You’ve likely heard your dog let loose his inner wolf and belt out a few long howls. 73% of dog owners in a recent IAMS poll* believe they do this to communicate. This form of vocalization has a long history and is used for different reasons. Understanding more about howling will help you understand your pooch better.
History of Howling
Howling is an ancient trait wolves use to communicate with other members of their pack and other packs over long distances. They may be trying to locate a lost member, show off the size of their pack or warn of danger. It’s like a canine group text.
A wolf’s howl can be heard up to 10 miles away.
Each wolf has their own unique howl, so pack members know who they are, even miles apart.
Reasons Dogs Howl
Joining in the Chorus
Dogs instinctually respond to howling-like noises by howling themselves. Sounds such as sirens, other dogs, singing or your kid learning the violin is usually enough to get them to sound off.
Where are you?
Dogs are still very social animals; it’s just that now we’re their pack. When they miss us, they’ll howl in hopes we respond.
Opens a new windowDr. James Serpell, BSc, PhD, Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, explains it this way: “That [howling] is an attempt on the part of the dog to ask the owner basically, ‘Where are you so that I can rejoin you?’”
Are certain breeds more likely to howl?
Dr. James Serpell doesn’t believe so. “My own research has shown that it is common across breeds. People think huskies may be more prone to group howling.”
How to handle an over-howler
Dogs going through separation anxiety may howl excessively when left home alone. Dr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager for Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, says, “If you reinforce quiet behavior, they are less likely to continue howling.” You can do this by quieting your dog and then leaving for a very brief time before returning and rewarding them when they stay quiet. Gradually increase the time you’re gone to reassure them you’ll always be back.
*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+
Sample Size: n=201
Fielded May 8 to May 10, 2020
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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