Dogs make a wide variety of sounds to express themselves. Barking is the most common one. They bark when they are happy, sad or feel threatened. However, there is one type of sound in particular that feels unmistakable – the howl. To most people, the reason behind howling is a bit different, so they often end up asking themselves why their pets do it.
On the other hand, there is nothing cuter than a puppy howling. Even if your dog is grown, howling every now and then will bring in a specific want, need or feeling. Plus, you can teach your furry friend how to express certain feelings. Learning how to teach a dog to howl could be a bit challenging though. There are different ways to do it and the good news is you do not need a dog trainer for it.
Why dogs howl
Before understanding how to make a dog howl, you need to figure out why dogs howl in the first place. Dog howling is ingrained. It is similar to a wolf’s howl – loud and drawn out. If you have more dogs, some of them may howl to signal to the pack. They can help their buddies find the way back home and get the family together. This might explain why your pet may end up howling when a family member has been away for too long.
Other dogs may howl to chase predators away. They make their presence known, as they want to keep predators away from them. Dogs like to mark their territories. When one dog in the neighborhood starts howling, other dogs in the surroundings may do the same thing. They basically tell each other which dog occupies which territory.
A dog howling out of nowhere may also represent a response to a particular sound. If a nearby police car has the siren on, your dog may start howling. A certain musical instrument may also trigger howling in dogs. The howl may have different meanings. Some dogs protest against the noise they dislike, while others like it and would like to join the choir.
Emotional and physical pain may also be a cause for those high pitched howls. Some dogs express sadness, while others underline anxiety or fear. Physical discomfort can trigger howling too, so your pet is trying to tell you that it needs attention.
You may also notice that dogs tilt their heads backwards when they start howling. It is a natural behavior. They do not do it to the moon – just a common myth. Instead, this action straightens the vocal cords, so dogs can get more air and clearer howls. Plus, howling into the air will take the sound farther away.
Now that you understand why dogs howl, how do you make your dog howl? Learning how to teach a dog to howl could be a bit tricky, but it could be done.
Why teach a dog to howl
Most people whose dogs howl would do anything to prevent them from doing it. Whether the dog wakes up in the middle of the night and howls or it howls out of nowhere, they would love this behavior gone. It is less likely to happen though. In fact, most vets recommend letting your dog howl. This is part of what they are. It is part of their communication.
Whether dogs howl every time they hear a siren or they do it randomly, it is important for your dog to express feelings. The dog must communicate, draw attention and even tell you if anything goes wrong – be it a potential predator or a feeling of anxiety. You can teach your dog how to howl, but you can also train your dog to howl on command.
Which dogs tend to howl
Howling is a common behavior in dogs. All dogs are born with it. All breeds may start howling at some point or another – on certain occasions. However, some breeds are more likely to do it quite often and actually draw attention.
A few hound breeds are well known for their intense communication. Basset hounds, bloodhounds, beagles and dachshunds tend to howl without requiring any training. They will do it to signal a plethora of different things.
Huskies are also extremely vocal. The same goes for American Eskimo dogs and Alaskan malamutes. In fact, they put out a lot of noises and not just howling. They argue, bark and sing whenever something triggers them.
Some dogs can start howling as they get older too. Senior dogs may get all kinds of different affections. They may lose their hearing and start howling – the same rule applies when they lose their vision. Dogs with dementia may also experience this problem. They get confused quite often, so howling is their way to express what they feel.
Now, how do you get your dog to howl? What techniques can trigger this behavior in your furry friend?
Get the dog to howl in the first place
Dog howls are quite natural, but some dogs need a bit of pushing from behind to do it. This is the first step in the process. You need to trigger this instinct. Some dogs do it naturally out of nowhere, so they do not require any training at all. Some others need a bit of work.
First, try singing. This is the easiest trick in the book. Do not rap, but get some Andrea Bocelli or Luciano Pavarotti. Try out your opera skills, as this kind of music sounds like howling. A high pitch voice could do the trick. Sing and have your dog nearby. They will be curious. If they like what they hear, they may join in – the best way to trigger a howl.
