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Why Do Dogs Howl At Night? 10 Potential Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

jack russell terrier howling

For a lot of dogs, howling is a natural form of communication. Some breeds, like Huskies, are more prone to howling than others, but all have the potential to howl, whine, or make other high-pitched noises. It can be disturbing, not only for you but for other family members and even for neighbors and others. If your dog suddenly starts howling at night, there is likely to be some underlying reason for it. Possible reasons range from your dog being in pain to separation anxiety.

Below, we look at 10 of the most likely reasons your dog is howling at night as well as whether there is anything you can do to stop it.

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The 10 Reasons Why Dogs Howl at Night

1. Hungry or Thirsty

Dogs can’t make food themselves, and they can’t turn the faucet on to get water. They rely on us to meet their food and water needs. Your dog could be letting you know that they are hungry or thirsty. If you feed your dog several hours before bed, consider moving their mealtime a little closer to bedtime.

Always ensure they have access to fresh water, whether they have the run of the house or sleep in a crate overnight.

golden doodle dog barking at home
Image Credit: dahancoo, Pixabay

2. Threat Detection

It is a dog’s instinct to protect its pack. If your dog can sense another dog nearby, it could be howling to warn that potential threat away and to let you know of impending danger. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it can see another dog. It may be able to hear distant howling or barking, and this could be enough to elicit a howl in response.

Try crating your dog away from areas where they are more likely to hear external noises.


3. Toilet Time

Unless you’ve got a dog door with 24-hour access, or you’ve managed to litter train your dog, they rely on you to let them out to do their business. And your dog doesn’t know that drinking just before bedtime is likely to mean that they will need to get up for a pee in the middle of the night.

Try and get into a schedule of letting your dog out and encouraging them to pee and poop just before bedtime to prevent toilet howling.

woman taking a beagle dog for an afternoon walk at the park
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

4. Pain or Medical Issues

Howling can be a sign of distress caused by physical pain or injury. If your dog has joint problems, for example, laying down all night can cause pain and this can lead to howling. If you believe your dog is in pain, take them to the vet and have them checked out. At the very least, it can eliminate this as a possible cause of howling.


5. Anxiety

Anxiety can be caused by many factors. Your dog could be getting anxious because it can hear noises or sense people walking past the house. Try to identify any possible causes of anxiety and remove them or work with your dog to get over the anxiety. Consider using a crate. Some dogs do better when they have less of the house to “protect” during the night.

labradoodle dog barking
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

6. Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a form of anxiety but it deserves special mention because it is common and can be difficult to overcome. This is anxiety that arises when the dog is separated from its owner or potentially even from another dog in the house. It can occur during the day, if you go to work, as well as at night when you’re asleep. Use a crate or turn a radio or TV on quietly to see if that helps reduce feelings of anxiety.

Also, ensure your dog is worn out before going to bed because a tired dog is less likely to feel anxious. Over time, you can work with a dog to reduce feelings of separation anxiety by leaving them for a short space of time and gradually increasing how long they are left.


7. Playing

Dogs sleep around 16 hours a day, and they typically sleep through most of the night while you’re in bed. However, your dog might be waking up, getting bored, and then playing as a means of entertaining itself. This can be especially true if you have two dogs or if you also have a cat that might be waking the dog up to take part in their games.

Provide interactive toys, walk your dog close to bedtime so they are tired, and, if necessary, separate the cats and dogs while you’re asleep.

a dog playing with a stuffed animal toy
Image Credit: Catherine Murray, Shutterstock

8. Attention Seeking

Some dogs howl because they know it gets their owner’s attention. Even if you tell them off and discourage it, this is still a reaction to your dog. So, if your pup wants to get a reaction from you and wants some attention, they may be howling to do exactly that. Use toys and put music on quietly to try and calm them.


9. Excitement

There are plenty of possible causes of excitement for some dogs. Your dog might be excited because another family member has come in or has passed them by on the way to the bathroom. They might be excited because the cat has joined them. Look for any possible causes of excitement and try to minimize them in the future to help prevent nighttime noises.

calm purebred dog is resting with owner in bed in night
Image Credit: IAKIMCHUK IAROSLAV,Shutterstock

10. Loud Noises

Car alarms, dogs barking, and the sound of the delivery van driving past the house. These are all loud noises that can set a dog off barking or howling. If your dog sleeps near the busy side of the house, consider changing their sleeping spot to somewhere that is out of the way. Or start crate training to minimize disruption.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Ignore My Dog Howling At Night?

Unless your dog is howling from pain or because it desperately wants to get outside for a pee, you should try and ignore the howling. Responding only reinforces the behavior, which means they are more likely to howl again another night.

Are Dogs Happy When They Howl?

Dogs howl for a lot of reasons, and it is essentially just a form of communication like talking is to humans. Happiness is one possible cause of howling, although it is unlikely to make you happy at 3 AM. Other possible emotional causes of howling include sadness, anxiety, and even jealousy.

two dogs howling
Image Credit: Pixabay

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Conclusion

Dogs might not be able to talk but they do have a lot of ways they try to communicate their emotions to their owners. One vocalization that some dogs use is howling. Although it is more prevalent in breeds like Huskies and Beagles, lots of dogs howl at some point in their lives. If your dog howls at night, try to identify the cause. It could be a sign of pain or illness, or it might mean your dog really needs to get outside to use the toilet.

If there are no obvious causes, and you have eliminated ill health, try to ignore the noise. Consider crate training or moving the dog into another room at night, removing any stimuli that might be causing the howling in the first place.


Featured Image Credit: Anke van Wyk, Shutterstock

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