If you’ve ever owned a dog, the chances are that at some point, you’ve heard them howl. Some breeds howl frequently and others not so much, but the fact is that almost all dogs can howl, and most will freely do so from time to time.
If hearing your dog howl isn’t something that you’re used to, the sound can be a little concerning. But don’t worry, there are many reasons that dogs howl, and it’s usually not anything that you need to be overly concerned about. That said, as anyone who has ever owned a dog that likes to howl can likely tell you, excessive and ongoing howling can quickly lead to neighborhood complaints.
The 8 Reasons Dogs Howl:
1. As a Way of Communicating
Dogs communicate in quite a few different ways, and one of their verbal methods is by howling. Traditionally, wolves howled to find each other or to send a message to other pack members that could be many miles away. While our modern dogs don’t have the same need to keep track of pack members, they will sometimes howl in response to another dog that they hear howling in the distance or even in response to howl-like sounds, such as those made by sirens of emergency vehicles.
2. To Announce Their Presence
Dogs are territorial animals, a trait from their wild wolf ancestors. For our pets, their territory may be limited to their immediate yard and home, but their in-built desire to protect their territory remains intact. You need only look at how your pet reacts when a stranger walks up to your door to see territorial they are.
Territorial howling is all about informing and warning other dogs that they are there and telling them to stay away. It is something that has no real practical purpose for our modern pets, but to howl in this fashion is an innate response and something that our pets instinctively still do.
3. Because they Are Unwell or Injured
Occasionally, our pets howl to let us know that they are not well or in pain. If your dog suddenly starts constantly howling, it is important to check to make sure they’re okay. If you are at all unsure, we strongly recommend that you make an appointment with your vet and get your dog checked out. After all, dogs can’t tell us what their symptoms are, but a distressing or painful sounding howl can be a cry for help.
4. Because they Have Separation Anxiety
When a dog that usually doesn’t howl starts doing so constantly, one common reason is that they are feeling anxious about being separated from a member of their family. Howling for this reason often occurs when the dog’s owner is out, and the only time you may know that your dog is suffering is when an annoyed neighbor shows up at your door to tell you that your dog was howling all day when you were out.
Besides feeling anxious about missing human family members, dogs in families that have had other pets die or leave the home can also suffer separation anxiety. This can be a significant problem when two dogs have been raised together and one dog dies, leaving the other alone.
5. An Attempt to Get Your Attention
Howling for attention-seeking purposes is also a common reason that dogs howl. They may do this when they’ve been left out in the yard and want to be inside or because they’re just not getting enough time with you.
At face value, this type of howling would seem easy to stop, but simply giving in to your dog may, in fact, encourage the behavior and make their howling worse.
6. Boredom and Isolation
This is a problem that some dog breeds are more susceptible to than others. However, all dogs, when left alone for long periods, can get bored or feel isolated. Often, this will result in destructive behaviors like excessive digging, chewing on furniture or shoes, or even destroying their own toys, but it can also result in your dog developing a howling problem.
Much like howling due to separation anxiety, the first time that you may learn about the problem could be via a knock on the door from an annoyed neighbor.
7. Feeling Annoyed or Upset
Dogs have particularly sensitive hearing, and many sounds that are an everyday part of our lives, such as alarm clocks, digital devices that beep unexpectedly, or even music, can be extremely annoying to dogs. When dogs hear these noises, they may respond by howling.
8. In Response to High-pitched Noises or Sounds
Not all high-pitched sounds will annoy or upset your dog, and some may simply trigger a howling response due to the natural pattern of the sound reminding the dog of another dog’s howl. This often occurs with music, and many of us will have seen dogs seemingly singing along with a particular song by following the patterns in the music with the tone of their howl.
How to Stop a Dog From Howling:
1. Dealing with any injures or illnesses immediately
Of all the reasons that a dog may have for howling, the most concerning is when they are unwell or injured. Dogs can’t tell us in words what is wrong with them, so it is vitally important that if your dog suddenly starts constantly and unexpectedly howling, you immediately take the time to check them out.
Usually, an owner who knows their dog well will be able to tell just from the tone of the howl if there is a problem. Still, we strongly recommend that you take notice of this and get your dog checked out, even if there is nothing immediately apparent with your dog.
2. Dealing with separation anxiety, boredom, and isolation issues
Most of these issues can be easily addressed once you have identified the problem. The first sign that you might have a problem could be a complaining neighbor who has been putting up with your dog’s howling for days or weeks.
Note any information that you get about your dog’s behavior from this neighbor, and if necessary, take the time to speak to your other neighbors to gain a more complete picture of what has been going on while you have been away.
Usually, these types of problems can be addressed and effectively managed by reducing the amount of time that your dog spends alone. This, of course, is easier said than done if you need to be away all day for work or to care for another family member.
However, don’t despair, as other possible solutions will work just as well. You might, for example, have a neighbor or relative nearby who is home all day and would be happy to have your dog stay with them during the day. You could also look at taking your pet to a local doggie daycare center while you are out or even hiring a local dog walker to stop by to play with your dog and take them out for a walk.
If none of these solutions work for you, you might want to consider getting your dog a companion. Often, having a second dog that your dog can play with is all that is required to stop their howling.
3. Dealing with communication howling and attention-seeking behavior
Of all the different reasons for howling, these can be the most problematic and difficult to effectively address and deal with, because if your dog learns that howling is a good way to get a reaction or attention from you, they are likely to keep doing it.
The key to success here lies in rewarding your dog for good behavior and as much as possible, ignoring them when they act out.
In practice, this will likely involve rewarding your dog with a treat or plenty of praise when they stop howling and immediately distracting them with something else whenever they start again. As tempting as it may be to scold or discipline your dog if they continue to howl, you should avoid doing this because dogs don’t understand why you are angry at them, and your efforts will likely prove to be counterproductive.
Keep in mind that you are not alone in having to address these problems. Sometimes the only way to get a result is to bring in an expert. In this case, you might want to consider hiring a professional dog trainer or dog behavioral expert who can come to your home and work with you and your dog to overcome the issue.
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