Can Howling Indicate Anxiety In Dogs?

Everyone knows the popular saying—dogs are a man’s best friend. Over the years the bond has just grown closer. As a dog owner yourself, you know you would do everything for your furry friend. You would play with them, walk them, feed them and even clean up after them.

With their well-being in mind, any unusual behavior often alerts you and brings some worries. Howling and barking are a dog’s way of communicating and are deeply ingrained in its genetic makeup. But there are many specific reasons why they do this. Read on to know:

Why Do Dogs Howl?

Your neighbors may come knocking at your door one day to complain of your dog’s howling. Apparently, your dog only does this while you’re away. You do some research to find out if your dog has separation anxiety. Here are a few more reasons a dog may howl:

  1. They use it as a homing beacon – Dogs in the wild hunt in packs, and if anybody gets lost, they howl to send a signal to that dog to come back to their home base. This is similar to humans who hunt in the wild and use modern devices to bring members back to their base. It’s a dog’s way of showing concern to a member of their pack who could be in danger when left alone in the wild. 
  2. They use it as a defense mechanism – Dogs are territorial species. They can claim and occupy space and home and become protective of that area. Anybody they don’t know can be considered an enemy, so they howl to ward off strangers and predators in the wild. A dog’s instinct is to protect its pack, which is heightened when they become parents. 
  3. To express anxiety – Dogs don’t want to be left alone. When they’re left behind for extended periods, they get lonely and depressed and resort to howling. It’s their way of protesting their situation. This happens more intensely if they don’t have something to play with. So, the next time you step out of that door, leave something that your furry companion can be busy with. You can buy durable toys from pet shops to keep them occupied. 
  4. Response to stimuli – Another unusual behavior of a dog is their tendency to join in an activity excitedly. When they perceive a high-pitched sound like a police siren or an ambulance, they get excited and perk up and join in the noise. It seems that they want to be part of the action. So even when you play loud music or turn the volume of the television up, they treat it as a signal to make noise. Many believe it’s part of a dog’s distant dormant genetic memory. 
  5. Express pain – Many dogs cry in pain; you’ll see tears pouring down their sad eyes. But some dogs vocalize their pain by howling. Since it’s difficult for them to express emotions, they do it the best and easiest they know how and that’s to howl in anguish. The intensity of their howl varies on the pain that they feel.
  6. Alert you to discovery – In the wild, during hunting, dogs howl to alert the pack of their discovery. And when they get cornered by an enemy, they will howl to signal for help. Domesticated dogs may howl to alert their owners of something they discovered. It could be a piece of bone hidden somewhere, another animal in their territory, or the presence of someone they’re not familiar with. 
cute small dog standing on two legs and looking away by the window searching or waiting for his owner. Pets indoors

How To Deal With Howling?

Dogs await your reaction to their howling. The more you react, the more they will use howling to get your attention. If you always give your dog treats or attention to get them to stop howling, they would think it’s proper behavior, and they are being rewarded. To avoid this, here’s how to deal with howling:

Ignore Your Dog’s Howling

When your furry pet begins to howl, try your hardest to ignore them. It would be very challenging at first, but you have to be tough if you want to correct this behavior. When they howl, try leaving the room or focusing on your own activity. Be patient and don’t give in until they realize howling doesn’t work.

Dog with opened mouth (barking, screaming, complaining). Natural outdoor background.

Reward Quiet Behavior

Often you only notice your dog when they’re being rowdy and playful, not when they’re silent and behaved. It would be best if you reinforced this quiet behavior by rewarding them with treats during these specific moments. 


Having a dog is a big responsibility. Any behavioral issues need to be addressed; otherwise, they’ll think that it’s okay and will continue to do it, making your relationship with other people suffer. Learn to know your pet dog very well and apply the necessary actions to correct their behavior.

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