By Courtney Emken
co-written by Jen Larson, KPA-CTP, and Amanda Ott
Dogs may not use complex words or symbols like humans, but they definitely have a language of their own. Howling is just one of many vocalizations dogs use to communicate their emotions, feelings, and intentions.
Even though howling is a natural expression for dogs, when excessive it can disrupt your sleep schedule, annoy the neighbors, and aggravate other pets. In this article we’ll walk you through the likely causes of excessive howling and explain how to reduce it through redirection, enrichment, and environmental management.
Hound Dogs Cryin’ All The Time: Why Dogs Howl
Like most dog behaviors, there are various reasons that may underlie howling. Generally speaking, a howl is a call for attention and they’re often used to:
- Announce a dog’s presence
- Communicate long distances
- Ask for help/companionship
A single howl can cause a chain of effect where one dog’s call sets the whole neighborhood a howlin’. Dogs can also mistake the long wails of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks for howls, and will call back in response.
These howls are completely natural, and shouldn’t pose much of a disturbance unless you live in an area with a high frequency of triggering noises. If these calls become excessive, try desensitizing them to those sounds and drawing their attention to you instead.
If something other than outside noises seem to be prompting your dog’s howling, evaluate the situation and try to pinpoint the exact cause. To help you with this, we’ve outlined below the four most common reasons that dogs howl and how to deal with each.
#1 Howling Due To Boredom
If you notice that your dog seems to just howl out of the blue, or when they’re left alone too long, then they may just be plain bored. They’re simply trying to call out to anyone within earshot and get someone to play with.The solution to this is to enrich their environment and provide enough stimulation for them to be satisfied.
To accomplish this, you can give your dog puzzle and food toys while you’re away, or take them on exciting excursions like:
If your dog plays well with others, daycare is another excellent way to keep them entertained during the day. Daycare also ensures that they’re nice and tired out by the time you get home.
#2 Howling Due To Separation Anxiety
Dogs often howl because they’re lonely and want your attention. However, if your dog howls nonstop while you’re gone, then they may be experiencing separation anxiety. To differentiate between boredom/loneliness and anxiety watch for telltale symptoms like:
The presence of these symptoms indicates that something more serious than simple boredom is affecting your dog. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, check out our article on the subject, and take them to the vet if their condition worsens.
#3 Howling Due To Injury And Illness
Dogs will often howl as a cry for help when injured or sick. They may be suffering from:
- A sprained leg
- A hidden wound
- A snakebite
- And much more.
While it’s nigh-impossible to diagnose their issue from howling alone, if you suspect that something’s physically wrong with your dog, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet.
#4 Some Dogs Just Wanna Howl
- Alaskan Malamutes
Of course, it’s not just working dogs who out-talk the competition. Tiny dogs like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians also tend to bark and howl quite frequently.
If you have one of these talky breeds for a pet, you can certainly reduce their vocalizations through redirection and management, but you’re unlikely to completely eliminate it. We highly recommend training a “quiet” cue to calm them down and limit their howling.
If you’re having problems controlling your dog’s howling, please contact us today. Our trainers will help you practice effective redirection techniques with your dog. And of course, the Ranch’s doors are always open to give bored and lonely pups a place to play while you’re away.
Howling Husky by Matt Elsberry
Dog Howl by Found Animals Foundation