Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Do Dogs Howl?

You’ve probably heard your dog bark at squirrels, the vacuum cleaner or even the FedEx driver when he delivers your Chewy box, but have you ever caught your dog howling? The good news is, it’s completely normal! So why do dogs howl? According to Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist specializing in hands-on healing for animals, “howling is definitely more prominent in some breeds than others—northern breeds like Huskies and Malamutes howl often, and it is part of their daily vocalization. This is true for some Hounds as well, including Beagles and Coon Hounds. All dogs are capable of howling, but not many of them howl.” Of the breeds that commonly howl in their daily communication do so because they have been encouraged by humans for decades—like Huskies—when it comes to sledding and hunting. If you are a potential pet parent looking to give a little guy a forever home, read up on the breeds you are considering, as some breeds are more boisterous than others.

Doggies are full of energy and fun, and they like to communicate it! Regardless of your dog’s breed, chances are you’ve heard your pup make a variation of noises. What do these different noises mean? The first step is to identify the type of noises your dog is making and when, so you can understand what your dog is trying to communicate. A bark is usually your dog’s way of alerting you of something. Baying is more of a throaty, prolonged barking, said to mostly be used when a dog is pursuing his prey. A growl is a dog’s warning to someone or something to not come any closer. What could your dog howling mean, then? And why do dogs howl, instead of just barking?

A howl travels farther than a bark would, so dogs howl in what they deem to be more serious matters—such as when they need or want to announce their presence to their pack. In the wild, wolves howl to communicate to each other while hunting. The scouts that were out hunting would begin howling to announce they were ready to return. Their pack would join in on the howling to guide them back home. Your doggie is a descendent of wolves, which is why he has similar habits. In your dog’s case, his pack is probably you and your family! When you hear your dog howling in response to a noise, the general trigger is a high-pitched sound like a siren or even the phone ringing. He is most likely howling in order to communicate his whereabouts, but sometimes, these noises trigger your dog to howl simply because he is joining in on the noisy action.

Dog howling isn’t age specific. There are certain circumstances that can lead to your dog howling, no matter his age. If your doggie is trying to identify himself, like his ancestors, then he might let out a howl versus a bark or growl, based on your dog’s assessment of the situation. For example, when he is having separation anxiety from being alone, he will let out a howl to attempt to communicate to you where he is. If another animal approaches his territory, he may howl to alert his pack (you) before growling at the animal. Although all ages howl, Morgan theorizes that “howling does seem more common in puppyhood—when the pup is lonely or afraid, he is likely to howl. And dogs seem to howl more in their senior years as well, when their hearing diminishes as well as their other senses. These howls seem to be in times of uncertainty for the dog.”

All in all, dog howling is a normal behavior and form of communication for dogs. Just like humans grumble, laugh, scream and talk, doggies have their own ways of communicating. Now that you know the reasons why dogs howl, you can better understand what your dog is feeling or trying to communicate the next time he lets out a long, drawn-out howl.