A howling dog in a grass field

Key takeaway

As a dog owner, you may be wondering — why do dogs howl? Dogs howl for several reasons, such as when they hear high-pitched noises, hear another dog howling, want to attract attention, or are looking to communicate. Learn more about why dogs howl in the blog post below.

At some point or another, you’ve likely heard howling from your dog or other dogs around the neighborhood. But have you ever wondered why dogs howl? Whether you’re curious about the meaning of dog howling or concerned because your dog does it all the time, this article can provide you with some answers.

At its root, howling in dogs is a form of communication. Your dog may be howling to get your attention, acknowledge other dogs, or signal that something is wrong. For instance, common causes of howling in dogs include separation anxiety or physical or mental distress. Yet, not all howling indicates something negative—dogs may also howl when they’re excited or playing.

It can be difficult to determine the meaning of your dog’s barking and howling. After all, it’s not as if dogs have a particularly wide vocabulary. If you want to find an answer to the question of why dogs howl, consider the explanations laid out in this article. Below, we provide several possible meanings for your dog’s howling, as well as advice on how you can train them to stop howling. Read from start to finish to learn all about dog howling or skip to any section of the article using the links below.

Types of Howling

Howling can be used as an umbrella term to describe the different types of sounds dogs make to communicate. Below are three main types of howling you’ll likely hear from your dog:

Types of howling include howling, barking, and baying

These are the different types of howling, and each type can provide some insight into what your dog is trying to tell you. However, these different classifications still don’t give you an answer for why your dog might be howling, which is important to understand. In the next section, we take a closer look at the possible meanings of your dog’s howling.

What Does It Mean When Dogs Howl?

While a dog’s howl may always sound the same to your human ears, it doesn’t always mean the same thing. There are many reasons a dog may howl, and the potential reasons for a dog howling can sometimes lie on opposite sides of the emotional spectrum. For instance, dogs can howl to express excitement, but also distress.

It’s important to understand why your dog is howling. If they’re suffering from a non-behavioral health issue or anxiety disorder, then their howling may be a call for help. To better understand what it means when a dog howls, refer to the below list of potential reasons.

1. Anxiety

Sometimes, dogs may howl as a result of separation or isolation anxiety. Separation anxiety in dogs occurs when a dog becomes overly attached to its owner, to the point where they struggle to be apart from them. Thus, a dog with separation anxiety may react to your exit or absence with howling, in addition to behaviors like pacing, scratching, or destruction of property.1

In this case, getting proper treatment for dog anxiety can cut down on excessive howling and make your dog feel more comfortable when you’re not around. Using Dutch, you can quickly connect with a vet who can determine whether your dog has separation anxiety and, if necessary, design an appropriate treatment plan for the condition.

2. Non-behavioral health Issues

Excessive howling can indicate that your dog is experiencing a non-behavioral medical issue. Dogs that are hurt or sick may howl to get attention or express their discomfort. If your dog is barking and howling, it’s a good idea to consult with a vet.2 A vet can help rule out any health concerns and get to the bottom of your dog’s howling.

3. Attention

A dog’s howling or barking may simply be a learned attention-seeking behavior. It’s not uncommon for dogs to bark and howl because it elicits something desirable from their owner, whether that’s attention, food, pets, or something else.3

4. Sounds

Certain sounds can provoke howling in dogs, including sirens, doorbells, music, and other loud or unexpected noises. These sounds serve as a trigger, and the dog’s howling generally stops once the sounds have passed.

Sounds that can cause dogs to howl include music, sirens, doorbells, yelling, loud vehicles, and loud noises.

This behavior is something dogs have inherited from their wolf ancestors, as wolf packs in the wild will communicate with each other, establish territory, and maintain a group identity through howling.⁴

5. Defense Mechanism

Dogs are territorial creatures, and thus they may howl as a defense mechanism to protect their territory from approaching animals or humans. A dog may perceive their territory as being your home, your car, or even the area around them when out for a walk.3

6. Boredom

Many dogs love to socialize, whether it be with people or other dogs. So, if a dog is deprived of stimulation, he or she may begin to howl out of boredom. In particular, both young dogs and active breeds need to have something to do that’s stimulating. Regular visits to the dog park or daily walks can help prevent dogs from howling out of boredom.2

7. Play

Two dogs playing in the grass

It’s not unusual for dogs to bark and how while playing with people or other dogs. Dogs will bark and howl in response to other dogs, and this can lead to a lot of howling during playtime. If your dog is barking due to play, you can typically identify this through signs such as tail wagging, running, or stances that indicate their desire to play.3

8. Excitement

Similar to how a dog may howl during play, they may also howl in any instance where they get excited. For instance, your dog may howl and jump on you after you walk in the door after a long day at work. If your dog is howling and wagging its tail in a stimulating situation, then they’re likely howling out of excitement.

How to Train Dogs to Stop Howling

If your dog howls for attention or out of excitement, it can be cute and amusing—however, it may also be bothersome. Excessive howling can be loud and annoying, and it’s typically not a behavior owners want to encourage in their dogs. This could lead to your dog howling every time they want to be pet or have food, or howling whenever you walk in or out of the door.

If you want to train your dog to stop howling, there are a number of approaches you can take. Some of the basic steps to train your dog to stop howling include3:

  • Determine the root problem: To get your dog to stop howling, you first must understand why they’re howling. If it’s due to a health problem, then providing medical care may reduce the amount they howl. If your dog’s howling is due to boredom, on the other hand, then you may need to start taking them on more walks, adding food puzzle feeders and toys, increasing training, or playing dog sports like Noseworks.
  • Start a training program: A consistent and effective training program can help your dog adjust their behavior over time. Opt for a positive reinforcement based trainer.
  • Avoid punishment: Positive reinforcement is key to stopping a dog’s howling. Yelling and negative behavior will only instill fear in your dog.
  • Emphasize exercise and quality time: Dogs may howl in search of attention or stimulation. Ensure your dog gets enough of both of these things by spending quality time with them and increasing enrichment activities.

To learn more about how to limit your dog’s howling, be sure to check out our blog post that explains how to train dogs to stop barking.

Final Notes

If your dog has been howling more often than usual lately, they may be trying to tell you something. Whether they’re alarming you to a non-behavioral medical condition or experiencing separation anxiety, it can be helpful to get to the bottom of why your dog is howling. If your dog’s howling does indeed point to a problem, you can then address the core of the issue and improve the quality of life for both your dog and yourself.

If you want to quickly access high-quality veterinary care for your dog, use Dutch to connect with a qualified vet. All you have to do is schedule an online consultation and you’ll meet with a vet who can assess your dog’s symptoms, issue a diagnosis, design a personalized treatment plan, and provide ongoing care. Dutch is also the only pet telemedicine company to facilitate the delivery of prescription medicine right to your door.

So, whether your dog has diarrhea or you’re looking for anxiety treatment for dogs, look no further than Dutch. Using our platform, you can get your pet the care he or she needs from the comfort of your own home—meaning you can access expert care at your convenience.

References

  1. Beers, Hannah. “Decoding Your Dog's Excessive Barking.” Veterinary Medicine at Illinois, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 5 June 2017, https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet-health-columns/excessive-barking/.
  2. Youngerman, Claire. “Barking.” Animal Health Topics , UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine , 8 Apr. 2019, https://healthtopics.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/canine/barking-dog.
  3. Reisen, Jan. “Why Do Dogs Howl to Music? You Can Thank Their Ancestors.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 24 May 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/why-do-dogs-howl-to-music/.