Dog Howling: Why They Do It And How To Stop It?

Dog Howling: Why They Do It And How To Stop It?

Author WDF Staff


Dogs communicate with their environment and owners in many different ways. They bark, grunt, snark, lean, touch, and they howl. Howling is often confusing because most of us connect that with wolves and wolf-like behavior. Our dogs are related to wolves, and it shouldn’t surprise us they love howling.

Howling can be very cute, especially if your little puppy tries to howl. The problem can arise if your dog starts howling excessively. As owners, we need to understand why our dog is howling because it can be harmless and fun, but it can be a worrying sign in some cases.

Why do dogs howl?

Howling has deep roots in our canine companions, and it can mean several different things. In the wild, wolves used howling as effective long-distance communication. They let other pack members know their location or needs. They also used this communication technique to tell others to stay away from their territory.

dog howling

It is a lot harder to understand why a dog howls, but to do it effectively and accurately guess why they might be doing it, we need to look at other things going around our dogs when they start howling. Here are some of the main reasons a dog can howl.

1. Reaction

Some dogs react to certain things in their environment. They can easily confuse a siren for another dog’s howling, and they might want to respond to them. This is the dog’s way of letting the other dog know they hear them and are ready for action.

What to do about it?

This is a reaction howling, and your dog will most likely stop howling when the sound stops. You can interrupt them and diverge their attention to something that is happening close by. Using treats and other foods for distraction can be a great way of desensitizing your dog to sounds.

You can get toys for your dog that will distract them from bad behavior. Check out this article for ideas - Good dog toys.

2. Excitement

Your dog can howl if they get excited about something like their owners coming home. In the wild, some dogs would go searching for food, while others stayed in the den. Howling can signal their position and letting the rest of the pack know where they should come for food. The closest thing we can relate to domestic dogs is that when owners get home, dogs start howling because they are happy and know that it’s probably meal time.

nordic dogs howling

What to do about it?

This type of howling can be connected to separation anxiety as well. Make sure you know how your dog behaves when you are not home. Get a camera and record your dog’s behavior. If they are confined in a crate, noticing separation anxiety symptoms can be more challenging. You can refuse to give them any attention until they calm down. Start slow and make sure you reward their good behavior with praises and treats.

Crate training is essential not only for good behavior but for the dog’s safety as well. Check out this article - Crate training made easy.

3. Attention-seeking howling

Your dog can feel neglected or lonely, and they can start howling. That is typical attention-seeking behavior and, if not taken care of, can escalate. There is no denying that this is very effective, and nothing can get your attention faster than your dog’s howling at home. It is nearly impossible to ignore them.

What to do about it?

Although it may seem hard, you have to resist the urge to start reprimanding or scolding your dog because they can interpret that as a way of you joining the screaming match. You should not approach the dog and avoid eye contact. Instead, try and ignore them and reward them with a treat once they get quiet.

howling to seek attention

If that happens often, you can use clicker training methods to let your dog know exactly why they are being rewarded. One more thing you can do is increase their activities during the day. A tired dog is a happy dog, so chances are if they are tired, they won’t mind being left alone.

4. Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety can be a clear howling reason. If your dog hates being left alone and they start acting destructively, pacing, injuring themselves or destroying furniture, and besides all that howling, the reason most likely is separation anxiety. It can be milder or more severe, but it is considered a behavioral issue that needs to be dealt with.

What to do about it?

To stop excessive separation anxiety-howling means eliminating the anxiety itself. You probably noticed your dog has no issues when they are near you, but most of us sometimes have to leave the dog at home. You should start getting your dog used to being left alone, and there is an effective way to deal with separation anxiety over time. It will require time and patience, but it is a solvable problem. You can read more about dealing with this issue here - Separation anxiety in dogs.

5. Pain

One of the common reasons dogs howl is pain or injury. This is not something that should be ignored, and howling because of an injury is usually not a problem. It happens even to dogs that generally don’t howl. Humans cry when they are hurt, and dogs might not have tear ducts as we do, but this type of howling is their way of vocalizing their pain.

big dogs howling

What to do about it?

This type of howling is not considered problematic. It should never be ignored, and you need to check your dog for physical injuries right away. They are probably in a great deal of pain, which is the only way they can ask for help. If the injury is serious, take your dog to ER or your vet.

Final thoughts

We need to understand that not all howling is terrible. Your dog might just be happy that you are getting home, and they can’t hide their excitement, and they can howl. The same is when you start laughing when you see a dear friend or, well, when you see your dog upon returning home. It is their natural behavior, and as long as there will be dogs, there will probably be howling.

World Dog Finder team

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