Austrian and Hungarian researchers offered an interesting theory regarding a dog's growl in the April issue of Animal Behaviour (Vol. 79, Issue 4). The Question: Do dogs use context-specific agonistic vocalization when communicating? The Answer: It seems so.
According to a publication of the scientists' findings, they recorded several sequences of growls from various dogs in three different contexts: during play, guarding a bone from another dog, and reacting to a threatening stranger. The researchers discovered that play growls differ acoustically from the other two agonistic growls. Additionally, when a recording of a food-guarding growl was played in front of another dog that was tempted by an unattended meaty bone, the dog steered clear. This was not the case when the recording of the stranger-alert growl was played.
In summary, dogs understand the nuances of growls. Additionally, the researchers and scientists suggest that acoustic modulation of growls, which most human ears cannot register, may very well convey both honesty and deception in dogs. How intelligent our four-legged friends are!
So, pay close attention next time your pooch uses her voice. Can you figure out what she is trying to say to you?