Why Do Dogs Howl?

Why Do Dogs Howl?
January 5, 2019

 Howling is a form of vocal communication for dogs, however, for some pet owners, excessive howling can quickly become an issue. So, if your neighbours are less than enamoured by your dog’s howling or singing, we’ve got some tips on how to handle it and restore peace in your home.

Why Do Dogs Howl?

Dogs can vocally communicate in many different ways, barking, howling, whimpering and snarling. Howling is used by some dogs to simply attract attention and to make contact with other dogs and people. Although some dogs may develop a tendency to howl at sounds, they aren’t fond of such as sirens or fireworks.

If you’d like a better idea of why your dog is howling, we’ve detailed some of the most common reasons behind the excessive howling. But it all comes down to the key fact that your dog is wanting to be heard.

  1. Separation Anxiety

If you can hear your dog howling every time you leave your home or come back to your home, there’s a good chance that they are suffering from separation anxiety. If this is the case, you will usually come home to find that your dog has been destructive in your absence or has eliminated inside. Unless you set up a camera in your home, you won’t be able to see the other signs of separation anxiety such as frantic pacing and depression. Some dog breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others, however, it can happen with any dog who has developed a strong bond with their owner.

  1. Medical Problems

If your dog has started to uncharacteristically begun to howl, this may be an indication that they are sick or hurt and they’re just trying to tell you. Never get angry with a dog who starts howling as this will only add to the distress that they are experiencing. It is important that you rule out sickness or injury by visiting a vet before you start to look at how you can change your dog’s behaviour.

If medical problems and injury have been ruled out, here are some top tips on how to stop excessive howling. The best way to stop a dog howling will depend on the reason behind the howling.

Systematic Desensitization

If your dog is howling in response to other noises such as the neighbour’s dogs or sirens, usually, they stop as soon as the noise does. The best way to prevent this behaviour is through desensitization and counterconditioning (DSCC).  This process will look at how a dog feels about a particular noise or thing, it isn’t enough to just try to teach them a different behaviour instead of howling in response to the noise. Instead, DSCC should change a dog’s feelings and motivation – this is the reason behind the problem and the reason for the anxiety, phobias, aggression or arousal.

Although some more experienced owners may be already aware of the process, it’s important that you seek professional help to resolve behaviour problems with a dog. Always ensure that any behavioural specialists carry the correct credentials and certifications before you place your dog into their care.

Tackling Attention Seeking Howling

As we’ve already mentioned, dogs howl for attention, therefore, excessive howling will usually indicate that they have unmet needs. This could be in relation to attention, stimulation, dietary needs, or simply desired objects. It is natural for a dog to “ask” for things by howling, whilst it can be endearing at first, you will want to curb this behaviour by allowing them to learn that howling doesn’t work. Ideally, a dog will need to learn this while they are still a puppy. Yet, even if it did work in the past you can teach your dog that it no longer works as they learn that being quiet will work.

The best way to encourage your dog to be quiet whenever your dog wants something is to ignore the howling by not rewarding the dog with whatever they desire when they are being excessively vocal. This means, not looking, touching, or speaking to your dog when they are howling. While some may think shouting or scolding will work, it doesn’t. Negative attention is still attention to an attention-seeking dog, so, this will just make the situation worse. Instead, fool your dog into believing that they are invisible. Use your body language to show them you are not open and receptive to the howling. This can be done by folding your arms, turning away, or walking away from them.

With so much going on in our daily lives it can also be hard to remember to pay attention to your dog when they are being quiet.  Yet, this will have to be remedied if you want to reward their quiet behaviour. Always wait for at least 5 seconds of silence before you give your dog anything, they want such as to be let outside, food, or attention.

You can also teach your dog how to be quiet with this simple trick.

  1. Ask your dog to howl or bark by saying “Speak” – If they don’t do this immediately, try knocking on the door or a wall as you give the command.
  2. Praise the dog when they start to howl but never give treats or rewards at this stage.
  3. Say “Quiet” or “Hush” when your dog has stopped howling for two seconds and then reward with a treat.
  4. Repeat this process, and as time goes on, make your dog wait for longer periods of silence before they are given the treat. 

Spend Time with Your Dog

Along with the advice outlined above, it’s crucial that you ensure that you are spending enough time with your dog. Many dogs howl for the simple fact that they’re lonely, especially if you keep your dog outside of the family home, or you leave them for hours at work. Dogs are social creatures and require interaction – just the same as people would get lonely if they were cut off from interaction. 

Always make sure that your dog feels like they are a part of the family home and you spend enough time with them at home. Some dogs need more attention than others, so it is important that you factor this in when you are looking at what breed to bring into your home – especially if you are out of the home for long periods of time. Not all time spent with a dog is quality either. More intelligent breeds will need mental stimulation alongside interaction. Invest in some toys, play games with your dog, allow them to learn new tricks, or even take them along to training classes where they will get to spend quality time with you along with interacting with other pups and learning how to please you!

For the time when you are out of the home, always make sure they are left with fun toys and chews to distract them while you are away.