Canine intonations

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I live in a duplex.  Even though the two houses are separated by a thick brick wall, I sometimes hear sounds coming from my neighbor's place.  The most conspicuous are the vocalizations made by her dog, Izzy.

Izzy is some kind of South Carolina coon hound.  We live in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, but my neighbor got her female dog from a rescue service in South Carolina.

Izzy is quirky.  She is unique.  I have never heard any other dog like her.  She doesn't just bark; she talks.  Izzy's voice projects emphasis, querulousness, inquiry, complaint, displeasure, joy, dismay, and a whole range of other emotions and intentions.  Sometimes she seems to be talking to herself (muttering and mumbling), and sometimes she seems to be communicating with her owner or other people around her.

Unlike most other dogs whose barks are usually just loud, exuberant eruptions of bursts of air rushing by their vocal cords, Izzy's tonations are more melodic, expressive, and gradational.  It's almost as though she were singing (glides and glissandoes).  She's very good at vowels, but I've never heard her pronounce a consonant.  I think she just doesn't have the lips and tongue for it.

So endearing are Izzy's expostulations that I don't even mind being awakened by her in the middle of the night, because what she says is usually so amusing that it leaves me in a mellow, cheerful mood.


Selected readings


  1. Laura Morland said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 7:12 am

    The video bearing that title has indeed been removed (the owner's account has been closed), and the only other site that claimed to have it was blocked as "malicious" by my computer.

    I did find this video, though: Rather than being annoyed, this dog, a husky, seems to be joining his voice in prayer.

    (Still, his owner couldn't suppress a chuckle. I couldn't either.)

    P.S. How lucky for you that you are not annoyed by the vocalizations of the South Carolinian hound dog! Have you talked to his "owners"? Do they understand his speech? (Even our Siamese cat emits a range of sounds that consistently reflect specific intentions on her part.)

  2. Cervantes said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 7:17 am

    "Maybe I should have said Dimaggio."

  3. Victor Mair said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 7:21 am

    I've told my neighbor several times how much I like Izzy and am glad that she lives next to me. My neighbor, who teaches finance at a Philadelphia university, loves Izzy, but doesn't seem interested in her vocalizations. In fact, the owner is amused by my interest in them, and much relieved that I'm a fan of her dog.

  4. Bloix said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 7:22 am

    There's research that dogs have evolved facial muscles that allow them to make expressions that communicate emotions to humans.
    And anyone who's lived with dogs knows that some have faces that are very expressive (smiling, sad, quizzical, etc)
    It's conceivable that some dogs also have evolved the ability to vocalize in a similar way.

  5. Cervantes said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 8:43 am

    Interesting that people live in Swarthmore and teach in Philadelphia. I'll bet nobody lives in Philadelphia and teaches in Swarthmore.

  6. Kobi said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 9:23 am

    I don't know how sure your neighbor is about the breed, but Carolina Dog mixes show up in Carolina shelters, and they are prone to chattiness– mine rarely barks, but has a different "yodel" for large or small prey, family, strangers, etc.

  7. Doreen said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 11:18 am

    The talking dog in this classic German comedy sketch is also better at vowels (well, one vowel) than consonants.

  8. Rose Eneri said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 11:47 am

    I use to have a Shih Tzu and every time I sang, she howled. For as long as I sang, the dog howled. I currently have a Manchester Terrier, and although she does bark to communicate, she has never howled. I miss the howling because we did it together, more as bonding than communicating.

  9. Dan Milton said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 3:48 pm

    My schnauzer would always howl in response to the siren of an emergency vehicle going by. Can’t remember him ever howling otherwise.

  10. John Swindle said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 5:53 pm

    There is a video somewhere of a dog named Dewey singing along to “O Canada”. I probably saw it here.

    I was surprised on moving from small town to big city to notice that now the parked cars, not the dogs, howled when the fire engine passed.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 8:07 pm


    "I'll bet nobody lives in Philadelphia and teaches in Swarthmore."

    I don't know what you're trying to prove by making that bet, but you lost it.

  12. CD said,

    March 21, 2022 @ 11:24 pm

    It's not on Youtube, but in the last scene of Elizabeth Lo's superb 2020 movie _Stray_, filmed with real street dogs in Istanbul, the star joins in the call to prayer.

  13. Philip Taylor said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 3:10 am

    Stray can be found here.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 5:24 am

    Sorry, that was a "Magnet" URL which became mangled by the forum infrastructure — piece it together from the following two elements :

    "magnet:" + "?xt=urn:btih:0245F85ADF5F6619DAF3F19FE69FFCB73B9676B3&dn=Stray.2020.TURKISH.720p.WEBRip.800MB.x264-GalaxyRG&"

  15. Victor Mair said,

    March 22, 2022 @ 5:42 am


    "It's not on Youtube, but in the last scene of Elizabeth Lo's superb 2020 movie _Stray_, filmed with real street dogs in Istanbul, the star joins in the call to prayer."

    Note the year of the original YouTube that I referenced:

    "Annoyed dog responding to the Islamic 'Call to Prayer'" (12/29/15)

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