What to Make of Your Dog’s Howling

Have you ever heard your dog howl? It’s something that many of our canine friends do, especially certain breeds like Beagles, Bloodhounds, Coonhounds, Foxhounds, Alaskan Malamutes, Dachshunds, and Huskies. But what’s behind this unique behavior? Read on to learn more about your dog’s howling and whether or not it’s a cause for concern.

When Howling is Normal

Your dog’s ancient ancestor, the wild wolf, used howling as a way of communicating with other pack members and warning other animals to stay away from their territory. So, most of the time, your dog’s howling is an instinctual behavior related to communication. Your pup is a pack animal, after all.

One normal reason for a dog to howl is because they’re responding to stimuli in their environment, such as an ambulance siren in the distance or the mailman approaching your front door. Or, Fido might howl when they’ve found something exciting, like a bone they buried in the flowerbeds last summer. It’s also possible that your dog howls to “warn” other people or animals away from their territory, just as wild wolves might do.

When Howling is Bad

Although howling is a perfectly normal dog behavior most of the time, there are reasons why it might be a bad thing. One is stress and anxiety—separation anxiety in dogs is common and often causes loud vocalizations, including howling. If your dog has separation anxiety, he or she will probably exhibit other signs when they’re left alone, like eliminating in the house and destroying furniture or other property.

It’s also possible that your dog is howling as a response to pain, perhaps caused by a physical injury or a medical problem like arthritis or dental disease. This is especially likely if you see other signs of pain accompanying the howling, like sensitivity to touch, unusually aggressive behavior, or excessive panting. And if your dog never howled before, but has suddenly started, pain could be the cause.

What to Do if Fido Won’t Stop Howling

If you can’t get your dog to stop howling, pay a visit to the vet’s office. First, you’ll want to have any medical concerns dealt with if they’re present. If howling is purely a behavioral issue, your dog might need training or even anxiety medication. Your vet can help. If you’re considering training your dog yourself, be sure to read our article on Dog Training Mistakes to avoid common pitfalls.

Set up an appointment at our office if you’re concerned about your dog’s health or behavior. We’re always here for you! For comprehensive care, including regular check-ups that can help catch and address issues early, visit our Veterinary Wellness & Pet Vaccinations page.

Our Advice on What to Make of Your Dog’s Howling in 2024

Why do dogs howl historically?

Historically, dogs howl as a deeply ingrained behavior inherited from their ancient ancestor, the wild wolf. This form of vocalization served as a means of communication within the pack, helping members stay connected over distances. It also functioned as a territorial signal, warning other animals to stay away from their domain. Essentially, howling is a natural instinctual behavior related to communication and territory marking, reflecting the social and environmental needs of dogs’ wild predecessors.

What are normal reasons a pet dog might howl?

Normal reasons a pet dog might howl include responding to environmental stimuli, such as the sound of sirens, other dogs howling in the distance, or someone approaching the door, signaling excitement over a discovery like a hidden toy or bone, and expressing territorial behavior, similar to their wolf ancestors warning others away from their territory. Howling serves as a form of communication, linking back to their instinctual pack behavior. It’s a dog’s way of expressing itself in response to certain triggers or to convey a message to their human or animal counterparts.

Are certain dog breeds more likely to howl than others?

Yes, certain dog breeds are more predisposed to howling due to their genetic lineage and historical roles. Breeds such as Beagles, Bloodhounds, Coonhounds, Foxhounds, Alaskan Malamutes, Dachshunds, and Huskies are known for their propensity to howl. This behavior can be attributed to their ancestry and the specific tasks they were bred for, which often required effective long-distance communication. For example, Huskies and Malamutes, used in sledding, communicated through howling in harsh environments, while hounds used it as a signal during hunting activities.

Can howling be a sign of cognitive decline in senior dogs?

Yes, in senior dogs, howling can sometimes indicate cognitive decline, part of a condition similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). Dogs with CCD may howl due to confusion, anxiety, or disorientation, which are common symptoms of the condition. It’s crucial to observe if howling is accompanied by other signs of cognitive decline, such as disrupted sleep patterns, decreased interaction, or altered behavior. If you’re concerned about your senior dog’s howling and suspect it might be related to cognitive decline, our clinic in Hobe Sound, FL, can provide a thorough evaluation and discuss potential management strategies.

What are some training techniques to reduce excessive howling?

To reduce excessive howling, training techniques should focus on addressing the underlying cause. Positive reinforcement is key: reward your dog for quiet behavior with treats or affection. If howling is attention-seeking, ignore the behavior until it stops, then reward the silence. Desensitization training can help if the howling is triggered by specific sounds or stimuli; gradually expose your dog to the trigger at low levels, increasing exposure as they remain calm. Additionally, ensuring your dog gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation can prevent boredom-related howling. Consulting a professional trainer or behaviorist is beneficial for personalized guidance.

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