We're so close with our dogs that we sometimes forget that they're animals, not people. But occasionally, something triggers their instincts and makes a pup howl like their ancestor, the wolf. Unlock the triggers that make a dog howl and use our methods below to train a dog that won't stop howling.
Does your pup get triggered into howling at the most random times? Why do dogs howl when they hear sirens or certain songs? Or when they're left alone?
Dogs howl in response to other dogs, to communicate with people, and when they're in pain.
It's a trait engrained deep into their genes - just like wolves, their distant relatives. Howling is entirely normal and natural behavior for doggos. Still, some can be a little sensitive and howl more than we'd like.
Learn more about this unique form of communication, including what causes dog howling and how to keep our dogs' howling from getting out of control.
Why Do Dogs Howl?
Wild dogs and wolves use howling as an effective form of communication because - in the wild, you can hear a howling dog at far distances!
What do they communicate, though? Actually, many different things.
#1. Expression of Pain
Dogs howl when they're in pain, whether it's physical or emotional.
If your dog gets injured or severely hurt, they'll wail out of instinct to call for "help."
Dogs also howl when they're experiencing separation anxiety or loneliness. When we leave a dog home alone for too long, it can trigger something in it that makes it feel a sense of abandonment.
Dogs may begin howling to try to get our attention if they're feeling ignored. It usually works because a dog's howl can be ear-piercingly loud.
Puppies tend to howl more than adult dogs, as they require a lot more attention from their mothers and owners to help them deal with basic needs. A puppy will howl when they're thirsty, hungry, and need to go to the bathroom.
A puppy often cries when they're lonely, as they haven't developed fully yet and haven't built much emotional independence.
#3. Loud Sounds
Why do dogs howl to music? Why do dogs howl when you howl? Why do dogs howl at sirens?
The answer to these questions is all the same - dogs howl "back" at certain loud noises.
Sometimes loud sounds can randomly trigger a pup into howling. If the sound mimics a specific tone that makes your puppy think it’s a dog howling, your dog might try to communicate back to it.
#4. Organizing Their Community
Though our pets no longer belong to a pack other than our household, dogs will still howl to other dogs within their proximity.
Defense and Boundaries
A dog will howl to warn an approaching dog that they've entered their territory - if the stranger doesn't heed the warning, the dog may attempt to attack.
Although it's unnecessary, many dogs, especially guard dogs, are prone to this type of behavior at home.
The threat doesn't have to be furry. Some pups will howl when a stranger knocks on the door or an unknown car pulls into their driveway.
Wolves and wild dogs howl to help the scouts find their way back to the pack easily.
If you are away from the home for long periods, your dog may howl to help guide you back home.
Breeds Most Likely To Howl
While most breeds may howl, certain breeds tend to howl more often than others. The loudest and proudest howlers tend to be working, sporting, and hunting dogs.
Breeds like the Husky, Beagle, Alaskan Malamute, Bloodhound, Dachshund, and Basset Hound all historically had jobs to do. Howling was a helpful tool of communication to a hunter or owner.
Some pups live their entire lives without howling if they don't learn the behavior from other dogs and don't have a strong instinct to howl.
How To Stop Dog Howling
Noise-related howling likely won't be a constant issue, as the pup will stop howling as soon as the siren or other loud noise stops.
If you happen to live near another dog who howls or can't avoid frequent noise triggers, you can use a pair of techniques together to help your pup quiet down.
Desensitization and Counterconditioning
These training techniques are incredibly effective when used together.
- First, you expose your doggo to the reaction-causing stimulus at a very low intensity with positive reinforcement.
- Then, at a slow pace, up the stimulus intensity, continuing with positive reinforcement at every step.
The dog must understand what's happening, so don't move up to the next level until your pup anticipates a reward. If the dog doesn't understand the stimulus is rewarding, its negative behavior won't change.
Ignore your dog's attention-seeking howling
If you hear your dog howling at you for attention, you must do only one thing - nothing. Responding or reacting to your pup's attention-seeking behavior reinforces it.
You may think it's cute that your pup wants attention, and give them praise, treats, and love. You might think the behavior is problematic and scold them for the loud howling. But, you should in fact do neither.
A dog that's desperate for attention doesn't care whether it's positive or negative when they get it. Either option will reinforce your pup’s behavior and make them howl even more often.
Reward your dog for being quiet
Don't just give them negative reinforcement in the form of ignoring them when they're misbehaving.
- A dog responds better to this form of training, so use negative reinforcement only as needed and as much positive behavior reinforcement as you can.
- Drive the lesson home each day by giving your pup treats and attention when they're quiet. Set a time limit of good behavior they're required to hit before they get a reward.
- Start your limit at just five seconds - once your pup stays quiet for at least 5 seconds, you'll reward them with positive attention. Expand the time limit over time as your pup's behavior improves.
- You can use the word "Enough" or another phrase of your choice to signal that quiet time is to start.
- As you work with your pup on this training, they'll learn to respond to the cue to get rewarded quickly.
Refocus Their Attention
Redirection is an effective dog training technique that you can use to reduce and change unwanted behaviors.
- Whenever your dog shows signs that they are about to start howling, positively call your dog's name, and distract their attention.
- If your pup is already howling, give them a chew toy or begin a training session to distract them away from the behavior, redirecting their attention, and reinforcing good behaviors.
Spend Time with Your Dog
If your dog is howling because they're being left at home alone for too long and are feeling lonely, you can curb this behavior by giving your pup a bit more attention and, if possible, trying to spend more time at home than away.
Make more of the time you spend together quality time - head to the dog park together, play with your pup using toys, and work on fun training sessions together.
If your pooch feels like a more valued and useful member of the household, they'll feel a better sense of belonging with you.
Use a Trainer
While all of these methods can help your pup stop howling so much, you may need to employ a trainer's help in some cases, especially if the dog has a long history of exhibiting the behavior.
For howling behavior that you can't seem to break, take your dog to a professional trainer or obedience school. Trainers are highly specialized and able to work with the most stubbornly behaved pups.
You'll likely see a significant change in your pup quickly with some professional help.
Final Notes: Why Do Our Dogs Howl So Much?
To recap, these are the primary reasons why a dog howls:
- Expression of physical or emotional pain and separation anxiety;
- They're trying to get the attention of their owner;
- Loud noises that sound like a howl may prompt them to reply;
- Warning other dogs and strangers to stay away from their property;
- Help the rest of their "pack," usually you, to find its way back home.
Some howling is normal and needn't be discouraged, but if your pup is howling so much that it's disturbing you, use one of the training techniques listed above to curb the behavior.
You can try most techniques out at home yourself. If these methods aren't working on your pup, head to a professional trainer who can use their knowledge and experience to help the situation.