If you’re the parent of an Australian Shepherd, you’ve heard your dog howl on more than one occasion. This breed is known for being fairly vocal and talkative, mostly due to their working dog heritage. But howling can get awfully annoying quickly, especially if it’s repeated howling or howling that goes on for ages. And it’s not just you that could be getting annoyed, but your neighbors too!
So, why do Australian Shepherds howl in the first place? There are actually a variety of reasons these pups decide to get loud, ranging from wanting to grab your attention to attempting to scare off a potential threat. Keep reading to learn all the possible reasons your Australian Shepherd is howling (plus tips on reducing how often it occurs)
The Top 9 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Howl
1. For Attention
If your pet feels like it’s not getting enough of your attention at a time when it wants it, it will try to grab your attention. After all, if your dog wants something now, it’s bound and determined to get it right that moment! Thus, the howling begins. So, if you’ve been busy with something else, and your pet starts howling, it’s most likely because it wants attention from you.
2. So you know where they are
Our canine companions descended from wolves, and wolves are known to howl to let others know where they are. So, your dog might start up the racket to give you a heads-up on its location. For example, if you hear your pup howl every afternoon when you get into the driveway, there’s a good chance this is why it’s doing so. Your Australian Shepherd might also do this if the two of you are going into an area that’s unfamiliar as a sort of warning to others that they’re entering the space.
3. To contact other dogs
Another reason your Australian Shepherd howls may be that they’re trying to contact other dogs (or is replying to another dog howling). Your pet may be looking for a romp with a friend or just responding to another pup. This, too, goes back to the wolf ancestry, as one of the ways wolves communicate is through vocalization, such as howling. This type of howling isn’t unusual, but it can definitely be a bit much at times!
4. Separation anxiety
Australian Shepherds are quite sociable and friendly, so they’re more prone to separation anxiety when left on their own. So, if you find your dog is mainly howling after you leave the house for the day, this could be why. And if it is separation anxiety, there will likely be other signs, such as destructive behaviors (chewing, digging), going to the bathroom inside the house, or even attempts to escape the home.
5. They hear something
You already know a dog’s hearing is exceptional, but it’s particularly good when it comes to high-pitched frequencies (hence, why dog whistles are effective). That means not only can your dog detect sounds you would never be able to, but everyday noises can sound louder than they actually are to your pup. So, your dog howling could be a sign that it’s distressed by or simply acknowledging something it hears (whether you can hear it or not).
6. You accidentally trained your dog to howl
Okay, that sounds unreasonable, right? But if your Australian Shepherd has a habit of howling, and you constantly go to it to comfort and give it attention, then you’re rewarding your pet’s behavior. Your pet now knows that howling equals attention, so it will be more inclined to continue doing it in the future. Oops! So, ensure you aren’t reinforcing behavior that you don’t want to see in your pup.
7. Trying to scare something off
Remember how we said that dogs have great hearing and can often hear things we can’t? Another reason your dog could be howling is because it’s heard something outside the home and thinks this thing is trying to intrude into its territory. By howling, your pet is letting whatever is out there know it shouldn’t come any closer, and if it does, it’ll have your Australian Shepherd to contend with.
We’ve all seen those TikToks of dogs singing along to songs or with their owners, right? They’re hilarious and adorable, and that may be what your pet is doing when it howls. No one is quite sure why dogs often attempt to sing along with music or people, but it could go back to the wolf ancestry and howling to communicate. Your Australian Shepherd could be trying to have a conversation or simply mimicking what it’s hearing.
Finally, your dog could be in pain if it begins to howl. Just like we would cry out if we suddenly got injured, your pup may too. (It may also howl if it’s feeling unwell in general rather than being injured.). If your pet is hurt in some way, you’ll also see other signs, such as difficulty breathing, excessive grooming in a specific spot, lethargy, lack of appetite, limping, and sleep issues. If your dog just begins howling out of nowhere, and you don’t see a cause, check for injuries or pain, just in case.
Tips to Reduce Howling
If your Australian Shepherd is howling excessively, and for reasons other than separation anxiety or because it’s in pain, then you most likely are ready to put an end to it (or at least reduce how often it happens). Luckily, there are some ways you can go about doing that.
One such way is through behavioral therapy, like systematic desensitization and counterconditioning. This type of thing works well if your dog is howling due to fear, aggression, anxiety, or phobias—essentially anything that is producing a feeling or emotion in your pet. Behavioral therapy like desensitization and counterconditioning can change how your dog feels about certain stimuli, making it less likely to howl when these things occur. You’ll need to find a professional to help your Australian Shepherd if you think this solution would work best for your dog.
Other ways to reduce the instances of howling are to ignore your pet’s howling, especially if it’s done for attention, so you don’t inadvertently reward them for bad behavior, and reward your Australian Shepherd when it’s being quiet, so it learns that being quiet is preferable. You can also help your pup learn to be quiet by training it to stop making noise when you ask it to (this may take some patience and time, but eventually, your dog will get the idea).
Finally, spend quality time with your pet. If your dog is howling to get attention or because it’s dealing with separation anxiety, ensuring you’re spending plenty of time with it when it’s not howling can help your pet feel reassured.
There are a host of reasons your Australian Shepherd is howling. Your pet howling could indicate something as simple as hearing a noise it wants to respond to or something more serious, such as separation anxiety or an injury. Pay close attention to context clues when it comes to your pup’s howling to help figure out what the reason is for the noise. You can try to remedy the situation when you have a good idea of the reason.
You can also try to get ahead of the problem with the tips above by teaching your pet to be quieter or having it work with a behaviorist to switch negative behaviors to more positive ones. Eventually, you should be able to help your dog learn to be a bit quieter!