Why Do Dogs Howl, And How To Stop It

Beagle Dog BarkingDogs howl for various reasons. The reasons range from situational to genetics to learned behavior to we don't know.

Breeds

Some dog breeds are more likely to howl because they are bred to be vocal. Hounds, such as Beagles, Coonhounds and Foxhounds are bred to be noisy during the hunt so the hunter can follow behind.

Sled dogs like the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky are also howl prone because vocalizing is part of the job of pulling people around on sleds. Of course, it isn't only rugged dogs on the job that are likely to howl, there are plenty of pampered companion dogs such as Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas that display impressive howling skills.

Boredom

When a dog is lonely or bored, he may howl. Some dogs don't mind napping the day away all alone. Other dogs become anxious and agitated when alone for long periods. These lonesome dogs may howl to pass the time or in hopes of getting someone to pay attention to them. Some lonely dogs dig holes or tear up the sofa. Some lonely dogs howl.

Spontaneous Random Howling

Other dogs seem to suddenly, spontaneously howl.

A sound may set them to howling:

  • It could be a person singing
  • The squeak of a cleaning cloth on glass
  • A police siren
  • The radio
  • A computer game
  • Another dog

The possibilities are limitless and sometimes unknown.

Dogs vs Wolves

There is some disagreement on whether dogs howl for the same reason wolves do.

The argument goes that dogs and wolves are related so they have much in common, why not howling? On the other hand, the majority of dogs and wolves have very different lifestyles.

Most dogs live with or among people. Most wolves live with and among wolves. To say that wolves and dogs howl for the same reason suggests that wolves and dogs and people speak the same language and have the same customs. It's a fun argument, but it really doesn't tell us why dogs howl.

Barkers and Howlers

Are dogs that bark more likely to be howlers? Maybe. Take a pack of hounds, for example, they bark while they are hunting, and howl when they aren't hunting. The typical Chihuahua is a lousy watchdog. He doesn't bother to bark when someone is at the door but he'll howl for a cookie.

So, what does this mean?

Barking and howling are sister vocalizations or complete strangers? Like the wolf/dog debate, the bark/howl debate is interesting, but best saved for another time.

Some dogs are taught to howl by their people because it's just so cute. It is cute, until the howling gets out of hand. Before you know it, you find yourself scrambling to find a way to get the dog to stop howling, before the neighbors complain.

How do you make a dog stop howling?

The No Command

The most direct way is to tell him to stop. In other words, NO! This method works best if you've already taught your dog what NO means. If you haven't, then basic training may be in order. After all, if you haven't taught him to COME and STAY and let him know that chewing the base of the kitchen cabinet is not allowed, you probably won't have much luck convincing him to be quiet.

Anti Bark Collars

Some say that anti bark collars will stop howling. These collars are tightly fitted so that when the dog moves his throat to make a sound it causes a little compartment on the collar to open, emitting a scent that dogs find unpleasant (usually citronella). The idea is that the dog associates his barking with the unpleasant smell, so he stops barking.

Eliminate Triggers

If you know the howling trigger, then you can attempt to avoid or remove the trigger. This works well if the trigger is say, every time you sing show tunes in the shower or do yoga chants, your dog howls. You can simply stop singing show tunes and doing yoga chants within your dog's hearing. No more howling!

Distract Him From Triggers

Other triggers are tough to control, such as sirens or wild birds chirping. For such triggers you can try redirection. Give the dog something else to do other than howl. For example, when you hear a siren and know that the dog ordinarily will howl once the siren sounds twice, you zoom in after one siren sound and make the dog sit. The dog sits, you praise him and give him a treat. You may have repeat the redirection several times. If you are consistent, the trigger's power over the dog can be thwarted.