We’re all familiar with our dogs lifting their noses to the sky and releasing a piercing howl. It can be annoying or even worrying when this happens, but why do they do it? This question doesn’t have one single answer, as dogs howl for many reasons. Here, James Wellbeloved guide you through some of these reasons, as well as giving advice on when you should begin to consider howling an issue and how to prevent it.
You must always remember that it is natural for a dog to howl. Like humans, dogs are social creatures that use a range of verbalisations to communicate. Although our ears can’t usually decipher them, each dog howl has its own meaning. Reasons for howling can include:
Although it can be irritating when your dog howls, it is not unusual for them to do so. It’s important to remember that they aren’t howling to annoy you, so before you can start to improve your dog’s behaviour, you must first find out why they are vocalising. If your dog is howling for one the above reasons, it only becomes an issue if the howling is incessant and is an annoyance to you or others.
If you find that your dog is howling to get your attention, then it is vital for you not to reinforce this behaviour. Even scolding them could be interpreted as attention and should be avoided. Instead, you need to train your dog by showing them they will not get your attention through howling. When they start, silently turn your back to them and fold your arms. Remain like this until they have been silent for at least five seconds. You can then turn back and greet them as usual. It is also crucial to reinforce positive behaviour. This means occasionally giving them treats while they are being quiet. This will help them to associate positive interaction with being quiet, rather than howling.
If your dog howls at high-pitched noises, this may not happen as often if you live in a quiet area. However, this problem becomes more evident for those living in busier areas, where sirens and loud noises are more frequent. If you do live in one of these areas and find your dog often responds to the noises, you can try to train them with desensitisation. This is best performed with the help of a specialist and gets your dog used to the stimulating noises, so they stop responding to them with howls.
While howling is not usually indicative of a serious issue, it can be if separation anxiety is the cause of it. Separation anxiety is caused by your dog feeling unhappy at being left alone for long periods of time. You can generally recognise it as they will howl while you are away from them and their howling may be accompanied by pacing, damaging items and depression. Separation anxiety is only made better by easing your dog’s worries. This is done by spending more time with them when you can and ensuring the time you spend with them is filled with fun activities. Also, try to reduce their loneliness by providing toys for them to play with while you are out of the house. If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, you may wish to consult an expert for help.
Sometimes your dog can signal that they are suffering by howling. If this is the reason, their howls will generally be more frantic and shriller. If you are worried your dog may be in pain, you should check them for signs of physical injury and consult a vet for advice.