You’ve settled down for the night. Then, just about when you’re drifting off to sleep, you’re suddenly jolted awake by your dog’s high-pitched “AWOOOOOO!” belted from the diaphragm like the best opera singer on stage. 

Why do dogs howl? Generally, howling is one of many ways dogs communicate with you and other dogs. Dogs have their own language made of six basic vocal sounds, each with variations of pitch and intensity—barking, baying, growling, whimpering and yelping, whining, and howling. With body language added to the mix, dogs have quite the vocabulary. 

If you want to put a stop to the howling, you first need to understand that there are many reasons for it, then address the needs behind those reasons.


Do Dogs Howl Instinctually?

Yes, those howls are instinctual, inherited from their wolven ancestors. Howling is a way for pack members to find one another and a means to warn others away from their territory. Dogs living in the human world howl for the same and additional reasons. 


Breeds Known for Howling

Every dog can howl, but not all do it. The Siberian Husky is a chatty breed that loves to howl. They converse and argue with their pet parents and have a howling good time with their furry siblings. Beagles, Yorkshire Terriers, German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, and Chihuahuas are also heavy howlers.


What Does a Dog Howling at Night Mean? 

There are so many answers to this question! A dog howling is one of those all-purpose vocalizations whose meaning depends on the context. It may mean anything from greeting to severe pain. Perhaps their routine has been disrupted, and they are confused because their food or walk schedule has been changed. Maybe they are excited about something they found or are grieving a loss. 


Your Dog is Experiencing Medical Issues

Is howling a recent thing for your dog? They may be letting you know they are sick or injured and responding to pain and discomfort. Check your dog for injuries and determine whether there is any change in their everyday eating habits or behaviors. Take them to the vet if you’re concerned.


Your Dog Needs More Food

Some dogs howl because they’re hungry. Check the ingredients of your dog’s food—perhaps they are not getting the right nutritional mix

Inexpensive dog food is full of carbohydrates and insufficient in protein, so switching to a natural diet such as Volhard’s Natural Diet Foundation will give your dog the ideal blend of protein and other vital nutrients! 


Your Dog is Experiencing Isolation or Separation Anxiety

Like their wolven ancestors, dogs are pack animals—they are not meant to spend long stretches of time alone. Howling in an empty house is your dog’s way of calling to you to come home. Any dog left for too long too often is likely to develop a case of anxiety. 

Make an honest assessment of how much time you spend with your dog. Make more time for walks, playtime, mental stimulation, and just being there. Consider hiring a dog walker/sitter or doggy daycare if needed. 

You may also want to try desensitization and counterconditioning. Desensitization is a gradual process of reducing the intensity of a trigger. Counterconditioning means gradually breaking the link between the trigger and the anticipation of a negative consequence. These methods can be highly effective at addressing behavioral problems.


Your Dog is Looking to Attract Attention

Dogs are pack animals, and you’re their pack. They want your attention, and a loud, high-pitched howl is an effective way to get it. 

A puppy trying to howl is adorable. It’s easy to encourage them to howl, and you might even howl along with them because they are so cute. But you’re creating a bad habit that will be hard to break when they’re all grown up.

Your dog needs to learn that howling no longer works and that being quiet is the way to go. So the best approach is to ignore the howling completely. You can also teach the “Speak” and “Quiet” commands to help control the behavior.


Too Much Energy at Nighttime

Dogs will howl at any time of day or night, but if they’re active at night, you can expect more howling after dark. One solution is ensuring your dog gets plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation during the day. Always have plenty of things for your dog to do with you, daycare, or a sitter. Wear them out during the day, and they’ll be too sleepy to howl all night.


Responding to Other Dogs 

Among dogs, a series of howls is a conversation. They inform other dogs that they are here, that the other dog is intruding on their territory, and that this particular patch of land is, in fact, theirs. Or perhaps they are greeting a friendly neighbor dog. 

Teaching the dog to be quiet and using the “Quiet” command will help reduce the late-night doggie phone calls. However, desensitization and counterconditioning may be necessary if the behavior becomes severe. 


Responding to Sounds and Other Noises

Dogs often howl in response to unrelated noises that sound like howls, such as emergency vehicle sirens, horns, alarm clocks, and musical instruments. We’ve all seen videos of dogs “playing” a piano and howling out a song. Howling may also be triggered by any unusual sound in the house. It means they are aware and ready to act

Desensitization and counterconditioning may help here, too, as will keeping your dog well exercised and busy. 


A Parting Reminder

A dog howling is natural but also one of many natural dog behaviors that need to be modified to fit into the human world. As your dog’s pack leader, it’s essential to understand that there is a need behind the noise. Do your best to find the cause, and you can probably solve the problem yourself. 

We realize, however, that this might not be so easy to do, and you might need some help. That’s where we come in! At K9 Basics, we will help you determine why your dog is howling and teach you how to get it under control. Contact us for an appointment. We will help you teach your dog to be well-mannered and calm so you can get back to a good night’s sleep. In the meantime, make sure to check out our blog for more information on dog training!