Most of the times when you are taking an evening walk in the neighbourhood you hear dogs howling in a certain uniformity.
You may wonder what these different howls mean.
At times I’m like…”are these canines plotting some overthrow on humanity or are they just making music or is it their everyday chit chats?”
Howling is a form of communication used by the dog family.
As we all know, dogs are descendants of the wolves and as much as they have been domesticated for centuries, they have always clung to a couple of characteristics that are still considered wild.
In this article, the main idea is to examine the reasons for dog’s howling, how to teach your dog to howl, various sounds that make dogs howl, reasons why a dog doesn’t howl and excessive howling.
Reasons why dogs howl
You might be curious to know why dogs howl especially with the head back, chin up trademark. Research over the years has shown that there is more to howling than just crying for help or calling on to their wild counterparts.
Some of these reasons may be as follows;
1. Territorial presence and defence
Just like the wolves, dogs are territorial too.
It is common among them to defend their territories by announcing their presence by howling to notify other dogs that a particular area is occupied.
In most cases, if the leader suspects an approaching member of a different pack, they set out a howl that’s supposed to warn that member as well as inform its own pack about the intruder.
This way they are able to guard their territories and ensure the safety of other dogs in the pack.
In a domestic setting, dogs may howl to keep off potential predators as well as strangers that may invade your homestead.
2. Separation anxiety – Pack members
Dogs being pack animals; they have a strong sense of separation anxiety.
No one would want to be left alone in a caged place away from family and friends.
You will always cry for help in order to be rescued. The same case applies to dogs.
When they are separated from their pack or a member of the pack goes missing they will howl to send a message to the missing member. Something like “I am here, where are you?”
In other cases, you may have noticed stray dogs or puppies that have been intentionally or accidentally abandoned by their mother howling.
They try to trigger a message to notify their mother where they are.
3. Separation anxiety – owner
One of the most loyal, affectionate and emotional companions is a dog.
They are deeply attached to their master and family.
For instance, considering a case where you take your dog to a new environment and probably leave it there for some time or permanently.
It may enjoy the change when you’re around with it but as soon as you leave it will feel that separation anxiety and start howling.
Separation anxiety may be accompanied by other signs of distress like destruction and depression.
4. Medical reasons
I bet you’ve seen an injured dog in your homestead or in the neighbourhood.
This dog may not be able to express how it feels in words therefore have come up with ingenious ways to express the same; howling.
This is common if they are physically hurt or sick and are experiencing internal pain.
You may have noticed this especially if they have injuries.
A dog will consistently howl if he’s in pain and it’s advisable that his owner should have careful inspection and consider visiting the vet if any signs of injury are detected.
5. Attention Seeking
Dogs especially those that are used to getting constant attention from their owners get too attached to them.
This can however be troublesome if you become too busy and end up neglecting them.
Most of the times you may hear your dog howl and actually rush out on to it only to be greeted by a dog that wants a little play time.
In other cases, they try to tell you that their needs are not well taken care of.
This is a clear indication that as long as you own one you should always set apart time for physical engaging exercises.
6. Response to stimuli
It’s quite common that if you make a howling sound or other dogs make unison howling sounds, the chances of your dog responding with a howl too are high.
Most people think that this is just a natural response pattern for dogs but what most people don’t know is that certain high-pitched sounds may actually trigger the dogs to howl.
A good example is a distant sound of approaching siren or loud-playing musical instruments.
Your dog may actually sit and join in the wailing.
When dogs are kept behind closed doors away from their mates and friend, they may experience isolation anxiety.
This may lead them to resulting in weird behaviours like scratching walls, tearing up clothes and furniture.
These are just responses to this particular situation.
In other cases, your neighbours may come to you complaining that your dog is howling too much while you are away.
You’d like your friends and family to appreciate your effort. This happens with the canine family too.
Whenever they feel excited about something they have accomplished successfully, they like to share this joy with their owners.
At times the owners may not be around and the dog will resolute to make howling sounds in order to call them.
In other cases, where dogs have been used for hunting, they always make howling sounds if they hunt successfully.
They always express their success in order to get appreciated and praised.
Sounds that make dogs howl
Noises may imply different things. To some it may be a reminder of bad experiences, alert of danger and these may get your doggy howling.
Such sounds are in our everyday setting and includes;
a) Outside noises
High frequency noises usually cause dogs to howl.
Sirens and fire engines for example are high frequency noises.
Consider a case where you are on your normal walk with your dog and a police car passes by with its sirens on.
Your dog, mistaking the siren for a pack howl, will start howling back. This is very common in areas with frequent siren sounds.
b)The sound of music
Not only can dogs respond to other sounds for example sirens and fire engines but also to music.
