Why Do Dogs Howl?

Why do dogs howlLast night as I was letting the dogs out, I could hear the coyotes howling in the distance. For me, listening to these eerie yips of communication is a treat (although everyone may not be with me on that one). Regardless, it got me to thinking, why do dogs howl?

I’ve never had a dog that howled until Sparky, our Maltese foster dog, came to live with us. On Sparky’s second day in our home, with the exception of my son, we all left to go somewhere. My son had, just for a moment, went to his room closing the door behind him. Poor pup barely knew any of us at that point, was already distressed about his strange surroundings, and now had felt abandoned! We arrived home to the howling of a distressed pup.

It was a shock to hear such sounds coming out of this teeny, tiny dog! That day seems like forever ago now, and he has since settled nicely into our home and lifestyle. In fact, I haven’t heard a single howl since.

Why do Dogs Howl?

Studies have shown that howling in the wild, as well as in domestic dogs, is a form of communication. Furthermore, each species, and subspecies, of canid (dog, wolf, coyote, etc.), use their own identifiable pitch and pattern.

Watching a dog howling is quite a fascinating sight. They toss their noses to the air, open their jaws, and let out an incredible vocalization of patterned sounds. For dogs that howl, this vocalization is as natural to them as speaking is to humans.

The instinctive nature of howling has been passed down to dogs from their wolf ancestors. And although the reasons for howling may be slightly different for domesticated dogs than it is for wolves, some of it remains the same.

Some dogs howl at loud noises such as sirens, music, or the howling/barking of other dogs. This is an instinctive response to the pitch within those sounds. Usually, the howling stops once the trigger sound stops.

There are a variety of reasons our domestic dogs may howl, as noted below…

  • Loneliness/isolationWhy do dogs howl
  • Boredom
  • Wanting attention
  • Excitement
  • Camaraderie
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Letting whereabouts be known
  • Medical issue/pain

Some breeds are notorious for their dislike of being left alone. A lonely dog may howl in an attempt to contact you, or say, “I’m here! Come home! Where are you?” A dog who is left outside for too long may also howl out of loneliness/isolation.

At times dogs get bored, and their outlet is to howl. They may also have discovered it’s a great way to get your attention.

Some dogs howl to join in on the excitement, such as when people sing, or play an instrument. It’s the doggie version of joining in on the camaraderie. Oftentimes they join other dogs that are barking, or howling. This inclusion lets their whereabouts be known.

A dog that has separation anxiety may also howl. This may occur when you show signs of leaving, or after you have actually left. A dog that suffers from separation anxiety may display other signs such as chewing furniture, doors, personal belongings, etc. They may also exhibit signs of distress by pacing, having potty accidents, or trying to escape the home or crate.

Still yet, other dogs may howl when they have a medical issue, and are feeling some type of pain.

Most of the time howling is a normal, natural dog behavior, but other times it’s important to step in and help, such as when medical issues, or separation anxiety are the cause.

why do dogs howlCan All Dogs Howl?

Almost any dog can howl, but certain breeds are more likely to howl than others. Some of these breeds include hunting dogs, like the Beagle, or working breeds, like Siberian Huskies.

Do you have a dog that howls? Tell us your story!

Fun Fact: When you hear what sounds like a large pack of coyotes howling, don’t be fooled! It might be as few as two coyotes. Due to the variety of sounds a coyote is capable of making, and the way sound becomes distorted as it travels, an auditory illusion is created. This is called the beau geste effect.

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