While most dogs howl, there are some specific breeds of dogs that tend to howl more, such as basset hounds, beagles, Siberian huskies, and bloodhounds, among others. But most dogs, no matter what their age, will at least occasionally sing the songs of their people. But why?
Canines and their ancestors
Because dogs evolved from wolves, our furry companions share 99.9% of their DNA with their wild counterparts. Annie Lennon, writing for labroots, tells us more about how dogs have become domesticated here. Despite their differences, it is not surprising that dogs have inherited a lot of the same habits and traits as wolves, including howling as communication–a tool wolves use to alert each other about their locations, warn rival packs that their territory is already taken, and to show affection.
Similarly, dogs howl to tell us important things, both good AND bad: like hey, there is a possible intruder or I’m right here, pay attention or oh gosh, that’s a loud noise, or even you know what–I love you! In order to interpret your dog’s howls, it helps to pay close attention to their body language to discern whether they are talking because they are anxious, joyful, or wanting attention. Howling also benefits us and protects our safety, as dogs can alert us if there is a threat, waking us up if a fire breaks out while we are sleeping, for instance.
As our loyal best friends, dogs and their howling can actually save our lives. Lila has forced me to pay attention to things that I cannot believe I would have missed noticed otherwise. Shes also adorable when she howls for beggin’ bacon strips on the floor. The point is, howls are one of our dogs’ most valuable ways of communicating.
Dreaming and howling
Dogs often howl when they are dreaming, which can even be paired with growling, if they are having a nightmare. I have seen this first hand with my dog. Lila. To help her get through the bad dream, I just gently rub her head and call her name in a soft tone until she wakes up from her nightmare calmly. A little love always works without making her upset or angry. It’s important to never wake up your dog in an abrupt or harsh manner because this can possibly leave them feeling even more scared, traumatized, or put them in a bad, snappy mood. You might think of dream-howling as the equivalent of humans talking in our sleep.
Dogs will be dogs and will howl from time to time. Most of us find this endearing. However, if this behavior starts to become bothersome to your or your neighbors then it is best to give these tips, by Lisa Moloney at the American Kennel Club, a try. Listening closely to your dog’s howls will help you figure out whether they signal separation anxiety or a medical problem. In these cases, the vocalization might be accompanied by pacing or even shrieking.
It may also help to adjust your dog’s environment—or even test out a totally new one–to see if it changes their howling habits. If you cannot get it under control, we recommend talking to your vet or working with a certified trainer.
Finally, we have to remember that our lovely furry canines will always be related to wolves, therefore we should love them for who and how they are, and always appreciate them for keeping an eye out for us!
Jazmine is currently a senior studying at Pace University majoring in public relations, and will be graduating with her BA at the end of 2022. Jazmine is a lover of all animals and has a pet of her own, Lila—-a poodle/schnauzer mix–who she has had since she was 13. Jazmine is so excited to be a first-time intern at AAPP!