Dog howling is just one of the forms of communication that dogs use alongside barking, whining and growling. Although it is probably now the least useful method of communication for dogs living in a human world.
Consequently, you may find your dog never howls at all and rest assured that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about it you have never heard your dog howl. It won’t be because they don’t know how to, but because they have no need to.
Certainly judging by the number of YouTube hits videos of dog howling gets, people generally find it amusing when they do. That is until they live close to a dog that howls at night or is suffering from dog separation anxiety…
The Natural Use of Dog Howling
In nature, the sound of a dog howling will carry over long distances and is therefore used to locate other members of the pack and call them together for hunting (as wolves still do).
It also acts as a warning to rival packs to keep away because dog howls are individually recognisable, and therefore if they don’t recognise the howl, another pack would know to keep off the territory if they wanted to remain safe.
How to Stop a Howling Dog
Don’t expect to be able to stop your dog howling completely – after all, it’s natural. So, if your dog howls in response to high pitched sounds (like a siren), it should stop as the other noise dies away and shouldn’t last too long. If your dog is outside and likely to annoy the neighbours, you can try calling them to you, or taking them inside, and using a positive reward system for them when they quieten down.
Don’t shout at your dog as this could backfire because it may sound to them like you are joining in and this could encourage them to carry on for longer!
Equally, your dog may reply to another dog’s howling but again this should not be longlived, (unless you have other dogs around you that howl continuously). Some dogs even howl along to music, singing or TV theme tunes. In this instance they are simply joining in as they would do when a pack gets together.
Howling Caused by Separation Anxiety in Dogs
If your dog howls enough to upset the neighbours then you need to look at what else might be triggering it and how you can stop it.
With separation anxiety, howling can start as soon as a dog is separated from their owners and left alone. This time the howling will be an attempt to locate you and establish contact and they will continue because you are not responding.
The only way to deal with this kind of howling is to deal with the separation anxiety issues, which will need behaviour modification training, including some desensitisation training, and in very extreme cases your vet may recommend medication.
To be sure this is the cause, you may need to look for other dog anxiety symptoms which are likely to accompany it, such as chewing and other destructive behaviour or urinating or pooping in the house. Our free video will help you, which you can get instant access to by entering your email in the box on the right.
Dog Howling for Attention
Some dogs will howl because it get them your attention. For instance, if you respond everytime they howl by asking them “What is it?”, or getting cross, or going up to them and trying to reassure them, they have every reason to carry on because they just got some attention from you when they wanted it.
To tackle this you need a two-pronged approach. Firstly to show your dog that this behaviour doesn’t work and secondly that being quiet will earn him your attention and treats.
So when your dog next howls, don’t look at him, speak to him or touch him. If you’re in the same room as your dog when he howls and find it difficult to ignore, you could walk out the door and shut it leaving him alone until he stops.
That way he learns that not only does it not get your attention, but he loses the pack too. You may find that the minute you turn your back and start to walk away, he’ll stop and follow you, so there may be no need to even close the door.
At the same time, reinforce good, quiet behaviour by randomly giving him treats and affection when he isn’t making noise. You could also train your dog to respond to a ‘quiet’ command through using positive reinforcement techniques.
If you’re looking for an effective and easy to use training programme that could help you stop unwanted dog howling, take a look at our Dog Anxiety eBook as it could hold the solution to this difficult behaviour problem.