen when they are highly excited or simply when they are trying to alert that there is someone strange in the area. Many beagles also bay when they see or hear other dogs as well as in a friendly greeting to their family. Beagles do bark with a typical short, clipped bark and they also do a strange yodeling sound that is halfway between a bark and a bay.
One of the rarest of the non-barking dogs is appropriately named the New Guinea Singing Dog (NGSD). This wild dog, which is very close to extinction worldwide, is now being selectively bred within several zoos as well as some private breeders and kennels. In its native land of New Guinea the wild population has largely been eliminated or has crossed with domestic dogs to form hybrids rather than the purebred species. There is some debate with researchers as to whether or not any wild species of pure blood are alive in New Guinea today.
The New Guinea Singing Dog is considered a primitive dog and as such can be extremely difficult to socialize and domesticate. They have a high prey instinct and drive and are avid and very effective hunters. With proper training and socialization by an owner that understands the breed they can make a good pet, however they are typically not an affectionate or dependent type of dog and are not for everyone.
Their vocalizations are truly unique in the dog world. Not a typical howl and definitely not a bark, they tend to make a single note sound that is trilled or changed up and down the scale. They also make musical rumblings and growls to signify happiness and dissatisfaction. They are very aggressive with other dogs, especially those of the same sex, and tend to be happier as a single dog or with another New Guinea Singing Dog of the opposite sex. They are very dominant with other dogs and unless raised together as puppies can be very challenging to socialize.
In appearance the New Guinea Singing Dog generally resembles a wild Dingo and a fox in that they have a head that is somewhat large for the body and short, muscular legs. They tend to move in a crouched type stance but have an amazingly enduring stride. They have a thick double coat that is medium in length and can be any color of browns, reds, fawns or sables with black markings around the mouth and white on the face, chest and legs.
As an endangered species there is considerable effort with both zoos and conservation programs as well as private breeders to maintain the genetic pool for this unique breed of dog. Since most of the NGSD in captivity are from a very small number of breeding pairs, international programs to exchange breeding stock have been used to keep the existing populations as pure and free from genetic complications as possible.
It is important for dog owners to keep in mind that dogs can be trained to prevent problem barking, but most owners don't want to train their dogs to completely stop the habit. Barking is a useful way for the dog to be able to warn the owner of danger, strangers approaching or even that something is wrong with the pet itself. In very rare situations when a dog simply cannot be taught there is a surgical procedure that can be done, however most vets will not complete this until all other training options are attempted. There are even new bark prevention collars that simply spray a little squirt of citronella directly at the dog's nose when he or she barks, immediately stopping the noise. Even these harmless types of correction collars should only be used if other training problems to curb the problem are also implemented.
Other articles under "Rare and Unusual Dog Breeds"