Why Do Dogs Howl and What Does it Mean?

Most of the time, we know our dogs well enough to know what they need through their body language, but sometimes, howls are a little tougher to interpret. Why do dogs how?

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VCA Animal Hospitals told Newsweek that, like “many canine behaviors, howling has ancestral roots. In the wild, safety-conscious wolves in the woods bellowed to announce their location to other members of their pack family.

“Brave wolves howled to warn other wild animals to stay away from their territory. Your dog may not howl to pinpoint their whereabouts or keep intruders at bay, but now, as in generations past, dogs howl as a form of communication.”

But what is your dog trying to tell you when they howl?

Experts say that domesticated dogs can use howling to attempt to communicate a wide range of messages. They may be telling you to come to find them. In the wild, canine packs stay home while others scout areas for food. VCA veterinarians think howling was developed to call the other pack members and help them find each other. The veterinarians said that the canines that stayed home would signal the location of the home base to the other canines through howling.

“After being left home alone, a dog may howl when they hear you drive up to your house or when they spot you climbing the steps in an attempt to guide you safely back to them.” However, howling can also mean they want you to go away. The VCA said,

“Howling signals to incoming dogs that a particular area is already claimed, and visitors aren’t welcome. Howling is a good defense mechanism that wards off potential predators. As dogs protect their homes, they may howl when a visitor approaches their territory.”

Maybe they just want to tell you that they’re there. An approaching dog might howl to let other dogs know that they are coming. “Howling alerts surrounding dogs that their environment is about to change,” said the VCA.

But your furry friend might just want some attention. Maybe they haven’t been able to get your attention in another way, so they begin to howl.

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According to the VCA, “This verbal canine manipulation can become bothersome, so humans must learn not to reward vocal demands. Try to avoid eye contact and resist the urge to approach a howling dog. Don’t pet him or talk to him but don’t scold him either.

But be wary because sometimes they might be trying to tell you something more urgent like they are hurt. They could also be calling you to tell you they’ve found something.

Some dog breeds are much more vocal than other dogs, and it also depends on your dog’s personality type. Pack dogs will often be much more vocal because of their roots, while smaller dogs might be more vocal because of their size.

What about when your dog is howling at the sirens passing by? How can it happen as a response to an environmental trigger.

Adem Fehmi, Dog Behaviorist, told Newsweek, “This is similar to dogs howling at music. One school of thought is that the siren or music replicates similar pitches and sounds to a howl and so, when heard, some dogs look to respond by howling in return.

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Dogs can also howl when alone, stressed, anxious, or agitated. Many pup parents experience problems leaving their dogs at home because they will howl all day until their ultimate return.

Adem Fehmi said, “We often refer to this as a dog experiencing ‘separation anxiety’ and there are sometimes other signs present that indicate that they are feeling anxious about being left alone.”

“If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, it is recommended that you seek advice from an accredited behaviorist so that they can tailor the training to your individual dog and home routines.”

Fehmi however, shared three tips with Newsweek to help dogs overcome separation anxiety. He says to exercise them before leaving, give them something to do, and try to create a calming environment for the dog.

NEVER ‘debark’ your dog. This is a cruel practice that is robbing them of their instincts. Whatever the reason for your pup’s howls, don’t get mad at them. It is just their instinct. However, you can train them to let you know what they want in other ways besides a loud howl, which can, at times, be irritating. Talk to your vet or a dog behavioralist to try to find some solutions.

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