Courtesy of Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society

Your dog is sleeping soundly, and is suddenly up howling at the moon. Why? Dogs actually howl for a variety of reasons. They may be trying to tell you or a fellow canine something. Like what? Here are five things your dog may be trying to communicate.

Reacting to something she hears.

Dogs often become stimulated by high-pitched sounds. It may be a siren or alarm, but could be music or something you are unable to hear. An ancestral instinct, howling emanates from the wolf in dogs which causes them to acknowledge a sound and respond to it. Your dog may howl at a siren warning you that potential danger is close. When the emergency vehicle drives further away, she may howl again. Thinking her howling scared the danger away, she howls again to reinforce the result. Larger breed dogs tend to howl more frequently. Contrary to popular belief, sirens don’t cause your dog pain – if they did, she would cower or retreat to a quieter place, as frequently happens with loud unanticipated sounds such fireworks or a car backfiring.

Talking with friends

Have you noticed that sometimes when one dog howls others join in? They are letting friends know where they are, that there may be danger, or possibly protecting their territory.

She misses you!

Separation anxiety isn’t just a human issue. Your canine often misses you, and expresses their fear and frustration. You may only be aware of this howling when neighbors let you know. Separation anxiety can manifest in their destroying items while you are away, or peeing and pooping in the house while you are out. Other behaviors could include whining, scratching, digging, or pacing. To learn ways to help ease your pet’s stress and unwanted behaviors, it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian.

Your dog is in pain.

Howling when in pain is one way a pet can get your attention. If your dog is not generally vocal and begins howling, especially if it appears suddenly and is high-pitched, and you rule out causes such as sirens, you should call your vet. It could be something internal if she hasn’t given you any signs of a wound or other ailment that she is licking, scratching, or other unusual behavior.

She wants something.

Your dog knows that if she’s howling, you are likely to pay attention. She may be looking for a treat or one-on-one time with you. Once you’ve ruled out medical concerns, you need to break this cycle of unwanted behavior. Try ignoring her and avoiding eye contact while she’s howling. Reward her when she’s not howling and when she’s responding to commands. Increase exercise and play for stimulation.

The Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society is comprised of 75+ small animal hospitals and 220+ practitioners in Erie and Niagara counties. The society advances public awareness and understanding of appropriate and compassionate pet health care, veterinary services, and the veterinary profession.