Why Do Dogs Howl?

Having descended from wolves, it’s no surprise that some dogs howl. But what do they accomplish by doing it? Are these song-like whines just for fun? Or do they serve an important communicative purpose?

Howling 101

When a dog howls, it’s similar to when a dog barks. These howls, which various stimuli can trigger, serve as another way for dogs to communicate with one another or humans. The most common reasons for howling are as follows:


You may have heard your dog howling after hearing sirens, music, or another dog. Simply put, this is just how your dog interacts with their environment. Howling can signify “Yep! I heard that!” to their owners or other dogs. Typically, this type of howling stops once the trigger noise does.


Nobody likes to think of their pet getting hurt, but unfortunately, it happens. Similar to how humans may cry or scream when experiencing pain, dogs can howl or whimper when they’re injured. If your dog appears healthy but keeps howling, don’t panic. Some dogs tend to howl more than others. But if you suspect your dog is hurt, it’s a good idea to contact your vet ASAP.


Dogs and wolves howl to alert their pack (in your pet’s case, you’re probably the pack-mate they want to contact) of their location. If you’ve ever arrived home to find your dog howling, they could be trying to guide you via sound to their location. The same can happen if you live in a multi-dog household. Should one dog get separated, they might start howling to let the other(s) know where they are.


Let’s be honest, some dogs are needier than others. For a dog who feels and extra-close bond to their owners or other dogs in the house, howling can capture their attention and indicate that they’re ready to play or interact. This is also common in dogs with separation anxiety – the howling can start just seconds after their owner leaves. Or, howling can announce to other dogs that they’re in the area. While this could be considered a territorial approach, it’s not always a negative thing. Some dogs howl just to make other dogs aware that they won’t be alone when they arrive.


Dogs can howl when they find something that makes them excited or curious. In this case, howling is closer to a victory cry. Finding treasure isn’t just fun for humans!


As mentioned, dogs can howl for a variety of reasons. These howls could be short, infrequent chirps or long-winded, loud, song-like sounds – it all depends on your dog and their preference. But while they may seem insignificant, it’s important as a dog owner to listen to what your dog is trying to say when they howl. After all, they’re communicating the only way they know how.

Abigail Kurten
Author: Abigail Kurten

Hi! My name's Abigail, and I intern as a Content Writer for DogFriendly.com. I have one dog, a chocolate lab named Riley who's the best! My favorite breed of dog is a Bulldog or Saint Bernard, though.

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