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Why Do German Shepherds Howl? 10 Common Reasons & How to Stop It

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

german shepherd dog howling in a field of flowers

We’d be surprised if you have yet to hear your German Shepherd howl. While not all dogs howl, and it isn’t a cause for concern if they don’t, this breed is one that is rather chatty. The amount that they howl depends on the individual dog. If it seems to be going on non-stop and you just can’t take it anymore, there are ways to teach them to stop. Likewise, you can teach them to start as well. So why do German Shepherds howl so much? There are a few reasons why they are getting in touch with their inner wolf.

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The 10 Reasons Why German Shepherds Howl

German Shepherds howl for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re bored, sometimes they’re excited, and other times they’re in pain. Take a quick glance at some of the most common causes of howling to figure out what has brought on this vocal performance.

1. Howling Is a Part of Who They Are

Every dog on the planet is descended from wolves, and we all know that wolves howl. Howling is simply a part of your dog’s DNA, and instincts usually tell them to do so. Howling isn’t a bad behavior; making noise is something that comes naturally to them.

german shepherd tilting head while howling
Image Credit: nori jaafer, Pixabay

2. Boredom

Dogs bark and cry, so why do we become so concerned when they start to howl? The German Shepherd breed is usually extremely active. When dogs don’t get enough exercise or mental activities, it is easy for them to become bored, just as all humans do. Howling from boredom could also be combined with other naughty behavior, like chewing on things.

3. Anxiety

German shepherds were mainly bred to work alongside their owners, and they aren’t meant to be away from their pack for too long. If you leave your pup alone for extended periods, they might develop separation anxiety and start crying or becoming restless until they’re reunited with you.

scared german shepherd
Image Credit: Brett_Hondow, Pixabay

4. They’re Excited to See You

As we said before, German Shepherds love to be with their pack, and you are their number one priority. Dogs will instinctively start to howl when they know that you’re coming home because they are trying to prevent you from getting lost. Wolves also do this in the wild for their pack mates to help them find their way back into their territory.

5. Signaling a Warning

As herding dogs, this breed made lots of noise to scare off predators and criminals that came onto their land. Howling is a way for dogs to say, “This is my territory. Don’t come any closer.” This warning is beneficial in some ways because it helps keep your home safer and deters people from breaking in.

german shepherd barking close up
Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

6. Demanding Attention

Is there a better way to get your attention than making a bunch of noise? If you respond to howling, the dog quickly learns to get your attention this way. This is a behavior that is normally picked up when they are small puppies.

7. They’re Hurt

There is some howling that should never be ignored. Howling from pain is usually easy to distinguish between howling from happiness. Dogs in pain will howl because they need our assistance. This noise is their way of communicating that they aren’t feeling the best.

German Shepherd asleep
Image Credit: GoranH, Pixabay

8. Happiness

Some dogs howl just because they are happy. It most often happens when they’re about to get a favorite toy or special treat, but there could be many different things that set them off. Take comfort in knowing your pup is expressing their joy in such a vocal way.

9. Loud Noises

Haven’t we all seen those adorable internet videos of the dogs howling to sirens? Sirens sound very similar to a dog howling, and your German Shepherd is simply replying to the outside noise. It may not sound similar to you, but dogs are capable of picking up much higher frequencies than we are.

german shepherd barking
Image Credit: PDPics, Pixabay

10. It’s Nighttime

Many dog owners realize that their dogs start to howl more at nighttime than at any other time of the day. German Shepherds are usually on guard at this time, and if they are howling, it is probably because they are trying to signal that something is going on outside. Even if it’s just a small bunny, it’s nice to know that they’re looking out for you.

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The 3 Ways to Stop Your German Shepherd From Howling

Howling is natural for dogs, but we understand why it can get annoying. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to stop this behavior.

1. Ignore Them

A lot of times, German Shepherds continue to howl because they’ve noticed that it is an easy way to get your attention. Instead of scolding them, ignore them completely and remain persistent. Over time, the dogs learn that this tactic doesn’t work anymore. If this doesn’t work, get up, leave the room, and shut the door behind you. Don’t return until the howling stops. Doing so lets them know that remaining quiet is the best way to get affection.

german shepherd dog with his owner at the park
Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

2. Spend More Time With Them

If your dog is demanding attention, it might help to be more genuine about your one-on-one time. Go outside and spend an hour playing with them. Give them lots of pats, hugs, and kisses. If they feel like they’re getting quality time with you, then they will be less likely to demand it later on.

3. Counterconditioning

Counterconditioning is a practice that tricks your dog into changing the way that they feel while they behave a certain way. For example, dogs that howl whenever someone walks by the house can be counter conditioned by giving them a treat as soon as they spot a person and before they start howling. The dog starts to associate a person walking by with a good feeling, which then makes them less likely to howl.

man giving a german shepherd a bone treat
Image Credit: Nicky Rhodes, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, your German Shepherd’s howling is likely very natural. Some breeds are more likely to howl than others. If it truly bothers you, you might think about getting a dog that is less likely to make a lot of noise. However, if you already have a noisy dog, there are ways that you can train them to stop.

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Featured Image Credit: Samantha Gould, Shutterstock

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