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Why Dogs Howl

What Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You

Does your dog howl with ambulance sirens? Whenever you practice a musical instrument? Every time the emergency alert system goes off on the first Wednesday of each month? Howling dogs can be cute, funny, worrying, and even annoying. But, like barking, it’s also an important way dogs communicate vocally.

Dogs howl for a variety of reasons – and some dogs howl more than others. However, the most basic reasons for a dog to howl include:

  • Getting attention
  • Raising an alert
  • Making contact and acknowledging other dogs
  • Responding to high-pitched sounds or noises

But why howl instead of bark? Part of that question goes back to their origins – the wolf. Those animals have such a strong reputation for howling, it’s hard to imagine them without their heads thrown back in a baleful cry to the moon.

In reality, a howl is far more useful to a wild animal than a bark. That’s because they carry much farther. In fact, in open terrain, a howl can travel up to 10 miles. But even the loudest bark can only reach up to two miles. So, a howl can help a wolf connect with another wolf at greater distances, like a long-distance phone call – whether they’re trying to raise an alert or make contact with another wolf.

Domesticated dogs may not have the same needs as a wolf, but that doesn’t extinguish their natural instincts to howl. And, as their pack member, it’s your job to figure out what they’re trying to tell you.

When dogs howl in response to sirens or other sounds, it’s often because the pitch resembles a canine calling card to them. Other dogs learn to howl because they get attention from humans – either good or bad. But more concerning causes of howling include separation anxiety and medical issues. In these cases, your dog is communicating emotional or physical distress, so you should talk to your vet.

Your dog may not be a wolf anymore, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their primal instincts. The next time they throw back their head to howl, listen up to see what they’re trying to say.

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