Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes and with that come all manner of different sounds. Our free dog sound effects are very popular and we’ve been lucky to have had access to many over the years and we never say no to the chance to record more.
But when it comes to recording them, there are a few important things to consider. Some of these points are pretty generic, but for the novice, they may just save you some time and wasted recording sessions.
Plan your session beforehand
I always carry a portable recorder with me as you just never know when the chance to record anything will crop up. Many of the dogs I’ve recorded over the years have been unplanned, for example passing someones home and their dogs just happen to be behind the front gate, barking viciously just a few feet away. In these situations it’s always great to be able to switch on your recorder and grab a few seconds (or minutes depending how brave you are) of the barking sounds. So if you haven’t already, my first tip is to invest in a portable recorder.
So you’ve managed to secure your recording session. Let’s say for example the local farmer has a sheepdog and has kindly said you can come round to recorder her rounding up the sheep, then after some close up sounds of her once she’s done her work. If you’re recording on a farm, you’ll likely need boots. Farms can be muddy and some areas inaccessible with normal footwear. So dress appropriately. I’ve made this mistake on a couple of occasions now and it’s not a mistake I plan to make regularly.
Check the weather… this may sound an obvious one, but depending on where you’re going to record, you may need wet weather gear. If so, make sure to pack a coat that isn’t going to make too much movement noise and ruin your recordings.
It’s also likely you’ll just be recording in someones home. Unless you’re plan is to capture the sound of a dog inside, I’d highly recommend heading outside to record. A bark is a loud sound and in a small room, it can bounce around the walls and create some very undesirable frequency peaks. I personally prefer to record a dry sound, then add reverb etc after giving me more options.
Dogs can produce very loud vocalisations and barks etc. They also can produce a very wide dynamic range of sounds, so picking a microphone that will work well is a must. Think about the location. Are you recording in someone’s home? Or will you be recording in an area with loads of other outdoor noise you’ll want to isolate? I’d normally suggest a good shotgun microphone that will allow you to get a clean, isolated recording that stops you recording everything else in the background. A shotgun microphone will also help reduce any room reverb if you’re recording in someone’s home. If however you’re recording a pack of dogs, or more than a couple, then think about selecting a good stereo microphone.
Due to the erratic nature of these animals, I’d suggest using your audio recorder’s built-in limiter. There is nothing worse than getting your recordings home only to find your levels have peaked and distorted. Set a base level by clapping your hands close to the microphone and adjust your limiter accordingly. Obviously you may be recording quieter whimpering, growls, whining or other more subtle sounds so don’t forget to adjust your levels for each different take.
Dogs can react to you in a number of ways. You can get vicious barks by teasing them from outside their environment. You can get whimpers and whines by teasing them with a bone or some other goody. Check with the owner of the dog that they don’t mind you taking something along like a bone for this reason. If you can, ask the owner to help, as they know their animal best and the animal trusts them. It’s more than likely that they can get the dog to perform for you and you’ll get many more sounds this way.
It’s often easy to go to a session and record all the things you think you need, but miss many others. For example, don’t forget to record the dog eating, running, walking, chewing that bone, shaking etc. There are always more sounds to record than you think.