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Why Do Dogs Howl at Music? Exploring Dog Behavior

Cassandra Kyser

By Cassandra Kyser

siberian husky howling at home

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Image Credit: Milica Nistoran, Shutterstock

Have you ever tried to enjoy your favorite music, only to be interrupted by your dog’s howls? This experience can be funny, cute, and even downright annoying. But what does this behavior mean?

Is your dog commenting on your choice of music? Or are they acting on instinct? Before we explore the link between howling and music, we have to discuss, “Why do dogs howl at all?”

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What Makes a Dog Howl?

Domesticated dogs and wolves share a common ancestor. And yes, that includes every modern breed from Chihuahuas to Great Danes and Labrador Retrievers.

The exact timing of the evolution of dogs is somewhat disputed. But what we know is that at some point in ancient history, wolves started hanging around humans. Over the centuries, selective breeding created characteristics like the poodle’s curly coat and the beagle’s sharp sense of smell.

Howling is an instinct that was never bred out of dogs. Simply put, dogs howl because wolves howl to communicate with their pack. These canine songs indicate a pack’s location, alert others to prey or predators, and are used to establish bonds within the group.

Certain music can sound like a howl to a dog. Your dog acts out its natural instinct when it sings along to your favorite tunes.

two dogs howling
Image Credit: Pixabay

Do Dogs Howl at Music Because It Hurts Their Ears?

Canines can hear sounds that are too quiet and high-pitched for human ears. This ability is linked to survival. Ancient canines listened to the soft and high-pitched noises of their prey, which were often rodents. If music, or any sound, hurts your ears, it for sure hurts your dog’s ears as well.

Are Dogs Happy When They Howl?

Music can make your dog feel a range of emotions. Watch your dog’s body language to understand how it feels. A happy howl is often accompanied by tail wagging. Dogs that are stressed out or agitated may growl, bare their teeth, or pant.

labrador howling
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Is It Good To Howl With Your Dog?

If your dog is happy, feel free to join in the fun! There is nothing wrong with a dog-human duet now and then. This collaboration can stir the bonding instinct in your dog. It’s one way to connect with your pet, just like playing fetch.

Do Dogs Like Music?

Dogs have preferences just like humans do. Some pets like music, while others would prefer silence. Most dogs will likely tolerate music played at a reasonable level.

Why Does My Dog Howl When I Play a Musical Instrument?

You might notice that your dog reacts differently to music, depending on the instrument. If you’re a musician or singer, you can have a doggy duet partner when you practice! Dogs are more apt to howl along with wind instruments or humans holding a prolonged note.

Do Dogs Prefer Music or Silence?

One study from Queen’s University Belfast has shown that dogs behave differently to various types of music. Researchers exposed shelter dogs to pop, classical, and heavy metal music. The dogs were indifferent to the pop music but appeared relaxed when they heard classical music. The heavy metal tunes made the dogs agitated.

When it comes to preferring music over silence, it may be a matter of what kind of music. If your dog can choose between, say, Metallica or complete silence, it will likely choose the latter.

Howling Is a Canine Instinct

Music can stir up your dog’s instinct to vocalize. While howling is normal canine behavior, it can drown out your favorite songs.

Most of us have musical preferences. We favor one artist or genre over others. Your dog is likely no different. If your pup shows signs of distress, you can switch to mellower music. If your dog’s howls bother you, you may have to wear headphones or earbuds when you listen to music.

german shepherd dog howling in a field of flowers
Image Credit: Samantha Gould, Shutterstock
 

Featured Image Credit: Milica Nistoran, Shutterstock

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