Many dog owners have heard their tail-wagging pooch howl a time or two. For owners of hounds and beagles, as well as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, it does tend to be a more common occurrence. However, for those of us with other breeds or Heinz 57 mutts, we are often left perplexed wondering why dogs howl? Truth be told, it’s not unlikely to hear any dog howl no matter their breed association because howling is not a breed specific behavior, even though many breeds are more prone to. It’s a hereditary behavior trait passed down from their wolf ancestors. Dogs, as with wolves, howl to communicate. What they are trying to communicate is moreover the question.
Sounds like a siren can send a neighborhood of dogs into a momentous howling frenzy that seems almost musical. Researchers like animal behaviorist Dan Estep, Ph.D, of Colorado believe it’s because sirens mimic the howl from another dog, triggering a neural response to reverberate with a howl. Additionally, some singing and various musical instruments may induce howling. However, I would not recommend telling Aunt Mildred that she sounds like howling dog the next time she breaks out in song.
Dogs have been reported to howl when their owners leave them home by themselves. Boredom, loneliness and separation anxiety can prompt howling. It’s important to mention that howling due to separation anxiety disorder is coupled with other behaviors including destructiveness, peeing in the house, scratching or digging to name just a few. Howls of loneliness and separation anxiety are calls out to reassemble their pack. Likewise, the howls of a bored dog signals other dogs of their location as if to say, “I’m bored. Is there anyone out there?”
A howling dog may also be a sign of pain or illness. If your dog is becoming a frequent howler or has recently started howling, a physical examination by a veterinarian and close observation of overall behavior may be just what the doctor ordered.
The baying of a hound dog is an unmistakable reflection of the deep south. Howling of this nature sounds an alert that prey is nearby. Hunters welcome and endorse this behavior because it allows them to locate the dog in the distance; as the sound of a dog’s howl can be heard over several miles.
For breeds used in sledding like the high energy and endurance Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, howling is encouraged to serve as a warning signal of impending danger. Strong discipline, bonding and communication among these dogs are imperative and poses an underlying reason why these working class dogs howl to help unify the sled team with the musher.
Dogs have been known to howl and bark incessantly to get attention. This type of howling can become a negative habit forming behavior that will drive even a saint to their breaking point if it’s not kept in check. Training with an animal behavioral specialist will help take the edge off these howling bouts if it becomes bothersome.