Why Do Dogs Howl?

My shepherd/husky mix Miko used to howl a lot. Any time he heard the fire sirens, he would run out into the yard to howl. He would even lift his voice in song with us when we sang Happy Birthday! In fact, if I had gotten to name him as a puppy, I might have named him Raoul, because that’s what his howling sounded like: RAOOOOOOOOUL!

Howling is a form of communication for dogs. Some dogs like to bark and some like to howl; some do both! What the howl may be trying to communicate is a different story.

Howling to ease loneliness: in the wild, a pack of wolves that is spread out through the forest will communicate with a variety of noises. A long, ringing howl will send the message that a dog is not alone — especially when other dogs answer.

Howling to show joy: Scott, one of our Computer Bloggers, has a yellow lab named Boomer who howls out of sheer happiness. His howl is more of a WOO-OO-OO WOO-OO-OO sound, but his tail wags mile-a-minute when he does it.

Howling as a greeting is related to howling for joy. Every dog has their own special way of greeting you. Barking, howling, butt-wiggling, kissing, jumping… they are communicating their happiness.

Howling as an alert: lately, if my Lally Bee is barking at something and she feels I’m not paying enough attention, her bark will change to a howl. WOO. WOO. WOOOOOOO! She seems to be saying, “This is serious, Mom, pay attention!”

Howling to music: dogs have approximately the same hearing range that humans do, but they can detect much smaller changes in tone. Their hearing is much more sensitive — like a person with perfect pitch, compared to someone who is tone deaf. If a musical howler like Miko didn’t want to hear the birthday song, he could have just left the room. By joining in, he was taking his place in the pack as they raised their voices in song.

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