Why do dogs howl? Howling is synonymous with the whole canidae family, from wolves and coyotes, to our domestic dogs. You may assume that your dog is trying to recreate The Call of the Wild by acting out the role of wolf, but that is not the case. Dogs howl as another way to communicate with their furry pals. In the same way that dogs mark their territory, sniff out new smells, and bark, these mechanisms are ways in which canines express themselves.

The question of “why do dogs howl” is one that the team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services is here to tell you more about. 

5 Reasons Why Dogs Howl

A howl can be primal and has links to all that is wild. While our pets do have links to their early ancestors, there are many behaviors that have emerged through their domestication. Dogs have the instinct to howl as a throwback to their lineage, but they also have their own reasons for howling that are specific to domestic dogs.

Still, the howl is one of the most intriguing noises your dog can make. But why do dogs howl, anyway?

  1. True Instinct
    Instinct does play a key role in why dogs howl because it is something that is innate to them and serves them in several ways. The sound of a howl carries across longer distances than a regular bark or growl. That means that other perceived members of the pack (or other dogs seen as competition) may be able to hear.
    Howling is a way to say, “I’m here” and “let’s get together” to other dogs in their family or pack. It’s like us picking up a cell phone to call a distant friend over for dinner. 
  2. Separation Anxiety
    Many dogs face separation anxiety, which is an intense dislike of being alone. This behavior generally stems from a need for socialization or a background that includes trauma. When we leave dogs alone for an extended period of time, it can trigger their anxiety. Howling is one of the many behaviors that result from separation anxiety, as well as other destructive behaviors like chewing and scratching at doors.
  3. Passing Noises
    You know the drill by now…A firetruck or police car flies down the street with their sirens blaring, and at once your dog chimes in. Any loud sounds that mimic a howl, such as chimes, sirens, and other lengthy noises can trigger your dog’s primal reaction. It’s debatable if your dog actually knows it isn’t a fellow dog or other animal, but the instinct to respond to these sounds is obviously hardwired.
  4. Attention Seeking
    Howling is something that is attention getting, most definitely. Dogs who are bored or have been rewarded (by your attention or scolding) for howling, will continue to do this. Punishment and scolding, as well as laughter, reinforce undesired behaviors. Is your dog getting attention for howling?
  5. Pain
    Illness and pain may be an issue for pets who vocalize frequently. If your dog isn’t feeling well or is in pain, they will howl and/or whine. Other symptoms of pain might be: changes in appetite/losing weight, excessive licking, hiding or clinginess, wincing when touched, inability to get comfortable, etc. Address any of these signs with your veterinarian to ensure your pet is healthy and pain-free. 

Summary: Why Do Dogs Howl? 

Did you recognize some of these reasons behind why your bestie chooses to sound off now and then? Sometimes, too, dogs just enjoy howling. It is fun, and they like the feeling of vocalizing or, to them, saying hello to the world. 

Why do dogs howl? If you have concerns about your dog, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with us, please contact us.