Why Do Dogs Howl When You Howl?

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No matter where you are, you almost surely have had experience hearing the unmistakable sounds of dogs howling from afar. So, why does a dog howl? What does it mean when a dog howls with you?

Dog howling is believed by researchers to be bound up in dog genetics. It was recognized that the DNA of the ancient dog breeds closely matches that of the wolves from which they descended. 

This leaves most pet owners asking: Why does my dog howl with me, then? Why do dogs howl when humans howl?  or simply, why do dogs howl and what are the reasons behind this? 

Dog communication seems to be at the core of this event, so let’s seek to find the answers to the query, “Why do dogs howl with you?”–and figure out what they might be saying.

Why Do Dogs Howl?

Like most canine behaviors, howling is an innate trait passed on by a dog’s ancestors. While the well-known howling canine is the wolf, it’s not unusual to see dogs howling too.

Wolves use howling to warn other animals to stay away from their territory, to help other wolves find each other, to identify themselves from other wolves, to beacon other members of the pack, and to bond with their pack members.

Our pets may not howl to keep intruders at bay or to pinpoint their whereabouts, but now, even if generations past, dogs howl as a form of communication.

Dogs are part of our human families. Therefore, we need to understand what their howl means so we can respond appropriately. Here are some of the common reasons why dogs howl.

What to Do When Your Dog is HowlingBonding

Dog howling can be a response to triggers in the dog’s environment. This reason remains uncertain. But if your dog never howled at the sound of other dogs howling, then perhaps a simple pitch of sirens has awakened his some otherwise-dormant genetic memory.

The triggers and prompts can be anything: popular television theme songs, music on a stereo at a party, or simply howling with your dog. Research confirms that dog howling happens when these particular sounds are perceived.

So if you’re wondering, “Why does my dog howl when I howl?” Perhaps one reason dogs howl is that they see it as a bonding activity, a form of communication from dog to dog, or beckoning a dog community.

If one dog starts howling, then another dog will most likely begin howling too. What does it mean when your dog howls with you? To simply put, it’s probably because they want to join in and be part of the action.

Attention Seeking

One of the common reasons why you’ll see dogs howling is because they are trying to seek your attention. Dogs employ vocalization to express their emotions and since all canines have different personalities, you have a pet who enjoys howling.

Some canines are naturally more vocal than others. So a dog howling at an individual to garner attention can be a type of defense mechanism or simply saying, “stay away” to signal that visitors or other people aren’t welcome and that a particular area is already claimed.

If his howling frequently occurs in your presence, it could just mean “come play” when he wants attention.

Anxiety

Another reason a dog may howl is separation anxiety in dogs. While their owners are away, dogs who have separation anxiety are commonly recognized by neighbors to be howling and causing a noisy display [1].

Sad to say, pets with separation anxiety and other types of behavioral concerns are usually stressed and anxious so they get their owner’s attention to seek help. If you hear howling when you step out of the door or leave your dog at home, it’s a good sign that your dog may be scared, stressed, and have separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety typically involves other things besides howling, like, pacing, destructive behavior, or clawing at a cage or door.

How Come My Dog is Howling at Me

Medical Concern

In the wild, hunting dogs usually howl to signal the apprehension of prey. If a wolf has cornered, treed, or caught something, it howls to alert others about the location of the prize. But oftentimes if they were hurt or injured during the hunt, they will likely howl frequently or in a shrieking manner.

Since a dog may howl if they are hurt or sick, howling can be an indication of pain from abdominal discomfort, a sudden injury, or another type of illness. Dog dementia, in particular, is a medical issue that affects a dog’s cognitive function and can also cause them to howl. This is similar to Alzheimer’s in people and commonly seen in older dogs.

This issue is a neurological problem and since a dog may be confused, it may begin howling just to hear itself or because it is scared. If you are worried that your dog may be howling because of a medical condition, then you should get it checked out by a vet as soon as possible.

Reasons Why Your Dog Is Howling

What Do I Do About A Dog’s Howling?

Howling as a sign of anxiety. Spend time with your dog. When you return home, offer him plenty of attention and love. Let them spend more quality time with you indoors, take them on walks, and work on training or tricks. Playing with them alleviates their stress or anxiety and strengthens your bond.

