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Why Do Dogs Howl?

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While it’s the Huskies, Bloodhounds, and Beagles that lead the proverbial pack, almost any dog breed can toss back his head and utter a bone-chilling howl if the mood strikes him. Even my Schnoodles have been known to extend a yappy bark into a long-winded, howl-ish sound when the mail is delivered.  So, what causes dogs to howl? Well, it’s instinctive. It’s a primal reaction they’ve carried forward from thousands of years ago, when our pooches were wolves. It’s how they communicated with one another when their pack had split up and they needed to locate one another. In fact, the howl of a wolf has been known to carry up to 5 kilometres from point of origin. So, a good howl has served him well over the years.

But why, you may wonder, does Rover feel the need to break into a howl when he’s in the comfort of his own home with friends and family just a few feet away?  There are a number of reasons he could be spouting off, including:

  1. Low Musical Notes. Long, low tones such as those produced by a bass fiddle, cello, or bass guitar, can make your dog think he hears another dog calling out. This causes him to respond in kind. Similarly, with long, drawn-out sirens. Dogs will instantly break into a howling chorus that stops the moment the provoking sound stops.
  2. Separation Anxiety. Some breeds are much more sensitive to being left on their own, than others. If your pooch becomes anxious or even just bored, when you leave him for long periods of time, you may find he can pick up destructive habits include chewing, digging, urinating and yes, howling.
  3. Medical Distress. If your pooch has suddenly started howling with no visible or audible cause in sight, he may be sick or injured. If its unusual behavior, don’t let it continue; get him checked out by your veterinarian. It’s his way of letting you know something is wrong and while it could be minor, it could be something that needs immediate attention.
  4. Pure Excitement. He’s just seen you remove his favorite treats from the grocery bag, he’s just caught and returned a frisbee and is ready to go again, he’s arrived at the leash-free park. Sometimes a howl is the only way he can express his pure, in the moment, joy.
  5. Stranger Danger. Studies have shown that wolves are inclined to howl in a bid to protect their territories from other animals. By howling, they forewarn interlopers and ultimately protect their home turf. Similarly, a dog howling at a door or window may be expressing the same proprietary urges as his wolf kin.
  6. Attention Seeking. All dogs love attention from their human pack and once upon a time, he achieved attention from his wolf pack by howling. Yes, a good howl announced that the top dog had arrived. Today, it gives him an attention-grabbing way to get you to respond to him and meet his needs whether that be a walk, a treat, food or just a cuddle.

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