Most dogs think of the music as another dog howling and they can sing along.
It may be for example the notes in the music resemble that of howling.
In some instances, the owner might actually have a video of another dog whichwill cause your dog to start howling back.
c) A friend howling
It is usually a common behaviour for dogs to howl after hearing neighbour’s friendly dog doing the same.
You might wonder what happens or what are they communicating.
Research has it that wolves howl as a form of communication with their other pack members.
When dogs were being tamed, the howl was a way for most hunters to find their way through the forest. It was considered as a homing beacon.
To date, dogs howl as some kind of communication within the pack or may also be considered as a bonding ritual among neighbouring dogs.
How to teach your dog to howl?
The fact that howling is a form of excitement may entice you to teach your dog. Most dogs that howl are from the northern breeds.
As a dog owner, you can actually teach her how to howl.
Dogs react to high pitched sounds and this can be useful to train her.
You can purchase a high pitched fire engine or if in case you are on a small budget you can actually purchase a used one.
The siren will make all the dogs in the neighbourhood to start howling.
If you are not in the idea of buying a siren, just keep your eyes open, there are songs and other sounds that may make your dog howl it only needs your attention.
Once you find a sound that can make her howl, try to control the howl by putting it on command.
Once you note when your dog starts howling, you can try accompany it with a word like ‘howl!’ or ‘sing!’.
This way she will get it into her memory and will start responding to your words after continuous practice and repeats.
It is easy to control her howling particularly by high pitched sounds.
There are a couple of ways you can try maintaining her howling or make her howl;
a) Waiting for their natural time
Some breeds of dogs tend to howl naturally. When she realises you enjoy her wailing along the music, there is a higher chance of it happening again.
Patience and learning your dog is key to letting your dog howl at her own natural time.
b) Finding the right song
It helps when you find music that she enjoys. She might respond to old country music or even some songs by Elvis,either way you need to try a variety of songs until you find the one she will sing along.
Practice makes perfect. Continuous howling practices will make her learn to howl on special commands.
No dog will learn overnight how to howl but practice will improve her performance.
d) Try treating her
Every time she howls, reward her with treats which will make her understand that you like her singing.
She will associate her howling with sweet things so whenever she needs a treat she will howl but after a couple of practise of cause.
- Try not to treat your dog whenever she barks instead of howling, as it may send mixed signals.
e) Do not punish her
Just in case she doesn’t perform as expected, punishing her won’t make things right.
Punishing her might discourage her from ever trying again.
They only respond better if you know how to treat them rightmeaning no shouting or yelling.
Sometimes your dog might not be in the habit of howling and you end up asking “why won’t my dog howl?”
Reasons why a dog might not howl.
- It is important to note that not every dog howls. In some, howling comes naturally while in others they do not howl completely. Try finding out from your vet if your dog can howl.
- Dogs howl to signal their packs and if you are the owner and you are next to her, she might not howl. She considers you as a member of her pack so no need for howling.
- Canines howl for different reasons. You might think that singing will trigger her to howl and maybe she can only howl at sirens. Finding the right signals is essential to making her howl.
Howling can be a problem whenever it’s not controlled.
It’s fun teaching her to howl that you eventually get carried away.
This leads to excessive howling of your dog.
In the long run, your neighbours start getting irritated and you try minimizing the howling.
So how do you deal with excessive howling?
If she starts howling, try walking away to show her you are displeased with her howling and eventually she will start to notice howling only pushes you away.
This will minimize her howling and luckily it might stop eventually.
Now that you have known how to make your dog howl, you can try making memories with her and even entertain your guests.
Remember to ask around your neighbourhood and know how comfortable your neighbours are with it but as long as the howling is under control you have nothing to worry about.
What are you waiting for?
Start searching for her favourite music and hear her sing away!
Let us know if your dogs can howl in the comment box below!
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Haggerty, A. (2003). How to teach your dog to talk? New York: Gramercy Books.
Here, S., Dogs… W., Articles, D., Gabbard, J., “pup, M., Gabbard, J., & Anderson, C. (2018). Dog Howling: 5 Easy Ways to Make Your Dog Howl – Puppy Leaks. Puppy Leaks. Retrieved 6 February 2018, from https://www.puppyleaks.com/dogs-howling/
Pavia, A., Peña, M., & Reznik, A. (2018). Why Do Dogs Howl? 5 Reasons. Dogster. Retrieved 6 February 2018, from http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/why-do-dogs-howl-dog-howling
The Meaning of Your Dog’s Vocalizations | Whole Dog Journal. (2018). Whole-dog-journal.com. Retrieved 6 February 2018, from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/14_8/features/Understanding-Vocal-Communications_20324-1.html