Dogs howl for several reasons and some breeds howl more than others.
If you have a hound like me, it’s in their nature to howl. Beagles especially are designed to howl and do so to alert the pack to newfound prey. Their vocal chords are longer than most dogs and they can hold a sound in their throat to produce that characteristic beagle bay.
My dog is a cross between a beagle and a pointer and she has a unique sounding howl that she likes to rehearse when she’s out foraging around in the woods. She’s a bit like a siren, sounding the call and alerting all the dogs in the neighbourhood of potential prey, as well imminent danger.
The other day we were out walking in the woods when she spied a possible threat - a dog that was acting suspiciously. She raised the alarm and gave it her best howl. This is quite the signature sound; a note that can carry for miles and one unique only to her. She can hold it for a good minute or two. Even the ground vibrates and you certainly don’t want to be too close when she fires off.
All the dogs in the neighbourhood responded to that howl. Big dogs, little dogs, you could hear them all chime in, barking and yelping and spreading the word. This was accompanied by a collective Shh! from all the affected households. You could tell my dog felt proud of herself and in a way, I did too.
But what are some of the other reasons dogs may howl?
Separation Anxiety - this is one of the most common reasons why your dog would howl when he’s alone in the house. By howling he’s sending you a message and his GPS coordinates so you can easily find him. “Come home already! I miss you!”
Dogs who howl because of separation anxiety also show symptoms of destructive behaviour, messing in the house, and making a lot of noise. You’ll want to treat your dog’s separation anxiety with a few training methods known as reconditioning. If your dog is unhappy being left alone, consider a dog walker to come in during the day to check up on them and keep them company. It’s a great way to relieve the boredom and anxiety of being alone all day while you’re at work.
Territorial howling - this is when your dog howls to let other dogs and critters in the neighbourhood aware of their territory. This kind of howling usually takes place at dusk or night time when your dog hears other creatures stirring in the dark.
Pain or injury - this kind of howling will be unmistakable and accompanied with other symptoms like limping or bleeding. Be careful handling an injured dog, as they can become aggressive.
Senility - old dogs who become hard of hearing and lose their sight can easily become disoriented if they find themselves in a room all alone. For older dogs, it’s better to section off a part of the house where they feel safe and are free to wander without harm or distress.
Musical howling - some dogs just like the sound of their own voices and love to join in with your favourite songs. This can provide hours of amusement for both you and your dog when you discover a tune that sets them off. Get the cameras out and let them roll!
If you're concerned about your dog's howling, consult your veterinarian or find a behaviour specialist who can help you.
by Natalie Secretan