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Why Do Dogs Howl and What Does It Mean?

Updated by Amy Granger on Jul 16, 2021

No matter the temperament, age, or, breed all dogs do howl. There's nothing you or I can do to stop that. Some dogs will howl just a little while others will howl a lot more. Some will howl longer while others will howl louder, but the important thing is that every dog howl. We all wonder at some point, "why do dogs howl, and what does it mean?" Read on to find out why they make that soulful sound.

the dog is howling

Unlike humans, most of the senses, including noises, visual cues, and smells, are used by dogs in communicating with each other and humans. Barks, pheromones, whines, glandular secretions, body postures, yips, growls, and other forms of contact between dogs are all powerful means of communication. Unlike humans, dogs' olfactory (scent) and body postures signals are essential parts of their communication, although auditory communication is surprisingly less important. Dogs communicate more by watching body gestures, whereas people tend to communicate more by listening.

The type of information conveyed is another significant distinction between canine communication and human. Human beings can express very complex messages using language, while dog communication is characterized by displays of emotional states and distinctive body postures, although it is not necessarily accompanied by explicit intent or behaviors. Since dogs and people do not communicate using a tangible "code," the signals exchanged between animals tend to be ambiguous in nature and may be misunderstood or grossly misinterpreted.

Howling, like many other canine habits, has a long history. Domestic dogs' ancestors howled in the wild for various reasons. In the mountains, safety-conscious wolves, especially the alpha males, howl to announce their positions to other members of the pack. Howling is also a potent means for the canines to subtly warn other animals to steer clear of their territory. Nowadays, you won't find your dogs howling to locate themselves or hold intruders at bay. However, they still howl as a means of communication—as it was from the beginning—and will probably continue till eternity. Given that howling is a fundamental method of communication for dogs, we as dog owners need to consider what they are attempting to say as they howl so that we can act correctly because dogs have come to remain as members of the human families.

Here are some important messages communicated through howling:

I am vigilant and aware of my environment
Your dog may howl in response to high-pitched sounds such as music and siren or in response to the vocalizations from other dogs. Howling is a way of saying, "oh yeah, I heard that sound," and expressing readiness to respond and to participate in the necessary actions. If your dog's howling is caused by auditory stimulation, for example, music, they will most likely stop howling when the music stops. 

This Place Belongs to Me
Your dog may howl in order to keep intruders away from their territory. Howling alerts other dogs that a specific area has already been claimed, and visitors are therefore not welcome. This is an effective defense mechanism used to keep likely predators at bay. When your dog is guarding your home, they may howl if another person, visitor, human, or animal approaches their territory.

Give Me Some Attention
Your dog may howl in order to get your attention. And nothing grabs a dog owner's attention like a penetrating howl; so this tactic usually works. Because these canine piercing sounds can be frustrating at times, you must learn not to encourage your dog to make it. You can do this by avoiding eye contact with your dog when they are howling. Just make sure you do not give it any form of attention.

puppy running and howling

I'm Really Nervous
You may not know, but you are your dog's world. They focus on your life and can make a big deal of your departures and arrivals. Your dog can be centered on you so much that they sometimes become very anxious when you are away from them. If dogs that suffer from separation anxiety are left alone for too long, they may howl.

I'm hurt
You cannot afford to ignore some howls from your dog. Your dog may howl to express pain. Any time you are unsure of why your furry friend is howling, it is best to take them to the vet.

As a caring dog owner, you must first identify the cause(s) of your dog's howls to be able to stop them from howling. Nevertheless, below are some helpful tips on how to stop dogs.  

Not Minding Your Dog's Attention-seeking Howling
Whenever your dog starts to howl, act totally oblivious to their existence, especially when you are sure they are howling only to get your attention. Resist the urge to look, touch or speak to them. And don't try to scold them too. This is because any form of attention (positive or negative) is rewarding to dogs. Your dog will eventually learn better ways to get your attention.

Spend More Time with Your Dog
Your dog can howl because they feel lonely, particularly if you keep them outside or leave them alone for too long.  Dogs are highly social creatures who require constant interaction with their human buddies. To solve this, you should spend more time with your furry friend. Go for walks with them, bring them inside, and play games with them more frequently.

Visit the Vet
If your dog won't stop howling after trying the tricks above, it is advisable to visit your pet's vet.

1. Do some dog breeds howl more than others?

While howling is common in all dogs, some species howl more than others, according to several reputable vets. Several hound breeds, including Beagles, Dachshunds, Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Alaskan, Malamute Huskies, and American Eskimo dogs, are very more likely to howl.

2. What is the reason for puppy howling?

Puppies howl in order to enjoy attention, announce their presence, scare away preys, predators, or intruders, and communicate with other puppies. Howling is usually instinctual and can be natural but can also be triggered by underlying health issues. Many dogs respond to high-pitched sounds like musical instruments or sirens by howling.

3. Why do dogs howl at midnight?

Loneliness is the primary reason dogs bark at night. Because they are social animals (like humans), they can start feeling lonely when left outside alone at night. To express this loneliness, they may begin to howl. This is very synonymous with a baby that is left alone at night--the wailing.

4. Why do dogs howl at sirens?

Experts suggest that many dogs interpret the high-pitched sounds from a siren as other dogs howling from afar; so, they howl back in response.  Further, dogs that are not familiar with sirens could find the sound threatening. In this case, they howl to alert their owner.

There will be howling as long as there are dogs. Occasionally or on a regular basis, mournful or ecstatic, howling is a normal and usual form of canine communication. All we have to do is listen and interpret what they are saying.

Amy Granger
Amy is an editor from iPetor, owns a 4-year experience in writing tips and tutorial for users. As a pet owner, she will share more pets care methods and recommend more useful products for all pet owners.
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