Why do dogs howl?

why does a dog howl
(Last Updated On: September 10, 2022)

Our animals make lots of noises around the house, whether it’s your dog snoring, cat meowing or hamster running in it’s wheel. One of the more common sounds we here from day to day is our dog howling. Howling is a form of vocal communication, which can be used to attract attention, announce a dog’s presence, and make contact with others.

When a dog howls, it can be a normal act. It may be in response to a sound or event, or for a more negative reason. Before you become nervous about hearing your dog howl, take a look at the reasons why they may be howling and what you can do to help.

Dog sniffing excessively?

Issues to Rule Out

When you think about why your dog might be howling, the first rule out any negative reasons. This includes separation anxiety.

Your dog might howl when you’re at work or out of the house for a period of time, and will usually pace, destroy the house, soil the carpet, or feel depressed. Consider whether your dog shows any of these signs of distress.

Medical Causes

Your dog might also be howling for medical reasons, like if they’re hurt or sick. If your dog starts howling more than usual, take them to the vet to be sure that they are not dealing with an illness or injury.

Once you’ve ruled this out, you can relax knowing that the extra howling isn’t due to any medical problem.

How to Handle Excessive Howling

Your dog may be howling a lot without any medical or negative reason behind it. In this case, they may be howling in response to a sound like another dog or a siren. They’ll likely stop when the noise stops.

If you live in an area where there are a lot of noise triggers, you may think the howling is excessive. Try training your dog with desensitization and counterconditioning to teach them to be quiet.

Desensitization and Counterconditioning

You can’t necessarily teach your dog a new behavior in response to the howling. Instead, try dealing with the underlying reasons for the howling using systematic desensitization and counterconditioning.

These are great treatment options for learning to deal with emotional problems, and can slowly condition your dog to respond in a more acceptable way than howling.

Check with your vet to learn more about these types of treatment, which are often used with humans too in order to deal with phobias and fears.

Howls, Whines or Barks to Get Your Attention

Your dog may be howling in order to get your attention. A dog’s yelping may potentially be in response to the attention, to get food, or to get the desired option.

If you notice your dog howling, for this reason, it’s important to curb this behavior by teaching your dog that howling will not work to get your attention and that being quiet is the way to go.

First then, ignore any attention-seeking howling. Don’t look at, speak or, or touch your dog when you notice the dog yelping for attention.

Don’t even scold your dog. Remember any attention, even negative attention can encourage the behavior. Try turning away if it’s hard to look at their puppy eyes.

Once they’re quiet, reward your dog for being quiet. You shouldn’t only pay attention to your dog when they’re misbehavior, but show them that they’ll get rewarded for being quiet.

Randomly hand out treats when your dog is quiet for at least five seconds, and teach your dog to be quiet with a command. Just like you tell them to speak, give them a “quiet” command and reward it when they comply.

Why do Dogs Howl?

black dog is howling

Every dog owner has heard howling at some point in their lives. Researchers believe that this is partially related to genetics. The DNA of dogs matches closely with that of wolves so their howling may relate to their ancestry.

For instance, your pooch may be howling for the sake of their community: they howl to call their group back to them. In your case, that’s you. They’re howling to call you back home.

For Defense

Howling may also signal to other dogs to stay away from a territory. It acts as a warning to outsiders to stay away and to announce one’s presence.

In a domestic setting, this can happen when a car pulls up to the house and your dog is attempting to protect the house from strangers.

Attention and Anxiety

As you know, your dog might be howling for attention. They know that you’ll respond to them if they give off a great big howl, and while you’re there, maybe you’ll pick up a toy and play for a little while.

Your dog may howl due to separation anxiety due to this, thinking that they can call you back with a howl.

Dogs howl to alert you to injury or discovery

Your dog might also howl to respond to their environment. When you’re wondering why do dogs cry, think about all the triggers around them like sirens or noises.

If there are no noises anywhere, check your dog for injury. They may be howling so that you’ll come to help them.

Looking for Solutions and Help

Howling can be challenging to work with. If you’re having trouble solving this problem on your own, work with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.

They often offer group or private classes to give your dog lots of attention to help deal with their howling.

Separation Anxiety and Howling

Your dog howling when they’re left alone is an indicator of separation anxiety. If this is the case, you should notice bite marks around your home, destruction, or even escape attempts when you’re not with them.

Check your dog to be sure that your dog doesn’t have any chipped nails or teeth, and ask anyone watching your dog about other behaviors like pacing.

Spend Time with Your Dog

Especially if your dog is howling because they’re left alone for many hours, they will benefit from you spending time with them. Bring your dog inside with you more often, play a game together, or simply take classes.

You can also reward good behavior, and if you do need to leave your home for a while, make sure your dog has lots of toys and chew items to stay occupied.

When a dog howl does it mean death?

Of course not. This is just a superstition that has been conditioned by Hollywood movies, but the superstition that a dog’s howl can mean death is present in multiple mythologies like Norse, Egypt, Ireland, Wales, and Greece.

Are dogs sad when they howl?

You might be wondering why do dogs cry, and yes, howling can mean that your pooch is sad. It can also mean that your dog is hurt or scared by something. Distress is a common reason for howling.

Why did my dog howl in the middle of the night?

When everyone is sleeping, you may hear your dog howling. With no one for the company, this can be because your dog is feeling lonely and sad.

This can also be in relation to other dogs that happen to be around, or to stimuli that your dog is responding to in the middle of the night.

What does it mean when a dog howls while sleeping?

Think of a dog howling in its sleep like a person might have a nightmare. Your dog could be howling in response to perceived trouble while they’re dreaming, like a bad dream.

If you’re concerned, check with your vet, since it is possible for your dog to be dealing with a REM sleep disorder or a seizure-like activity instead of just a nightmare.


I know that it can be frightening to hear your dog yelping all of a sudden. For the most part, though, your dog howling is a fairly innocuous act. They’ll do it for attention or to call you back.

They may also howl for more serious reasons though, which is why you should always check with your vet before you begin to rule out serious problems and focus on helping your dog curb their yelping or howling behavior.


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