Howling is a natural form of communication used by dogs for various reasons. Dogs may howl to seek attention, establish contact with others, or announce their presence. Some dogs also howl in response to specific sounds, such as sirens or musical instruments. If your dog howls excessively, it is essential to address the underlying cause.
First, rule out separation anxiety as a potential cause of howling. If your dog exhibits excessive howling when left alone, along with other signs of separation anxiety like pacing, destruction, or elimination, it's likely related to this condition. Additionally, consider any potential medical issues that could be causing your dog's howling by consulting with a veterinarian.
If your dog howls in response to specific triggers, such as other dogs or sirens, the howling may stop once the sound ceases. If these triggers occur frequently, you can use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques to help your dog learn to be quiet.
Problems to Rule Out First
Separation Anxiety Howling
If your neighbors call you and tell you that your dog is howling when you are at work, your dog’s excessive howling might be caused by separation anxiety. Separation anxiety howling only occurs when a dog is left alone or otherwise separated from his owner. This kind of howling is usually accompanied by at least one other symptom of separation anxiety, such as pacing, destruction, elimination, depression or other signs of distress.
Dogs sometimes howl when they’re hurt or sick. If your dog starts howling or howls more than usual, take him to a veterinarian to rule out illness and injury before doing anything else.
What to Do About Excessive Howling
Howling in Response to Sounds
If your dog howls in response to some kind of trigger, like another dog howling or a nearby siren, he’ll probably stop when the sound stops. This type of howling usually isn’t excessive—unless, of course, the triggers occur frequently. If they do, you can use desensitization and counterconditioning (DSCC) to help your dog learn to be quiet.
Desensitization and counterconditioning involve gradually exposing your dog to the trigger in a controlled and positive manner. This helps change their emotional response to the trigger, ultimately reducing or eliminating the howling behavior. It is advisable to seek the assistance of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) or a behaviorist who has expertise in desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.
If your dog howls to seek attention from you, it's important to address this behavior as well. Teach your dog that howling does not lead to attention or desired objects. Completely ignore your dog when they start howling, avoiding eye contact, touch, or verbal interaction. Do not scold them, as this can inadvertently reinforce the behavior. Instead, reward your dog for being quiet. Randomly give treats or attention when your dog is not making noise, and establish a rule that your dog only receives desired items or attention when they have been quiet for at least five seconds.
You can also teach your dog a command to be quiet. Start by encouraging your dog to bark or howl on command, then introduce a cue like "Hush" or "Quiet" to stop the vocalization. Reward your dog when they stop barking or howling for a few seconds. Gradually increase the duration of silence required before giving a reward.
If the howling issue persists or proves challenging to address, seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) who can provide guidance and assistance. Spending quality time with your dog, ensuring they receive ample social interaction, and providing engaging activities can also help alleviate loneliness-related howling.
Remember, understanding the underlying cause of your dog's howling and using positive reinforcement techniques will help modify their behavior effectively.
Because howling issues can be challenging to work with, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). Many CPDTs offer group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of help with attention-seeking howling.
Spend Time with Your Dog
Some dogs howl because they’re lonely, especially if they’re left alone or kept outside for many hours at a time. Dogs, like humans, are very social animals and need regular interaction with their human families. If your dog howls often when by himself, you may need to spend more quality time together. Bring him inside more often, play games and take walks with him. Take him to a fun training class that focuses on rewarding good behavior. When you must leave your dog home alone for more than a few minutes, be sure to give him plenty of toys and attractive chew items to enjoy by himself.