Why do dogs howl?

We’ve all seen the movies of dogs howling up at the moon or the funny clips of dog howling at the TV when someone sings or there’s music playing but why do dogs howl? Is it a bad habit? Or is it a natural instinct that’s inbuilt in all dogs?

Dogs, like humans have lots to say. But as they can’t talk, dogs have different ways of communicating how they feel or what they want from us. From barking, to licking, to tail wagging and even howling. But they all mean different things so we have to fine tune our awareness of their needs and figure what they actually mean. So why do dogs howl?


Is it only a certain type of dog breed that howls?

While every dog can howl, is doesn’t mean that they do. However, some breeds of dog howl more than others. Dogs from a certain breed that are or historically have been used for hunting or sports will howl more. Here is your break down of dog breeds that seem to howl more:

  • American Eskimo dog
  • American foxhound
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Basset hound
  • Beagle
  • Bloodhound
  • Bluetick coonhound
  • Dachshund
  • Redbone coonhound
  • Samoyed
  • Siberian husky

Why do hunting dogs howl?

Hunting dogs howl to communicate a “look what I’ve found” message. It can also be a happy message as the dog is elated at cornering or finding its prey that it has tracked down. When they pick up a scent and they track it they need to alert their owners to where it is. Likewise other dogs may howl when they find something exciting in their garden. It could be a cheer of excitement like when something fun or good happens to a child and they then “whoop” in excitement.


How long have dogs been howling for?

Domesticated dogs evolved from wolves about 15,000 years. Dogs still have wolf like instincts and howling is one of them. Howling is a form of communication and it lets other pack members know where they are. Did you know that the howl can travel up to 15 miles? It can tell pack members how far away they are and in what direction. Each pack will also know the difference between their packs so they can alert each other to danger as well.


Is it down to the full moon?

Do dogs howl at the moon or is it a myth? The dogs we see in movies or hear about howling at the moon are wolves and it has nothing really to do with the moon. The howling picture of a wolf, nose up howling at the moon is just an iconic picture that we’ve all seen. Dogs and wolves just tend to howl more at night with or without a full moon. This is because it's quiet and their howl travels further on the night air to communicate with each other.


Howling at noises

Does your dog howl when it hears a high pitch noise or a siren? Or maybe when there is high pitch music playing? The howling response is an ancestral instinct that all dogs have. Dogs will howl back at noises to communicate with each other in the wild. The howling is an acknowledgment of the noise and that they are really to respond. Domesticated dogs seem to bark more than they howl but when the needs arises any dog can howl. This type of howling is completely normal and usually stops when then noise stops.


So it’s a form of communication?

When your dog howls it is a form of communication. Their howling can be to try to alert you to danger like an intruder and also to communicate with other dogs to announce their presence. Sometimes howling can be a problem and dogs will howl as they know it gets them attention.


Does your dog have separation anxiety?

Sometimes dogs howl when they are suffering from separation anxiety. Some dogs can howl all the time when they are separated from you or family members. Left on their own the howling can be continuous which results in a stressful situation for you, your dog and your neighbours! Sometimes this howling can also be accompanied by the chewing of furniture and destructive behaviour in the house as well as pacing, digging and whining.

So how can you help your dog if the howling is due to separation anxiety? Ensure you take your dog on a long walk before you leave the house. Invest in some busy toys, especially ones you can hide treats in. You could even hire a dog walker to come and take your pooch out on a walk.


Is your dog howling because of pain?

If your normally quiet dog starts to howl this could be to vocalise pain. If your dog is in pain or injured and finding it hard to walk or move this will make them very anxious and stressed and in turn the will howl to alert you to this. Check for signs of wounds or injury and if necessary contact your vet.


How can you discourage problem howling?

If your dog is howling a lot during the day this could raise a few problems. As we’ve mentioned dog howling is a form of communication and attention. If your dog is howling this could be for attention and so trying to discourage this will mean you need to completely ignore the howling. No eye contact and no interaction when the howling starts. As soon as it finishes a treat can be offered. You can do specific training with your dog for this. But if you have a dog that is more likely to howl due to its breed, howling will happen and you will need to manage it. Most importantly spend time with your dog, they could be lonely and need some quality time with you.



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