Do you have a couple of howling dogs on your hands? If you do, you know how frustrating this type of vocal communication can be. But why do they do it? Are they looking for special attention? Are they employing a good defense mechanism to warn of potential predators in the neighborhood? Is it just some odd behavioral trait? Could it actually be due to some sort of behavioral problem?
As it turns out, there’s no one reason dogs howl – there are actually quite a few. Here’s a detailed overview of some of those reasons and some of the ways you can put an end to this attention seeking behavior if it’s gotten out of control. You’ll also learn whether you should consider seeking professional help for your howling companion.
What Are Dogs Saying When They Howl?
Some dogs howl more than others, but many types of dogs howl. Stray dogs do it. Older dogs do it. Puppies do it. Wild dogs do it. When a dog howls – much like a gray wolf howls at a full moon – they’re usually trying to say something. Here are just a few of the things they may be trying to tell you.
- The dog is in pain – If your pooch is usually the quiet type but they suddenly start howling out of nowhere, don’t ignore it. It’s possible the dog has suffered some sort of injury. If you suspect this, get them to the vet.
- Separation anxiety – Your dog adores you, and looks at you as the pack leader. They’re used to enjoying regular interaction with you and the rest of the family. If you’re not around, that could make your pup feel nervous and howl. Once you return, the howling will more than likely stop. Other indications of separation anxiety include destructive behavior, pacing, and inappropriate urination or defecation.
- Finding something they think is cool – Howling doesn’t always have to be a sign of a problem. A dog may howl as a direct result of being happy, like when they find something new in the backyard. Your pup is basically giving themselves kudos.1
Dog Breeds Most Likely To Howl
All dogs bark, but certain breeds are more prone to howling. Here are a few examples.
- Basset Hound – Basset Hounds are typically easygoing, loving members of the family. There are times, however, when they like to cut loose with some howls. They may make a loud, vocal announcement when they’ve been separated from the rest of their “pack,” meaning you and your family, for too long.
- Bloodhound – A Bloodhound usually howls in lower tones than other breeds. Just like the Basset Hound, the Bloodhound will usually howl when separated from their people for too long.
- Beagle – Beagles are among the most popular breeds because they’re intelligent and loving. But they’ll also let you know when they want something – often by howling.2
What Noises Make Your Dog Howl?
Certain triggers may set off a dog howling serenade. It could be a car alarm in the neighborhood or a nearby siren (more on why dogs howl at sirens in the next section). It could be something as simple as another dog howling across the street, or even a dog howling on television.
Some people like to have fun with their pup by making them howl – sort of like having a “sing-along” with their four-legged family member. If you’re one of them, here are a few ways you can stimulate howling. You might even find it to be a fun bonding activity.
- Start singing the theme song from your favorite television show or movie.
- Start howling yourself.
- Make eye contact with your dog and whistle.
- Play a video of another dog howling.
- If you’re musically inclined, play the harmonica or another instrument.3
Why Do Dogs Howl At Sirens?
A dog typically will show a certain type of body language before starting to howl at a siren. They might prick up their ears and tilt their head well before you can hear the siren yourself. The reason is that their hearing is far superior to that of a human. But as far as why dogs find necessary to howl at sirens, there’s really no clear cut answer.4
One theory is that certain triggers, such as sirens, occur at high audio frequencies. These kinds of sounds, for whatever reason, stimulate a vocal response in some dogs. It might be purely primal, instinctive behavior, or it could be due to discomfort.5
Is Excessive Howling A Sign Of A Behavior Problem – Or Something Else?
If your dog is howling, barking, or vocalizing more than normal, there’s a chance there could be something wrong. It could be an emotional issue, such as grieving the death of a family member (including another pet). Or, it could be some sort of health problem.6
The best course of action will be to take your dog to the vet for a thorough examination. You’ll want to have any potential health issues ruled out first. Once that happens, your vet may look at your dog’s mental health, checking for indications of cognitive dysfunction. Your vet may also look at any recent incidents that might have traumatized your pet. In some instances, common treatments such as behavior medications may be considered.7
How To Stop A Dog From Howling All The Time
As long as your dog gets the “all clear” from a mental and physical health perspective, there are some things you can try at home if your dog continues to howl too much. One approach is known as systematic desensitization. It might sound harsh, but it’s basically a way to gently expose your dog to certain triggers that set off howling.8
You provide the trigger at a lower level so that the dog doesn’t react. Ideally, the more the dog gets used to the trigger, the less the reaction will occur. That way, when the “real” trigger occurs, your pet won’t respond in such an intense manner.9
Keeping Your Dog Calm While You’re Away From Home
Some dogs will howl because they’re alone. If this happens with your pet, you might try the following approach.
- Try to spend some extra time with your dog right before you leave – especially if you’re going to be gone for a while. Go outside and play, or take your pet for a walk. That might tire the dog out and reduce howling in the process. Give your dog something to keep them occupied while you’re away. They might be so caught up in playing they won’t even think about howling.
- Act like you’re leaving. Grab your keys and your wallet. But instead of going out your front door, go back to your normal routine. Watch some television or play a game on your phone – whatever it is you normally do. Hopefully, if you do this over time, your dog won’t associate your grabbing the keys with something negative.10
- Always remember to never punish your dog for howling. Reward good behavior, but don’t physically or verbally abuse your pet if they can’t do what you want them to do. That could lead to them being scared to be around you – and no pet parent wants that to ever happen.
Howling Can Be Cute, But…
There’s no fixed meaning to howling, as you can see. When domestic dogs howl every once in a while like their ancestors – the brave wolves who protected their families from a rival pack – that’s fine. But if their howling becomes excessive, you might need to take action. Don’t hesitate to bring your dog to the vet to make sure there’s nothing wrong.
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