Why Do Dogs Howl?

All dogs howl from time to time. The only difference is that some howl low, some louder, some howl for longer while others a lot, but the fact is they all howl. So, why do dogs howl? Well, howling is a way of communicating with humans or their fellow dogs. The behavior can be triggered by practically anything, like music, sharp sirens outside, or even when you are about to leave for work.

Reasons Why Dogs Howl

Dogs may howl to attract attention, announce their presence to other dogs, or express a feeling of either excitement or pain. Dogs howl mainly to communicate with you, the world, and other dogs. Whichever the reason behind dogs howling, here are some key points that will help you understand in-depth why dogs howl.

Ancestral origin

Have you ever heard a wolf howling? It is believed that dogs and wolves share a common ancestor. They are both from the canine family, hence displaying similar behaviors like the smell, body language, and howling, among others. Like wolves, dogs howl because it is in their blood. Some dogs howl as a sign of excitement, and at times, they howl for a specific reason. As long as your dog’s howling is not extensive, it is a natural behavior drawn from their ancestry.   

Way of communicating

A dog’s howl is a form of communication. In the wild, wolves howl to scare away other animals approaching their territory. Wolves also howl to alert a member of their pack where they are. This explains why domesticated dogs howl with various sounds such as sharp sirens or music.

One reason why your dog may be howling like a siren is that he thinks other dogs are approaching, so he is howling to mark his territory. Another reason your dog may howl at the sirens is that he thinks there is danger and is howling to protect you from what he believes is a threat. 

Separation anxiety

Your neighbors may have told you that your dog howls all day in your absence. Sometimes he can even start howling immediately when he realizes you are about to leave him alone. This is because he is afraid to be left alone and may be suffering from separation anxiety which might be mild or severe. Dogs easily get emotionally attached to their owners, which may often lead to them howling when they sense you aren’t at home. Anxiety separation only happens when your dog is left alone or separated from the owner.

Unlike howling caused by sirens or other sharp voices, howling caused by anxiety will be accompanied by other signs like escaping his crate, walking back and forth around the room, or he might destroy things. When you notice this behavior, you can bring him new toys to keep him busy or bring another dog to accompany him when you are not around.

Medical problem

Your dog may howl to get your attention, but if the howling is excessive, then your dog might be hurt or sick. The behavior might be accompanied by another sign like scratching or licking a specific part of their body. When you notice this kind of behavior, take your dog to a veterinarian to rule out any concern. 

What to Do About Excessive Howling

When howling becomes excessive or too much for your liking, there are some methods you can use to manage this.

  1. Spend time with your dog

Excessive howling may be a sign that your dog is lonely. Like humans, dogs are social creatures. Leaving them alone for long hours may cause them to become sad or anxious. When you are home, spend time with your dog and give them plenty of love and attention. Incorporate games to strengthen your bond and alleviate their stress. 

2. Counterconditioning and desensitization

Is your dog’s howling connected to how they feel about a situation? If so, you need to change their motivation and feeling about the subject at hand. This technique is one of the ways of treating phobias, aggression, and anxiety. If it is a little difficult to adopt or apply, consult a licensed animal behaviorist. 

3. If your dog howls to get attention, they could be alerting you of perceived danger or a need such as food. They are trying to communicate with you. If it becomes annoying, you can

  • Ignore them and make them feel invisible. This lets them know that howling won’t work as an attention tool. 
  • Reward them for quiet behavior. It isn’t easy to notice when your dog is quiet doing nothing, but it is important to reward this behavior to show them the right way to seek attention. 
  • Teach your dog commands that encourage them to talk when spoken to and to quieten down when asked. ‘Speak’ to encourage them to bark or howl and ‘quiet’ to quieten down. 

FAQs about Dogs Howling

Why do dogs howl at night?

It is often alarming when your dog seems to be trying to keep the whole neighborhood awake with their howling after dark. Dogs tend to hear sounds and each other better after the sun goes down. With less atmospheric disturbance and human interference at night, sound travels faster and further. Since it’s quiet, they tend to try to communicate more with each other as they can easily, and clearer hear sound pitches we can’t.

Why do dogs howl at music?

It isn’t uncommon for your dog to seemingly sing along a tune you are either playing or listening to. Owing to their ancestry, dogs howl to communicate with you. So, think of it as a compliment or a show of their enthusiasm for the music. For humans, singing and playing music has often been utilized as a social bond for thousands of years; perhaps dogs have been howling along with these tunes with us for years.  

Why do dogs howl at the moon?

We have already established why dogs howl at night. The fact that they also throw back their heads when howling makes it seem like they are looking up at the moon, but it is generally upwards. Since wolves do this, dogs also tend to do the same regardless of the moon’s fullness instinctively. It just seems noticeable to you because you are trying to sleep, and the two most distinct things at that time are the moon and the howling.

Why do dogs howl in their sleep?

Did you know that dogs also dream? Yes, dogs dream too, and when they howl in their sleep, it is simply because they are dreaming. Dogs can “walk” their legs, twitch, roll their eyes, and howl when dreaming. In most cases, when a dog howls in their sleep, it could be because they have an unpleasant dream. Unless your dog displays any other sleeping disorder, you don’t have to worry if your dog howls when asleep. 

Why does my dog howl when I leave?

Dogs tend to form a strong emotional bond with their owners and can sense when you are about to leave. Your dog may suffer from separation anxiety, causing him to howl when you are leaving. Your dog is simply expressing their fear of being left alone. You can get them a companion dog or buy them toys to keep them entertained to avoid this behavior.

Why does my dog howl when I sing?

Generally, dogs howl at high-pitched voices. It is in their genes to respond to high pitches. In the wild, wolves howl to other wolves of their location, and other wolves howl back, forming kind of a chorus. This may be a reason why your dog howls when you sing. 

Why do dogs howl when you do?

Your dog is likely to howl when you howl because they are trying to communicate and bond with you. It could also be learned because they get attention or some form of reward for it. Dogs also tend to howl back when they hear a howl, and they are naturally reacting to you howling.

Why do dogs howl to sirens?

It isn’t clear why dogs howl at sirens, but there are several plausible explanations. 

  • Your dog may be warning of danger as they naturally have protective instincts. 
  • Your dog probably thinks it’s another dog howling in the distance. 

In a nutshell, howling is a natural instinct in dogs. It is their way of communicating to let you and other dogs know they can hear the sound and are ready to respond. It is an instinctive way of intimating that they are aware of their surroundings. If the howling becomes a problem, consult an animal behavioral specialist.

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