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Sep 13, 2019

What Makes Dogs Howl?

What Makes Dogs Howl?

Some dogs howl as people sing or play an instrument. Some others' serenades are set off by babies' cries or a TV program's theme song. Sometimes, these canine carols are quite funny and entertaining. However, when the howling goes on for too long, it can be bothersome.

If your dog's howling is incessant, you might need to stop it. To do so, you must first understand what causes your furry friend to howl.

Why Do Dogs Howl?

Like barking, howling is one of the many communication modes used by dogs. Animal behavior experts think that dogs howl for the following reasons.

Communal Activity or Defense Mechanism

In the wild, dogs howl to inform pack members of their location. Howling acts as a vocal homing signal that guides other dogs to them. If you have been away from home, your dog could be beckoning you back by howling. Dogs also howl to warn others off their territory.

Sense of Belonging and Awareness

Dogs howl when they hear some high-pitched sounds, such as sirens or music, and in response to other dogs' howls. This shows that they hear the sound and are ready to participate in the action. If your dog howls when you sing or play music, your canine friend most probably wants to join in your activity.

Separation Anxiety

If your dog howls when you are away from home, the cause might be separation anxiety. Other symptoms of separation anxiety, such as pacing or depression, accompany this kind of howling.

Seeking Attention

Some dogs howl because they need attention. They howl even when people are present because they want food, toys or treats.

Illness or Injury

Dogs, especially older ones, howl because they have some physical discomfort or are confused from loss of their senses. If your dog howls continuously, illness or injury could be the cause.


Some dogs, particularly hunting dog breeds, alert others by howling when they corner prey or discover something.


Dogs dream just like humans. They may twitch, roll their eyes, or even howl. Unless your dog is ill, an occasional howl at night may not be anything serious.

Breed Characteristics

Some dog breeds howl more than others. Breeds known for howling include Alaskan Malamutes, huskies, most hounds, and almost all hunting dogs.

Tips to Stop Excessive Howling

  • If dogs howl when alone, spend more quality time with them. Enroll them in training classes where there are other dogs to play with and they get rewards for good behavior. Buy them personalized gear and toys. When you leave dogs alone at home, ensure that these items are near them.
  • Often people pay attention to dogs only when they are naughty. If your dog howls just to attract your attention, ignore the behavior. Dogs find attention rewarding, be it positive or negative. So, refrain from looking, touching or speaking to them. Also, don't reprimand them.
  • Train your dogs by first prompting them to bark or howl and then introducing a command to be quiet. When they are quiet, praise them. Reward them with treats when they remain quiet for some time.
  • Check if a specific trigger, such as sirens, music, or thunder, causes your dog's howling. If so, the howling will stop when the triggering stimuli end. If it continues or becomes bothersome, you can try to change your dog's behavior by using desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.
  • Dogs may howl in mourning if their companion dogs pass away. In such cases, consider getting another dog.
  • If dogs howl without any apparent cause, they could be ill or hurt. Take your dogs to a veterinarian to determine if their howling is health-related. Ensure that they get enough nutritional supplements that help maintain their health and vitality.
If you cannot control your dog's excessive howling, seek professional help from veterinarians or certified professional dog trainers (CPDTs).

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