You can also try out various musical instruments. Try them out. Do not buy one of each, but find some music based on them and play it out loud. You can also howl yourself to show your dog what you want it to do. Your howl with some random music may sound totally stupid, but your dog is very likely to enjoy it after all.
Whistling is a high pitch noise that could also trigger your dog to howl. It is not the best way to do it though. Lots of owners whistle when they call their dogs over. It is almost an instinct. Whistling will draw your dog’s attention in the first place. Whistling when your dog is next to you could trigger the howling instinct though.
How about playing? Is your dog vocal while you are playing? This could be a great place to start. Pay attention to your dog’s vocals and find the sound closest to howling. Keep doing whatever you do to trigger this howl like sound and your dog may actually start doing it.
Finally, you could try playing some audio. You can find various videos of dogs howling over the Internet. Put them on. Your dog may react to them and start howling too. Other than that, you could play the audio of a siren, as lots of dogs tend to howl when they hear it. Just make sure your dog is not scared of such sounds – some dogs tend to hide when they hear sirens.
All in all, no matter what triggers the initial howl, make sure you reward your pet when it makes that noise. There is no need to try to find a cue word – at least not yet. Instead, keep rewarding your dog whenever you hear it howling. The more rewards your dog gets, the more it will howl.
How to teach a dog to howl on cue
Now that you have managed to get that howling sound, it is time to learn how to teach a dog to howl on cue. Basically, you will have to find a cue word and teach your dog that howling brings in a reward.
Assuming that you have learned what triggers the howling instinct in your dog, it is time to add the word in. It could be anything. It could be a simple command or an invitation. There is one thing to remember here – stick to consistency. Choose the word wisely and stick to it. Say it whenever the dog howls.
Once you get the word out, it is time to treat your dog. It is a reward that will bring in the noise whenever you want it. There are a few things that your dog will remember at this stage – the howling sound, your word and the treat. Sooner or later, the dog will associate the respective cue with howling, while howling is already associated with a reward.
Keep doing it to reinforce the behavior. It will not always happen though. Sometimes it works. Other times, it fails. What really matters is to keep calm and remember that your dog is trying to work it out too. Patience is key.
After a few tries, you will also be able to get rid of the initial motivation. It makes no difference if you play a video of other dogs howling or you simply play with your dog. This initial motivation will disappear overtime.
Once the behavior is taught, make sure you provide rewards only when you say the word too. If your dog howls on command, go ahead and reward it. Otherwise, skip the reward. Things may go in a different direction – you may end up with a howling dog that does it all day long, only to earn a treat.
Getting your dog to stop howling
Howling could become a problem and getting your dog to stop it can be difficult. Understanding the reasons is the first step.
If the dog howls for attention, you can ignore the behavior and reward it when it goes quiet. People focus on bad behaviors, but they forget to reward the good parts. If you are consistent, your dog will realize that keeping quiet could bring in a treat.
If the dog howls while alone, it is usually being lonely. Anxiety could also kick in, so you might want to spend more time together or perhaps get someone to keep an eye on it while you are away. If howling is the result of loneliness, simply spend more time with your friend.
Frequently asked questions
It is perfectly normal to have a few questions while learning how to teach a dog to howl.
Can you train your dog to howl?
While more difficult to train than other things, you can, indeed, teach your dog how to howl. You can train your dog to howl on command as well. It does take time and patience though.
Can all dogs howl?
Yes. Some breeds are more vocal than others, but generally speaking, all dogs can howl. It is a natural instinct. If your dog does not howl, it could use a trigger.
Is it cruel to make your dog howl?
Howling is not a cruel activity. Teaching your dog how to howl is like training your dog to sit or wait. It is just a different type of training, but the principle is the same and involves using treats and lots of patience.
What sounds make a dog howl?
High pitch sounds are usually the main triggers, whether it comes to sirens, other dogs howling, whistling or music. Different dogs react to different things, but overall, it is the same array of noises that could trigger howling.
As a short final conclusion, learning how to teach a dog to howl is not that difficult. It is a process like any other. Training takes time and requires patience. Some dogs learn faster than others, so you have to keep calm. Make sure you have plenty of treats around, as they are part of the game.
You could go in the wrong direction as well, so your dog may end up with a bad behavior, only to earn some treats. It is important to find a balance in your training.