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A dog howling can turn from adorable to annoying pretty quickly. Sure, it’s hilarious when you play music and your pup starts howling along to the tune. But it’s less funny at three o’clock in the morning. Or if your howling dog is so loud that your neighbors complain. Here’s the science behind why dogs howl and what you can do if your dog won’t stop howling.
Howling is a bit of a mystery—even to dog behavior experts—right up there with why dogs eat poop. When it comes to dogs howling, we do know that it’s connected to pups’ wolf cousins. Wolves use howling as a way to communicate over a large territory. Because the sound carries for up to 10 miles, they are able to share their location with other pack members when hunting or signaling territory.
While evolution has separated domesticated dogs from wolves, the two still have a lot in common, explains Annie Grossman, owner and co-founder of School For The Dogs. Certain breeds like beagles, huskies, and malamutes are more prone to howling, but any breed of dog can howl.ne explanation is that dogs enjoy feeling like a part of a pack, so they mimic the sound. “There are a lot of dogs that howl when they hear something that sounds like howling,” says Grossman. “So a siren, music, or if you make a howling sound can trigger a response. It’s so innate that it can be triggered by anything howl-like.”
When your dog doesn’t normally howl and starts all of sudden, it might be worth taking them to the vet. “If your dog is doing something out of the ordinary and there’s no clear explanation, it’s a good idea to have a full medical workup,” advises Grossman. “They can’t tell us about pain so sometimes changes in behavior are an indication of physical discomfort.” If your dog struggles with separation anxiety when you leave, howling can also be a way they express their stress and displeasure, Grossman explains.
If your dog howls constantly, Grossman recommends a few ways to get him to stop…
#1 Stop howling by minimizing the trigger.
If your pup is howling because he’s hearing something that triggers it, minimize the noise. “If it’s a noise in the hallway, see if a white noise machine would help and put a draft stopper under the door to deaden the sound,” says Grossman. “Classical music can also help!” The same trick also works if your dog is barking at a loud noise like fireworks. In fact, recent research found that songs that resemble classic human lullabies can help calm dogs down.
#2 Stop howling by tire your dog out.
A tired dog is a happy dog. “Make sure your pup is getting a lot of enrichment where they’re getting their heart rate up. So play with your dog, go for walks, and give them problem solving toys,” says Grossman. Being engaged and content will make pups less likely to howl out loud! Try these tips to work out with your dog. Stuck inside? Get creative to burn off their energy in a small space.
#3 Teach your dog to howl on cue.
Another training trick is teaching your dog to howl on cue—and then never give the dog the cue. “So if you know a song makes them howl, play that, then reward the behavior,” says Grossman. “Eventually the cue will be a signal that they get a reward. Then you can cue it at appropriate moments." Or not at all!
#4 Howl with your dog.
For dogs seeking that feeling of community, you can howl with them (only true pet parents would do this!) “It helps to satiate that communal longing they’re feeling," says Grossman. Another trick? "Acknowledge your dog’s howling and thank them for alerting you by rewarding them with a treat like Another peanut butter — which will make it hard for them to keep howling."
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.
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