Howling in response to sounds. If your dog’s howling is triggered by certain high-pitched sounds like music, siren, or any auditory stimulation, chances are he’ll stop baying when the sound also stops. Turn off the music or train your dog. If you noticed you’re dog being well-behaved and not responding to triggers or outside sounds, give him a special toy or a treat as his reward.

Attention-seeking howl. When the attention-seeking howling persists it may need the training to redirect your dog’s intentions. Try to ignore your dog’s howl and make him feel invisible. This technique tells him that his howling doesn’t work.

You could also use ‘the reward quiet behavior’ when a dog is given a reward if he’s well-behaved and doesn’t respond to any triggers. It may also be helpful to teach your dog to obey some commands (making sounds only if he’s being asked to e.g. “speak!” or “quiet”). Don’t forget to praise your dog for his good behavior.

Finding help. If you can’t get your dog’s howling under control, don’t be afraid to reach out to a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). If you think your dog is reacting to family members, other dogs, or strangers in a negative way, it may be time to contact an animal expert. They can assist you in knowing what to do about your dog’s howling.

How to Discourage a Dog from Howling?

Reinforcement

If you wish to put off your pet’s attention-seeking howling, the most effective method is through reinforcement, a behavior conditioning technique.

If your dog starts howling, you must completely ignore him. When your dog is calm and the howling stops, you can reward them with the attention he needs–known as positive reinforcement.

See a Vet for Medical Concerns

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, the best course of action is to seek help from a veterinarian that specializes in behavior problems. If you don’t live in a location with a behavior specialist, you could visit your local veterinarian to rule out this issue and other medical concerns.

Desensitization

If your dog’s howling is due to certain noises and you wish to discourage this behavior, you could use another type of behavior-conditioning technique called desensitization and counterconditioning. To do desensitization, you will have to implement a lesser form of noise.

If the clatter at a low level doesn’t trigger your dog’s howling, then slowly increase the volume in succeeding sessions. Eventually, Fido will lose interest in the sound, and the howling feedback should stop. You can also employ counterconditioning in which you provide a reward when he is calm.

What Not to Do When A Dog is Howling?

Howling can be a dog’s way of verbal manipulation to get your attention. This behavior can become bothersome so you must learn not to reward his vocal demands. 

Don’t talk or pet him while he’s baying, but don’t reprimand him either as this may make the situation worse. Give him the attention he craves only when he quiets down. Another way to put off this habit is to reward only his quiet behavior with treats and random hugs.

The most important thing to note: Do not punish your dog during his howling episode as it will only amplify or worsen the behavior.

What You Need to Know About Dogs Howling

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Bad To Howl With Your Dog?

Yes, it is bad to howl with your dog if you’re the one who initiated it. Howling, barking, and whining are serious things in a dog’s life. It’s a pack animal behavior, so once you start making a howling sound, you are simply alerting him to something disrupting, but that disruption is you.

Are Dogs Happy When They Howl?

No, dogs are not happy when they howl. Happy, relaxed, or excited dogs do not typically howl. In fact, a  dog sometimes howls out of a confused state of fear. If they fear for their lives, extremely scared puppies may let out a howl. Even a stray dog being caught by some good Samaritans may howl when they’re scared. But regardless of the reason, if a dog is howling, it is sadly a sign that he is terrified.

Do Dogs Like It When You Howl With Them?

Yes, dogs like it when you howl with them especially if you’re not the cause of it. In some cases, howling is their way of communicating their affection with you. So it’s a natural habit to provide a proper response. 

As mentioned, howling can be a bonding activity for dogs. Thus, this gives Fido the pleasure of companionship with you. A sad form of howling in pets, however, can be a sign of loneliness or separation anxiety. 

Conclusion

Whether they’re young pups or adult dogs, one thing to consider is that dog howling, like any other form of canine vocal expression, has no fixed meaning. As long as there are pet dogs, there will be howling. Constant or occasional. Exuberant or mournful. Howling is simply part of normal canine communication.

The answer to the question: “Why do dogs howl when I howl? ” Or “My dog howls with me, what does it mean?” is a shifting indicator whose interpretation is dependent on the situation. As his owner, we just have to listen and try to understand what they are telling us.