Doggie duets, dying cows, singing dogs. There are a lot of descriptions for the sound dogs make when they howl at the moon. Not all dogs do it and they don’t all do it the same way. So why do dogs howl?
Dogs howl for several reasons, but they all fall under one umbrella: communication. Dogs howl to find other dogs or communicate with members of their pack.
In more practical terms, there are 4 specific scenarios that spark a howl.
Dogs often howl out of anxiety from being alone. The howling is a cry for attention, calling for pack members to return. Dogs are pack animals and do best when they are around others, whether human or canine.
Dogs sometimes howl in pain. If your dog does not normally howl but has started to suddenly, especially in conjunction with specific types of movements, your dog may be in pain from an injury or illness. Contact your vet.
About 30 seconds ago, the dog next door started howling from her yard. 10 seconds ago, my dog walked out back to see what was going on. This is a regular occurrence for these dogs and many others. Howling is a call for attention. Instinctually, it may be for a call for companionship, hunting, or defense. Other dogs may respond by coming to the howling dog’s side or by howling back in response. That’s why when one dog in the neighborhood starts howling, several others often join in.
Many dogs howl when they hear sirens, such as those from emergency vehicles. To a dog’s ear, it may sound like a dog howling. The polite thing to do is respond, so that’s what they do.
If your dog’s howling is becoming a problem, try these tips:
• Spend more time with your dog. This may include more walks, belly rubs, and other joint activities. This will help satisfy your dog’s need for companionship so the times you’re away are not as difficult.
• Socialize your dog. If your dog is craving canine companionship, check out some dog parks, doggie daycare, or playdates with the dogs of friends and family.
• Ignore howling; reward silence. Paying attention to your dog while he’s howling teaches him it gets results. When your dog starts to howl, say "Quiet!" and as soon as your dog is quiet, even for a moment or two, reward him with praise or treats.
• Recognize and manage separation anxiety. See the post My Dog Has Separation Anxiety for my experience with it and tips you can use.
Why do dogs howl? They're looking to connect. That may be with a dog they hear nearby or a siren they think is a dog. Either way, their howling will be satisfied with a strong connection. If your dog's howling is getting out of control, try the tips above.
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Photo credit: Chris Scott