Your concerned neighbors have kindly let you know (on several occasions) that mournful howling resounds from your home when you're gone at work. You begin to wonder if it's really true, so you set up a voice recorder by your dog's crate and click it "on" before you leave for the morning.
Sure enough, when you get home and let Fido out to go potty, you replay the recording to find that an eerie howls erupt every 10 minutes or so!
How is such a problem going to be dealt with? ...is it a problem?
Why Do Dogs Howl?
Just like humans (although not quite as complicated), dogs use a vocal language to communicate what they want, how they feel, and when they need attention. This language varies slightly among different breeds, and even among individual dogs of the same breed or type.
Some breeds are much more vocal than others. The Malamute, for instance is known for a wide variety of communicative sounds such as chirps, yodels, and snorts; and hounds are known for their bellowing barks that can be heard all across town. Toy breeds and terriers are often the ones you hear yap-yap-yapping behind the curtains of the neighborhood homes that you jog past on your morning exercise routine.
The howl, however, seems to be a universal dialect among all the breeds; and when it is being used, we often wonder... WHY?!
- Long Distance Communication is one of the reasons that dogs howl; it's like they're trying to talk to the other dogs in town and seeing who else is out there. This comes from their ancestral heritage as wild dogs and even wolves, where they would use the howl to call for help, or to raise alerts.
- Separation Anxiety is a common cause of howling; sometimes your pooch just doesn't like to be parted from you; not one bit! This is why dogs often howl when their owners are away from home (and why you may have gotten those calls from your neighbor).
- Mimicry or Misinterpretation can also cause your dog to howl; that's why you may notice your dog making funny sounds when a siren-blaring ambulance or fire truck drives by. Honestly, even the experts don't know why dogs howl at sirens; is it because they think it's a mechanical dog howl that they're trying to respond to? ...if only dogs could talk.
- Pain and Distress may prompt your dog to let out some moans of grief. If Rover has been acting strangely tired, has a poor appetite, or is displaying other unusual behavior in addition to howling, it is wise to make a visit to the veterinarian for a check up.
How to Know When Howling is a "No-no"
As you can see, not all howling is the symptom of a problem. Take a look at the circumstances, and you can often discern what's going on; whether it requires a course of concerned action, ...or a burst of laughter.
If you discover (by word of mouth) that the howling is prompted by your absence, you may want to start focusing on a way to help your dog cope with a case of separation anxiety; some simple steps might make all the difference.
Otherwise, try to see if your dog's just talking to you; sometimes you can even get a conversation going! Maybe your pup's calling his girlfriend on the other side of town, or perhaps he hears a distant siren that is too far away for your ears to hear.
As long as it isn't excessive and your dog is in good health, we say "let 'em howl"!