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Puzzling Pooches! Why Does My Dog Howl?

Howling by wild dogs and wolves is a means of vocal communication;  they howl to announce their presence to other dogs and animals and to make contact with others in their pack.

And while all dogs are descendants of wolves, certain breeds of domestic dogs might howl more than others.  For example, a husky will tend to howl more frequently and if in a pack they will often howl in unison.  Hound breeds or labradors are also prone to howling, either to alert their owner about something or they might just have heard a high pitched noise, like a passing fire engine.

You might also find that your puppy howls, particularly if you have just brought them to their new home and they are feeling a little insecure or anxious.

What does a dog’s howl sound like?

A dog’s howl is totally different from their bark.  It’s a loud, drawn out sound, usually at a high pitch, and they will normally tilt their head right back as if they are howling at the sky; it is thought that they do this to get more air into their lungs by straightening out the vocal cords.  Another theory is that it is to help their sound travel over long distances.

A dog’s howl can sometimes sound soulful or spooky, particularly if it’s in the dark of night, but a dog howling can often be amusing - particularly if they howl when a human is singing - it sounds as if they are singing along!  Or there may be a particular song on the radio which resonates with them and they start to howl!

Why does my dog howl?

There are a number of reasons why your dog might howl.

  • Being home alone:  Your dog may howl if they are left home alone; this could also be accompanied by panting, pacing around the home, or even destroying furniture.  Once they are settled in, make sure you start to train your pooch to be home alone from the time you bring them home when they are puppies.  Alternatively, your home circumstances may also have changed - for example you may be returning to work after lockdown - and your pooch might start to howl as they are being left home alone after having your company for months and they are now feeling anxious about being left alone again.
  • Medical issues:  If your dog howls for long periods of time, or they start howling for no apparent reason, they may have sustained an injury or be in pain - in such circumstances it’s important to get them checked out by a vet.
  • Attention behaviour:  Have you given them lots of attention which they enjoyed when they howled previously? Are they continuing to howl to get your attention again, and it’s wearing a bit thin and becoming a little annoying?  Some training can help restore a little peace and quiet.  When they start to howl, try giving a cue like ‘be quiet’ and when they stop, make a fuss of them and give them a treat.  Keep repeating and your dog will quickly learn when you need them to stop howling.
  • Boredom:  Your pooch may be bored, so make sure they have plenty of stimulation with regular walks, obedience training,  Boredom Buster games and interactive toys (like a food toy such as a Kong filled with dog-safe treats) to keep them busy and relaxed when you are not around.  Don’t leave them alone for long periods of time, and build in lots of play time to keep them mentally active.
  • High Pitched Noises:  Some dogs howl if they hear a siren or even a high pitched musical instrument, as these can be similar in frequency to a howl.  It is thought that dogs relate the pitch of a siren or certain musical instruments to communication from other dogs, like they would have done in their pack, so they are, in effect, trying to communicate with the siren!
  • Old age:  Older dogs may be less able to cope with some situations, like spending time alone - particularly if their sight or hearing is becoming impaired - and they may howl to get your attention or if they are uncomfortable or in pain.  Howling in older dogs may also be associated with doggy dementia (or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction); this can be very disturbing for both you and your pooch, so always ensure your dog has regular vet checks as they get older.

Dog howl

If you are puzzled by your pooch and think they may be howling because they are anxious or do not like being home alone, ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser is an excellent solution.  Plug the diffuser into a socket in the room where your dog spends most of their time and it will help your dog stay calm and feel less anxious.

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