Dog Howling

19 May 2020 | Dog Advice

Why do dogs howl and how to stop it

Why does my dog howl?

Dogs howling is a form of communication used for many reasons. Dogs often howl to attract attention, making contact with other dogs and to also announce their presence. Often, dogs howl to respond to high pitched noises, such as an emergency vehicle noise or musical instruments.

There are, however, other reasons why your dog may howl and if you’re concerned you should consult your vets for expert advice. Listed below are other reasons as to why your dog may be howling:

Medical reasons

Sometimes dogs howl if they’re hurt or sick. If your dog has started howling more than usual and acting differently, they may be trying to communicate with you that something is not right and they’re either hurt or not feeling very well. If your dog is acting this way, then you must contact the vets immediately to seek professional medical advice and rule out any injury or illness.

Separation anxiety

If you’ve been made aware that your dog is howling when you’re at work, your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety occurs when your dog is left alone or they’re separate from their owner. Normally, this kind of excessive howling is accompanied by another symptom such as destructive behavior, depression, pacing or depression. 


Howling in response to sound

If your dog howls in response to a trigger such as another dog howling or a siren, then they should stop once the sound has passed. This type of behaviour usually isn't excessive, unless it occurs frequently. If this does become an issue, then you can use desensitization and counterconditioning to help teach your dog to be quiet.

Desensitization and Counterconditioning

Often, a behaviour is rooted in how a dog feels about a particular thing or noise and it isn't enough to try and distract them when they’re acting up because they’re bothered by this noise or particular thing. It is more effective to change their feelings and motivation to the situation and address why they have that underlying issue.

Applying Systematic desensitization and counterconditioning are two of the most common treatments for conditions such as anxiety, fear, phobias and aggressive behavior that involves emotions and arousal. For this most effective outcome it is best to use both of these treatments together.

You can find further information on these treatments online and from your vets.

What to do if your dog whines, howls or barks to get your attention

Dogs often learn that howling grasps the attention of their owner, whether that attention is welcomed or not. If your dog howls for your attention it's usually because they want your attention for food or a desired object. If this does happen you need to quickly teach your dog that this behaviour doesn't get your attention (even if it did before).

Your dog needs to learn that being quiet will get your attention. If your dog learns that being quiet will get your attention then their behaviour will quickly change.

Listed below are a few helpful tips to help stop your dog from howling for your attention:

Ignore your dogs howling

When your dog howls for attention you must avoid giving them any attention and that includes negative attention such as telling them off. Dogs are like children and they will misbehave even if it's for negative attention. If your dog howls, then you must avoid eye contact, body contact and completely ignore the howling. When they stop and be quiet, then you can reward them with your attention.

Reward good behaviour

It's often too easy to pay attention to your dog when they’re doing something wrong and forget to reward them for just being good and quiet. If you want your dog to stop howling for your attention, then you need to reward them for being quiet. You can do this by rewarding them every so often when they’re quiet and tell them they’re being good.

You should also only reward them their toys, treats and food when they’re quiet and being well behaved.

Spend more time with your dog

On some occasions, dogs howl because they’re lonely and want to spend time with you. If you’re recently been very busy and given little attention to your dog, then maybe now is the time to give them some love and attention. Take them for their favorite walk, play games and spend time cuddling.

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