Why Do Dogs Howl?

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.


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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 

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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.

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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. Dr. 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