Why Do Dogs Howl?

If you have a dog that howls you may wonder what they're trying to tell you? Here's what we know about dogs howling.

Your dog is in the yard on doggie patrol when all of the sudden he lets out an "Awooooo." It's a high-pitched, long-winded tone the whole neighborhood can't help but hear. Did he just howl?

Howling is an evolutionary holdover from wolves, explains Amanda Nascimento, head of Integrative Veterinary Medicine and Research at NHV Natural Pet. It's how wolves communicate with one another in the wild.

Some breeds like huskies, malamutes, beagles, and coonhounds may be more apt to let out a howl. These breeds may be genetically closer to their ancestors, the wolves. But many dogs can make the deep-throated sound if they want to.

Dog barking and howling
Getty Images

Dogs Howl to Communicate

While some dogs enjoy a good howl as almost a recreational activity, others use it as a form of communication. They may howl to get attention, to let another dog know they are nearby, or just to say, "this is my yard—keep off."

"In the wild, wolves use the howl to call to other members of their pack, guide another wolf home or warn their pack of danger," says Dr. Nascimento. Dogs may even howl for some of those same reasons—alerting you to something they found or warning you of what they deem dangerous, like a raccoon nearby.

Dogs Howl to Claim Their Territory

Dr. Nascimento says howling could also be a way dogs claim territory, which is why howling can be more common habit when they are outside in their yard. If your dog only occasionally howls that could be the culprit. If you have a chronic howler, however, you might check to make sure he's not howling out of boredom, anxiety, separation anxiety, or if something else is up.

Howling = Singing or Joy

Some dogs are triggered to howl by the sound of sirens, other high-pitched sounds, or music as though they are singing along. In this case, howling may be a fun activity your dog engages in responding to the noise. Some dogs will even join in on howling if they hear other dogs doing it.

Finally, it could be that your dog howls not out of any necessity but out of pure joy. Dogs may howl simply because they can, and they enjoy hearing themselves howl. Next time your dog howls, try to discover which of these many reasons may put him up to that long, slow awooooo.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles