Howling is just one of the many forms of communication dogs have. They also whine, whimper, bark and growl, but howling captures the imagination of humans, and they associate it with loss and sadness. Howling is also a form of long distance communication for dogs, left over from their wolf ancestry. Once one dog starts, there are usually several others in the neighbourhood who answer.
Since you are part of your dog’s pack, when you are gone, they may howl. If they continue howling for hours, they may be feeling separation anxiety. You can determine if this is the case if there is also pacing, elimination, destruction, depression or other behaviours that signal distress.
Dogs also howl in response to certain sounds, especially an ambulance or police siren. When the sound stops, the howling usually stops too. However, if the stimulus is there often and the howling becomes excessive, you can desensitize and counter condition to teach the dog to be quiet. These treatments are used if the howling is related to fears, phobia, aggression or anxiety.
Dogs don’t use howling as a frequent form of communication, but their wolf ancestors do. Wolves howl to communicate with their own and other wolf packs. The pitch of the howl changes from the beginning to end and this enables the sound to carry over long distances. Wolves howl to announce their presence in a certain part of the forest. If their own pack answers, they are home, if another pack answers, they go the other way.
Illness and Pain
Howling can also indicate the dog is sick or hurt. If a dog howls continuously for no apparent reason, it is best to take it to a veterinarian so that you can rule out unseen injury or illness. Dogs may also howl to get food, toys or attention. If this is the case, you can curb this behaviour. The first thing to do is ignore the howling. When it stops, you can give a reward. When he howls, don’t look at him, touch him, feed or speak to him. When the dog is quiet, he should be rewarded. Even if it is done at random times, it should be done when the dog is quiet.
Other Reasons Why Dogs Howl
Loneliness is a major reason dogs howl. Dogs like to have attention from humans, and deserve it. You can play games, give them training, take walks and, if possible, get another dog as a companion. If you have to leave you dog alone for long periods, make sure he has lots of toys to chew on to pass the time.
Sometimes, when certain music is played or someone starts singing at the piano, the dog may feel inspired to join. After all, the dog is part of the family group and should be able to join the fun if he or she feels like it. Howling can also be a sign of happiness. Humans may think howling is a mysterious and forlorn sound, but dogs may be just trying to interact with their environment.