, June 25, 2024

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Why Dogs Howl

  •   5 min reads
Why Dogs Howl
by Mariana Burgos

Our neighboring farm has a lot of dogs. We know this because almost every night, their dogs howl all at the same time. And they do this for more than 10 minutes or so! Sometimes, our dogs howl back but other times, they simply bark back a little to them and they would just listen if the howling continued.

Dogs play various functions within their packs. Some are scouts who go out and howl back to the pack that they have found someone or something threatening. Siren noises may appear frightening to dogs. Back at pack headquarters, the leader will howl to bring the scouts home or to warn them of hazards or prospective predators.

Every dog has the potential to be a howler or a barker. Breeds that can trace their ancestry back to wolves, such as the husky, Alaskan malamute, Akita, and Shiba Inu, are more likely to howl. However, all sorts of dogs, including quiet dog breeds, are capable of howling on occasion.

Even experts are baffled as to why dogs howl at specific times. However, the dog’s progenitor, the wolf, provides hints that may assist us with some explanations.

A Golden Retriever howling in a garden. (Photo from Depositphotos royalty-free images.)

Getting back to its roots

Veterinarians Ryan Llera and Lynn Buzhardt explain in their article “Why Do Dogs Howl?” that howling has evolutionary origins just like many canine activities. In the wild, fearful wolves in the woods howled to alert other members of their pack family of their whereabouts. The brave wolves howled to warn other wild creatures to keep away from their domain. Your dog may not howl to alert you to their whereabouts or to keep intruders at bay, but dogs still howl as a method of communication, as they have for millennia.

Communicating with other dogs

Llera and Buzhardt say that howling is a method of communication used by pack members to locate one another. Dogs that remain behind vocalize to direct scouting members back to safety and to communicate the position of home base. When a dog is left at home alone, he or she may howl when they hear you drive up to your house or see you mounting the stairs in an attempt to direct you safely back to them.

Showing alertness and readiness to respond

Many dogs howl when provoked by high-pitched sounds such as sirens and music, or in reaction to the vocalizations of another dog. Howling acknowledges that they have heard the sound and expresses their readiness to reply or wish to participate in the action. If your dog’s howling is caused by an aural stimulus, he will most likely stop when the sound ends, according to Llera and Buzhardt.

A man plays a harmonica while his dog howls (sings).(Photo from Depositphotos royalty-free images.)

Giving out a warning

Howling is an effective protective technique for warding off possible predators. When a stranger enters their area, dogs may howl in order to protect their homes. Some dogs howl to keep strangers out of their area. Howling also alerts approaching dogs that a certain territory has already been claimed and outsiders are not welcome.

Announcing its arrival

Howling warns nearby dogs that their environment is about to change. An arriving dog may howl to warn dwelling dogs that they are on their way. Llera and Buzhardt say that this audible notice avoids an approaching dog from shocking the present residents of a neighborhood.

Seeking attention

Nothing attracts a dog owner’s attention like a piercing howl, therefore the strategy succeeds. Some dogs, like some children, will do anything for attention, even if it is bad, thus reprimanding your dog may aggravate the problem. Give him the attention he craves once he calms down.

Because canine verbal manipulation may become annoying, humans must learn not to reward vocal requests.

Expressing their fears and worries

‘You are the world to your dog,’ said Llera and Buzhardt. They are concerned with your activities and make a great deal about your arrivals and departures. Howling and destructive behavior are two tell-tail—er, telltale—signs of separation anxiety. If your dog has separation anxiety, he may howl if left alone. Because separation anxiety causes howling only when the dog is removed from his owner, the howling disappears as soon as you return home. The easiest method to help a dog that is acting out in this way is to take them outside and let them run about before you go. This allows dogs to expend any excess energy they may have that they may choose to rest the whole time you are away.

A dog in distress howled because it was locked inside a car.(Photo from Depositphotos royalty-free images.)

Expressing pain or illness

When people are harmed, they cry, and dogs do as well (by howling). Dogs may howl when they are unwell, especially if they are crated or confined, to alert everyone within earshot that they are not feeling well. To express their distress, dogs will howl. Bring your dog to the veterinarian to rule out any disease or damage.

Expressing excitement about a discovery

When dogs are joyful or enthusiastic, they will howl. When hunting breeds such as beagles, foxhounds, and basset hounds find game, they howl to notify their human hunting mates. Even if there is no actual hunting going on, your dog may let out a howl as a display of joy and pride when it discovers something new or discovers an unusual object in the backyard.

Speaking of your dog’s happiness, have you ever wondered why dogs smile? Have a read of this article I wrote about it: https://manilastandard.net/pets/314242618/why-do-dogs-smile.html#:~:text=Home%20%20Pets-,Why%20do%20dogs%20smile%3F,-byMariana%20Burgos.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She has been a solo parent for 16 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

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