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Why do dogs howl?

Updated on March 18, 2009

A dog that howls in the middle of the night is certainly not fun especially if the howling would make other dogs follow suit. Of course when other dogs in the neighborhood howl you will not have irate neighbors as their dogs are howling as well.

Howling dogs

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Beliefs behind the howl

The howling of the dog has many superstitious connotations. The howling is associated with something evil and ominous. When dogs howl on moonless and rainy nights you can almost picture zombies walking in the streets. It is also believed that when a dog howls, the Reaper is near and someone is about to die. All these beliefs are really baseless and there are other reasons why dogs howl.

Howling…an inherited trait

Domesticated dogs have descended from the wolves. These canids are howlers. Howling is the frequently used form of verbal communication of wolves. Wolves howl to gather the pack especially when there is an imminent danger. Wolves probably know that howl travels much farther than a bark. The human family is considered by the domesticated dog as its pack. A dog may not need to gather the pack but the howling trait kicks in from time to time.

Reasons why domesticated dogs howl

Howling is considered to be one of the verbal communications used by dogs. A dog may howl when it is trying to get the attention of its pack which in this case is the human family. The dog may be hungry, thirsty or uncomfortable. The dog may be bored, lonely or suffering from separation anxiety. Dogs that are cooped inside the house all day or one that is leashed in the backyard would howl. Dogs are social animals. Unlike cats that are quite independent from their owners, dogs would constantly need the attention of their human family. Dogs need to be petted or cuddled. Some owners even speak to their dogs using dog baby talk. This is how dogs are loved. It is not surprising if the pet would howl and pine for its family. As the howl is carried for miles, the dog may be trying to establish contact with its missing master. The howling could stem from a medical condition. Dogs have different personalities. While some dogs have a great tendency to howl other breeds never howl at all. A rather “silent” pet that has suddenly taken to howling should not be ignored. The howling can signify that the dog is in pain.

In spite of all the studies done on canine behavior, the reason why dogs howl is not exactly clear. It would then be up to the owner to see what is wrong with the dog. The dog may be howling because it is unhappy. On the other hand the howling may be the dog’s way of joining the family’s fun. 

The howling dog

Dog howling

Dog singing jingle bells


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    • profile image

      AL 4 years ago

      18 month cockapoo tri colored named Jesse always breaking bad. He howls with most TV commercial & some TV show tunes. I thought at first something was ailling him. Looked at this site for answers found nothing helpful. He just must be singing?

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      Stephanie 5 years ago

      Chinese believe that when dogs howl at night, it means that there are spirit and ghost around. Chinese believe that dogs have the abilities to see these things.

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      C DONOVAN 5 years ago

      I LOVE BOO!!!!!!!!!

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      Tina 5 years ago

      I have a 4lb miniature chihuahua that howls every time I call my bigger dog in from outdoors. She usually only does it if I am holding her while I call for him but occasionally she'll do it even if I'm not. I can't figure out if she does it because that's what she thinks I'm doing and wants to join in? I don't know, but it really is pretty funny and cute when she does :)

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      maria 6 years ago

      My golden retriever howled when we were burying my other dog. It was very sad indeed.

      Today, my neighbour's dogs have howled for 4 or 5 hours. They were driving me crazy! But my puppies stayed with me without answering. Super.

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      Iffat 6 years ago

      My dog howls at Police sirens, the ice cream vans' tune or at any other alarm or siren...Why does he do thiss?

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      Thoracias 6 years ago

      My mothers 10 yr old chihuahua howls all night long. We can't find anything wrong and he stops once she wakes up. We have made sure there is food, water, a night light, comfy blankets, toys, etc. and she has even put him in bed with her and he STILL whines all night. It's driving my husband crazy because he gets up early for work. I don't know what to do!

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      daisy 6 years ago

      my dog Bingo started howling after I moved my other dog Binky to my grandma's house. they were used to being together and when my grandma asked me to gave Binky to her (because she treated Binky like her own dog every time she slept over at my house), I couldn't say no. since then, Bingo started howling days and nights. I think he's lonely and missing Binky so much, and I also think he's kind of upset at me for separating Binky from him.

