Even the most well-natured dog occasionally lets out a piercing howl. It’s an often misunderstood form of communication. A lot of dog owners can more easily understand their dog's body language than the complexities of their verbal expression. Despite it being such a common occurrence, many people still wonder why do dogs howl?
Primarily, a dog is howling to communicate. It doesn’t make much sense to people, but a dog is attempting to tell you something. Like a conversation between two people speaking different languages though, it is difficult to make much sense. Each howl that a dog does can be interrupted based on their sound, type, and the context of the situation. If you want to curb excessive howling, you first need to understand why dogs howl at all.
Not every noise is a full-on loud bark. If you’re wondering why dogs howl, you need to learn to differentiate between types of howl. The variations aren’t just an invention of dog memes. Each type of howl has a different purpose and is identifiable by certain traits.
An actual howl is a sustained noise. It is longer than a single bark and can vary in tone. Some dogs might do it in a low voice, others might go high. A howl is typically distinguished by the length of the noise.
This is the typical dog shout. It is short and often a lower noise than a howl. Rather than becoming one long noise, a bark will be repeated over and over.
This is a particularly unique type of howl that not every dog even uses. It is most often used by hunting dogs to signify that they’ve found something, but other dogs in domesticate situations use it in similar, less bloodthirsty, ways. This is usually deep and drags on for a while. It is a sustained low growl.
Knowing each noise is helpful, but it doesn’t explain why dogs howl. Each type of howl expresses something differently. They are different tones that give context for what your dog is trying to say. There are a few common topics that dogs verbalize to their owners:
Sometimes a noise your dog is making is a cry for help, to tell you that they’re in pain. This is to get your attention or just to vocalize their pain. Owners often refer to this as a cry to humanize their dogs. A dog might howl in a sustained and high pitched way to indicate that they’re injured. Often, the answer to why dogs howl when they're injured is just to express their pain, similarly to how we express pain.
The reason why some dogs howl is similar to children crying or acting out; for attention. Dogs can learn that a particular type of howl can get them their attention. This isn’t always positive attention. If your dog isn’t receiving enough stimulation, they might be acting out just to get attention from you. Even a reprimanding is a type of attention. This kind of behavior is a bit worrying for a dog and it might mean you should be spending some more time with them.
Most dogs also howl to express stress, fear, or anxiety. If anxious, a dog will be howling without provocation to express this anxiety. They may be calling out for your help, though often it’s just to express their situation. An anxious dog may end up howling in fear a lot more than necessary.
Sometimes the reason why dogs howl is as simple as ‘I’m over here’. When you come home, you might be annoyed by your dog immediately beginning to howl. This is a mixture of your dog barking for attention and them being a bit dim. They’re trying to tell you where they are. They don’t realize that you’re aware of their location, they think you’re looking for them. They are ‘helpfully’ reminding you where they are.
Sometimes the reason why dogs howl is a simple ‘come look at this’. This howl may be short and inquisitive, or long and shrill to get your attention.
Hunting dogsand police dogs are often trained to do a specific bark to signify that they’ve found what they’re looking for. Your pet might not be as well trained, but they’ll still howl to show you something that they’ve found.
You might know why your dog is howling, but how do you stop it? If you want a dog to stop excessive howling, you have to consider why they’re doing it. You have to address the root cause. These are some techniques for dealing with excessive howling.
The first step to getting a dog to howl less is to teach them that it is more worthwhile to be quiet. This means you have to reward them when they are quiet. This will teach them that being quiet is a better way to get what they want than howling.
One big reason why dogs howl for no obvious reason is to get attention. In these situations, your dog is conditioned to think they get what they want when they howl. Rewarding them for not howling helps cut out this behavior, but you also have to reinforce it by ignoring howls for attention.
Doing this consistently will teach your dog that they don’t get attention from howling anymore, but they do for keeping quiet. This also applies to negative attention. Reprimanding your dog is a form of attention, you should ignore howls for attention completely.
Some dog howls are simply cries for attention. A good way to get your dog to howl less is to spend more time with it. If a dog is properly stimulated with enough exercise and time with their owner, they won’t be as likely to howl for attention. If your dog is barking too much, they might be being left alone too much.
If your dog is barking out of anxiety, it can be difficult to know how to treat them. You can’t spend every waking second with them, but they struggle when you leave. CBD oil can be a really effective tool for dealing with this. It works just as well on dogs as it does humans. CBD Oil cuts down on a dog’s stress and anxiety, helping them stay calm and not howl as much because of separation anxiety.
All dogs howl at various times, it is a normal way of communicating and you shouldn’t attempt to stop them altogether. Excessive howling is usually due to something in the dog’s life, this can be dealt with.
Otherwise, howls to show you something they’ve found or tell you they’re hurt are largely harmless communication. If you understand why dogs howl, you’ll have an easier time communicating and bonding with your dog. You might not be able to speak their language, but you can take a good guess.
Jordan is an experienced author who enjoys writing about all things dogs. He loves all animals and when he is not working he spends his time curled up with his two dogs playing video games and maybe enjoying a craft beer.