A siren passes your window and suddenly your dog turns into a howling fiend. Some find it funny, some may even find it adorable. However, for the vast majority of dog owners, it makes us want to rip off our ears. But the real question here is: why do certain things seemingly transform your domesticated dog back to their wild ways?
Why Do Dogs Howl
Dogs may howl for a number of reasons. It is important for pet owners to rule out medical reasons for howling before assuming that your dog is just being a dog.
Separation Anxiety Dog Howling
As a dog owner, we know how hard it is to leave your fur baby home all day while you go to work. It is even more upsetting when you receive a letter from your neighbor complaining about your pup’s constant howling. Whether or not you realize it, your beloved four-legged companion’s howling may be due to separation anxiety that they experience when you leave.
Typically howling caused by separation anxiety is typically not the only sign that your pup is experiencing emotional distress when you’re not around. Often pet parents will find signs such as depression or destruction in the home, such as tearing the carpet apart, pacing, or having frequent “accidents.”
Howling dogs are not fun for anyone, especially long term. If your pup is howling from an issue such as separation anxiety, pet owners are able to make beneficial changes such as hiring a dog walker. Additionally, dog owners may want to consider doggie daycare in effort to manage the howling and ensure their pup is getting the daily attention that they need.
Pain or Illness
Your dog howling may also have a direct correlation with illness or pain. If you find your pup howling more than usual, experts recommend having a veterinarian exam them in order to rule out any pain or illness that may be causing your pup’s behavioral changes.
Additionally, we should mention that pain and illness do not only correlate to more howling, but with any “talking” or noise making. Vocalizing through whining, barking, whimpering, howling, etc. are one of the only ways that they are able to communicate with their owners. For this reason, pet owners should not ignore any changes in their dog’s “normal” behavior.
Speaking of communication, a lot of the time, howling is simply a way for dogs to communicate long distances with other dogs. Howling can develop almost in an infectious way throughout a neighborhood. When one dog starts, it can be seemingly impossible for your dog to not want to join in. In these cases, howling is nothing more than your beloved pup talking to the other dogs in the area (although this “talking” can be pretty overwhelming, especially if it begins in an apartment complex).
The Influence of Ancestry
Additionally, pet owners should not forget their dog’s ancestry. While domesticated dogs have evolved and are certainly different than wild dogs such as wolves and coyotes, there are still share a fair amount of similarities. In the wild, dogs are still pack animals, meaning that they travel, hunt, and communicate in groups. Howling often occurs when dogs are missing a member of their pack. Furthermore, howling in the wild is common in warding off another animal or potential threat to the pack.
When domesticated dogs howl it may mean something similar. For instance, if a new person comes into your home (threatening or not) your dog may howl to seemingly say “who the heck are you?!”
If your dog isn’t howling for a medical reason, they may just be howling because it’s embedded in them genetically. Humans may not understand why, but for dogs, howling just comes naturally.
Why Do Wolves Howl at the Moon
While you’ve probably heard stories about wolves howling at the moon, studies show that they are in fact nothing more than stories. Dogs howl for a number of reasons but the whole howling-at-the-moon bit doesn’t seem to be a real reason.
Why Do Dogs Howl at Sirens
Some dog owners may think that their beloved fur baby is howling at the sirens because they have some sort of sixth sense for danger. However, experts believe that canines howl at sirens because they are mistaking the sound for other howls.
Another plausible explanation for your beloved pup howling when an ambulance or fire truck passes is that the sound of the sirens scares them.
Breeds Known for Howling
While any dog, big or small, old or young, can howl their hearts away, there are certain dog breeds that are known for their love of howling.
These dog breeds include:
- Alaskan Malamutes
- American Eskimo Dogs
- Coonhounds (Black and Tan, Bluetick, Redtick, English, Redbone and Treeing Walker)
- Foxhounds (American and English)
- Hounds (Bloodhound, Basset hounds)
- Huskies (Alaskan and Siberian)
- Native American Indian Dogs
- Tamaskan Dogs
Dogs Howling for Attention: What To Do?
If you’ve determined that your dog isn’t howling for any serious medical condition and isn’t howling due to separation anxiety or in response to a high pitched, agitating noise, it is probable that they are howling for attention.
If your dog is howling for attention they may howl for food, to play, or to be given a desired object or toy. While the easiest thing to do in the moment is to give in to whatever your dog wants, this won’t work in the long run. Trust us, you’ll quickly learn that your dog now believes that all they ever have to do is howl and they will get their way. This will get old… very fast.
Your dog needs to learn two things: 1. howling will not work to get what they want (even if it has in the past, behaviors can be changed) and 2. being quiet will work to get positive feedback.
Sounds easy enough, but we’ll walk you through it. It can be easier said than done.
Dogs that howl want attention. In order to change their mindset of thinking this is how they can get what the want, dog owners have to ignore the howling. Don’t look at your howling dog, don’t touch your howling dog, and try not to scold or punish your pup. Believe it or not, scolding or punishing your dog is still a form of attention. Chances are, if they are howling for attention, it has worked before. You now have to work to correct this behavior. As difficult as it is, do your best to ignore your pup.
Reward for Quietness and Good Behavior
Even the best pet owners can forget to pay attention to their dogs when their fur babies are on their best behavior. Perhaps this why acting out is such a common thing for pups to do when they are seeking attention. Dog owners should remember to reward their dogs for good behavior. If you want your pup to be quiet, a reward from time to time can be a great incentive for continuing the good behavior.
Spend Ample Time With Your Dog
Additionally, it is so incredibly important that your dog gets the proper amount of mental and physical stimulation on a day to day basis. Dogs (like their owners) don’t do well with ample amounts of boredom. You may be surprised at just how beneficial an extra 20 minutes of playtime can be.
If all else fails, experts recommend finding an animal behaviorist or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area to help get to the bottom of whatever is causing your dogs howling. CPDTs often hold group or single classes and can be highly advantageous in figuring out what is causing your dog to howl.
Why Do Dogs Howl: A Final Thought
At the end of the day, sometimes a dog’s behavior can simply be due to the fact that they are a dog. As humans, we may not fully understand it, but we don’t have to. We just have to accept that our furry little critters can be a bit weird sometimes.
However, other times, unexplained behavior cannot simply be chalked up to dogs being dogs. In fact, many times unexplained behavior goes undiagnosed and ends up amounting to something much more serious. Undiagnosed conditions are even more difficult to reverse down the line. Dogs howling can be something as easy to explain as boredom or genetics, but it can also mean something more severe such as an illness or distress. It is imperative for pet owners to get to the bottom of anything changing behaviors that they may see in their dogs. Noticing and acting on these behavioral changes and make a world of a difference for dogs and pet owners alike.