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      kelly 6 years ago

      i watch and care for 5 different breed of dogs, and last night was the first time i heard the 3 biggest ones howl, yea i got very scared, not at them but at what they might be howling at, i wasn't sure, and not only that, they are good well behaved dogs, and sleep through the night, but something woke them up, and bark followed by howling, we live on a farm, so maybe they howled at cows i don't know, but i do know they don't normally do that, any comments out there to why these guys would do that out the blue in the middle of the night?

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      kay 6 years ago

      just trying to find out why suddenly my beagle, eight, starts to howl sometines after he eats and over top of his "babies". He doesn't seem distressed as all the input seems to think, but I really don't get it. After a nice piece of steak or roast beef...never chicken or his dog food.

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      Paty 6 years ago

      I gave food to a street dog .n when I wen inside my house he started howling at my door I got a ,chill run down my back yet I scare him away n about 5steps away he did it again what does it mean?

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      freestar 6 years ago

      Dogs howl because they see the spiritual world, the too are infinite light spiritual beings who are are clairvoyant. The see energy and their high pitched howls are vibrations which can be read from the broader perspective, in which, may help give non-physcial spirits direction as to where they can be lead unto heaven or across the veil. Great Question!

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      bert 6 years ago

      a bunch of loose dogs howled others followed,...and they where looking at the second open floor of our house,...kinda scary ,.makes me think that they see a ghost,..wew

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      Ryan & kyra 6 years ago

      Our dogs stop howling once we stand near them.(once they can see us)

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      Lisa 7 years ago

      My dog howls when sirens from emergency vehicles go past...

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      soterja 7 years ago

      hey there my friends have a lab cross bull matiff and he has been howling a lot latley.. i think it is because he keeps being chained up.. see he jumps the neighbours fence and that is the reason they have him on a chain in the backyard.. its really sad hearing him howl because he sounds so sad.. he isn't ill from what i have observed he just seems really sad.. the neighbours have a dog and i think that may be why he keeps jumping the fence.. from what i know he had a brother maybe he is missing him?? what do you think could be done about him jumping the neighbours fence.

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      freestar 7 years ago

      Dogs are here to dispell negative energy around them and their owners. They are here as like a messenger, one to tell us not to get so hung-up on the materialistic world and the other to help us stay in alignment with our inner spirit, in which, should mean the world to us, being, if we are angry or frustrated, we are out of alignment with us, with our eternal spiritual inner being. This is why dogs will walk in between two people who are fighting. And, will try to cheer someone up if they are down or being fussy. HOwever, dogs can see the eternal world also,in other words, spirits. It is something you have to understand for in their special design they are magnificent beings who also choose to either come into this world, or not. But they choose to because of their love for us, even knowing how this world can be, it doesn't stop them from trying to help us. Howling can mean many things, but to me it is them piercing a portal into another dimensional reality to allow the spirit around them to go onto the place in where they belong. Now this can be a spirit of the animal kingdom or ghost but for whatever reason, be especially nice to them at this time and make sure they are ok. They keep us healthy -if we allow it to be. Great Question! Good Luck!

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      mary 7 years ago

      that's not the rythm of jingle bell take them to singing class

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      Valery 7 years ago

      my dog has suddenly started howling when my partner leaves for work but it has just started and my partner has wrked for months usually i just let him in the bed with me and he goes bk 2 sleep im worried it may be he is in pain as he had cancer not tht long ago i am goin 2 phone the vet but im scared why he has all of a sudden started this and yes im scared of the moany neighbours complaining!!

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      snow 7 years ago

      my oldest dog started howling one night and my other two little dogs joined in. it was so weird to here that doggy chorus. tripped me out. they don't usually howl.the little two are a chiauhua and a pommie they usually have little yapping barks.

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      juju 7 years ago

      my dog howls only when left alone in the backyard b/c it messes up the house at times...

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      Kris 7 years ago

      I caught my dog howling once. It was at that monthly emergency siren. When she saw me looking she stopped. Haha.

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      Unknown 7 years ago

      my wiener dog howls randomly during the day. what is causing her to do this?

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      opismedia 7 years ago

      Well i caught my dog howl only when he is left alone in the house for a long period of time, like half of day or something like that. Or when the phone rings and i don't feel like answering, after 3-4 rings he begin to howl... i guess he thinks i can't hear it :)

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      cutepuppypicture 8 years ago

      Oh yes when dogs howl it is really scary. Reminds me of DRACULA movie. My darling are trained from young not to bark nor howl. Phew !