Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Dogs Howl or Sing? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

A dog howling or barking.

Why Do Dogs Howl or Sing? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

The main way dogs communicate is through sounds. Whether they’re whining because they’re afraid, barking when excited, or growling when threatened, your dog has probably made some vocalizations to tell you how they’re feeling. One such sound you may have heard your pup make is a howl. If you’re not sure what your dog is trying to tell you when they howl, we can help.

Read on to learn seven reasons why dogs howl in the first place and what you can do if your pup’s vocalizations become problematic.

dogster face divider

The 7 Reasons Why Dogs Howl

The sweet pup you share your home with descended from wild wolves over 15,000 years ago. While they don’t necessarily behave like there’s wolf DNA in their blood, understanding their evolutionary development can help shed some light on some of the interesting traits your pooch has inherited from their wolf ancestors.

1. Communication

Wolves howl to communicate with others, assemble the pack, coordinate activities, establish territories, and as a warning to other wolf packs. Your dog may not have a “pack” to communicate with, but they’ll still howl instinctively as a way to communicate with you and other dogs nearby.

A beagle dog howling.
Image Credit: srugina, Thinkstock

2. Expressing Emotions

Dogs may not have the range of complex emotions that we do, but they sometimes use howling as a way to express their emotional state. You’ve likely heard your dog howling when they’re upset or anxious, but they’ll also sometimes howl if they’re excited or afraid. You’ll need to use context clues to figure out what you’re feeling your dog is trying to emote.

3. Seeking Attention

Dogs are highly intelligent creatures that learn quickly that howling is a great way to get your attention. It would be best if you didn’t reward your pup’s howls with attention, as this can reinforce bad behaviors.

A white dog howling.
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

4. Conveying Pain

If your pup is usually pretty quiet but begins to vocalize suddenly through howling or other unusual sounds, they may be responding to illness and pain. They may exhibit other signs of unwellness, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for those and take them to the vet to rule out any potential health issues.

5. Responding to Their Environment

Your dog might only howl in response to sounds they hear in their environment. For example, they may howl if a car horn is going off in your neighborhood or ambulance sirens are blaring nearby. They can also exhibit a behavior known as “contagious howling” when they hear other dogs howling in your community. This is very common in densely populated urban areas where your pup is likely to hear vocalizations from other dogs.

Dog howling in the yard
Image Credit: Igor Normann, Shutterstock

6. Territory Acknowledgment

Dogs sometimes howl to let others know about their territory and keep them out of it. Howling is a great defense mechanism that can ward off potential predators, so you may hear your pup vocalizing when the mail carrier approaches your home or if they see other dogs walking by.

On the flip side, approaching dogs may sometimes howl to alert the nearby resident dogs that they’re coming. Announcing their arrival can prevent the incoming pup from startling the current inhabitants.

7. Breed Traits

Certain dog breeds are more likely to howl than others. Studies suggest that breeds genetically similar to wolves are more prone to howl than those distantly related. Genetic testing shows that some Spitz breeds, such as Huskies and Akitas, are more closely related to wolves than other domesticated dogs, which may explain why they’re known for their tendency to howl.

White Swiss Shepherd dog howling in the woods
Image Credit: Vyaseleva Elena, Shutterstock

dogster paw divider

What Should I Do If My Dog Howls Excessively?

Howling may be a normal vocalization for dogs, but if yours is howling excessively, you (or your neighbors) may be at your wit’s end. Here are some tips for stopping this behavior and restoring a more peaceful and quiet home.

Reward Quiet

We sometimes respond to our dogs only when they’re doing something they shouldn’t be or making sounds we’d rather they didn’t. It’s incredibly easy to forget to reward them when they’re being quiet, but it’s very important to reinforce such good behavior. Give your pup a high-value reward and attention when they’re settled down and not making any noise.

German Shepherd Mix Dog Begging for Treat
Image Credit: ChristinLola, Getty Images

Ignore Attention-Seeking Behavior

Avoid accidentally giving your pup a reward when they howl by ignoring them when they start. Don’t look in their direction, speak to or touch them. Dogs are like kids in many ways and often find attention rewarding, even if it’s negative attention, so even scolding them can make their behavior worse.


We all know that dogs can be trained to “speak,” but they can also be trained to stop howling or vocalizing when given a command. If your pup knows “speak,” you can use this to your advantage. Praise them when they speak when given the command, teaching them to make a noise on cue. When they stop making the noise, say “quiet” or “hush,” and praise them again, offering a high-value treat. These steps, when repeated over time, can be useful in training your pup to be quiet on command.

Seek Professional Assistance

Your dog’s howling problem may be so severe that you’ll need professional help, and that’s okay. Veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or certified dog trainers are excellent resources to help you and your pup. The first step is a vet, if you have any concerns about your pup’s howling. For behavioral issues, we recommend finding someone with training in counterconditioning and desensitization techniques, as they are common treatments for any behavioral problem stemming from arousal or emotions.

Veterinarian examining at the paws of a dog
Image Credit: AJ_Watt, Getty Images

dogster face divider

Final Thoughts

Dogs howl to communicate with you and each other. If your dog’s howling has become problematic and made you (and them) a neighborhood pariah, you may want to address the behavior through counterconditioning and desensitization. If this is above your level of expertise, don’t hesitate to contact the professionals for help. Remember, howling can be a sign of an underlying health issue, so if your pup’s howling has become extreme, you should seek veterinary care first and foremost.

Featured Image Credit: LivingThroughTheLens, Getty Images

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.