Throwing their head back, howling at the moon, I mean is there anything cuter than that soft puppy howling sound? It’s heart wrenching. But why do dogs howl? They’re not wolves after all? The fact is all dogs can howl, and they howl for different reasons, some do it to show distress for sure, but some dogs just like being loud! 

No howlers, we promise… we’re going to be giving you the low down on ‘why do dogs howl?’. We’ll also be letting you know if you should be worried about your dogs howling and some advice on what you should do if your dog is howling too much and when to worry. 

Excessive barking can be a problem, but it doesn’t need to be. Download the Zigzag app and you’ll learn how to teach your puppy not to bark through positive reinforcement training. You’ll also learn all about socialisation, toilet training, how to teach them to walk nicely and loads more. We also have a team of puppy trainers on standby to talk to you 7 days a week, they’re a fun bunch they’ll have you howling…sorry… let’s move on.

dog howling to the sky
Photo by Divyan Rajveer Rana on Unsplash

Why do dogs howl?

Howling is a normal canine behaviour you may or may not have seen in your dog. Wolves frequently howl and it’s what we tend to think about when we picture dogs howling, but dogs aren’t wolves, so their reasons can be different as to why they howl. 

Let’s dig in and find out the reasons why dogs howl.

Howling is a way to communicate with other dogs

Barking and howling is a way of dogs talking to one another. Vocalisation helps dogs let other dogs know they’re there, and also tell them how they’re feeling. 

Dogs howl to communicate with you 

Sometimes howling can be a way of your dog vocally communicating that they want something and is also why dogs howl.

Dogs howl because they’re sad or in pain

A long sorrowful howl can be your dog communicating their emotions. This can happen when they’re grieving, or when they’re hurt and in pain, howling can be a bit like crying really. 

They are scared of being left alone

Howling is one characteristic often seen in dogs with separation anxiety. This type of vocalisation can be self soothing or to call out to say then need help.

You might see other signs apart from howling like whining, scratching or digging at doors or exit/entry points, excessive paw licking or overgrooming.

Check out the full guide to separation anxiety to learn more.

They’re a breed that’s bred to be vocal or howl

Huskies, Malamutes and other northern breeds have a strong howling instinct. Beagles, Dachshunds and other types of hounds also do a slightly different type of howl called a bay. These kinds of dogs are more likely to howl and use it as communication. 

They are responding to a noise or sound

Sirens, fireworks, and thunderstorms are all things that can trigger dogs to howl. Your dog may also howl at something they see on the TV. The howling usually stops when the noise goes away.

Some dogs just find howling fun

Howling can be a very self rewarding behaviour. Throwing your head back and letting out a big howl is commonly seen in some breeds, and they howl instead of yapping or woofing.

Older dogs may be more likely to howl

Senior dogs can be affected by canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) also known as doggy dementia. One symptom of this is howling.

shaggy dog howling to the sky
Photo by Jake Anthony on Unsplash

Should I be worried about my dog’s howling?

So you might be wondering if the reasons your dog is howling is something to worry about, right?

Here’s a few things to think about when your dog howls and whether you should be worried

  • If your dog only howls when you’re not at home this may be related to separation related problems – check out our guide to how long can I leave my puppy alone for.
  • If your dog howls due to pain, and is showing some physical symptoms that something is wrong with them, then we recommend you seek veterinary advice. Vet visits can be stressful. Read our guide to puppy vet visits to prep in advance and make things easy, in case you need to go.
  • Does your puppy howl at night when they are alone? This is likely linked to being scared on their own, or because they’re reacting to outside noises. We recommend you get your puppy into a good night time routine and have them sleep in your room until they settle into their new home. This is often the case with rescue puppies, who may have had a lot of changes in their short lives.

Nighttime sleep problems can spill over into daytime anxiety at being left alone, so if your puppy is crying at night, don’t leave them to cry it out as it can develop into separation anxiety.

  • If your dog howls for attention, then this is your dog communicating that they want something, it might be that they’re bored and need more mental or physical exercise.
  • If you have a breed more likely to howl then it’s not usually anything to worry about. They’re just following their instincts and using their voice.
black and white dog howling
Photo by Justinas Teselis on Unsplash

What do I do if my dog is howling too much?

If your dog’s howling is excessive and unwanted, we need to look at why the behaviour (howling) is occurring and what is reinforcing it. By looking at that we can figure out how to reduce the howling overall. 

  • If your dog is suddenly howling then it could be due to pain or a medical problem – take them to a vet and seek professional advice.
  • If your dog is only howling when you go out – record them, learn about dog body language and understand whether they’re howling because it’s fun and they’re bored, or genuinely anxious that you’re gone, and they could be suffering from separation anxiety.
  • If your dog cries or howls at night, look at their sleeping habits and make adjustments like blackout blinds or having them sleep in your room. 
  • If the howling is just a breed specific behaviour – teach them a quiet cue, so that they can be shushed when you need them to be quiet. Teaching a puppy to calm down in these instances is also helpful. 
  • If your dog is howling because they’re bored, then teach them some basic cues with positive reinforcement training. This will help to stretch their brain and you can also teach them things like lie down quietly in your bed!
  • Puzzle toys and interactive feeders are also a great way to provide entertainment and eliminate boredom in your howling dog.. 

So, why do dogs howl? Well, we hope you’ve found the reasons in this article! Howling is vocal communication, our dogs are trying to tell us something, or they’re talking to other dogs. You should pay attention to what your dog is trying to tell you when they howl since it frequently has an emotional component.

Howling can often be fixed with simple training. Check out our training tips article for more fun things to do with your dog. 
If you’re looking for a complete programme, almost like doggy homeschooling, look no further than the Zigzag puppy training app. We’ve designed a programme based on your breed and what they need. You’re not alone either, we have a team of puppy trainers available to talk to you live on text, email or just give them a call.