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10 Reasons Why Dogs Howl

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Are you curious to know why dogs howl (and why they howl mostly at night)? The most accepted explanation is that dogs, as descendants of wolves, still carry some wolf characteristics, and howling is one of them. But there are many reasons why dogs howl—let's take a look at them.

10 Reasons Dogs Howl

  1. Vocal Communication
  2. Territorial Presence
  3. Pack Separation Anxiety
  4. Owner Separation Anxiety
  5. Attention Seeking
  6. Isolation Distress
  7. Success and Excitement
  8. Medical Issues
  9. Upset or Irritation
  10. High-Pitched Noises or Sounds

1. Vocal Communication

A wolf's howl is its natural way of vocally communicating in the wild. Wolves howl to send a message to their separated pack members, informing them about their presence and current location—this method helps them find each other. Dogs have inherited this behaviour from their ancestors.

Wolves howling to communicate.

Wolves howling to communicate.

2. Territorial Presence

Territorial conduct is another characteristic that dogs inherited from wolves. Like wolves, dogs live in a pack and defend their boundaries. When they observe or suspect a dog from another pack encroaching their boundaries, they trigger a howl to warn that dog and to inform their own pack members.

A territorial howl.

A territorial howl.

3. Pack Separation Anxiety

Dogs are naturally pack animals, and they have a strong sense of separation anxiety. When they feel separated from their pack, or when any member from their pack is missing, they trigger a howl as if to say, "I am here—where are you?"

Similar behaviour is observed in stray dogs. When they find themselves separated from their packs, or when they observe that any pack members are missing, they certainly do howl. You may have also noticed that stray pups start howling when they are waiting for their mother.

A mother dog howling.

A mother dog howling.

4. Owner Separation Anxiety

Dogs are loyal, affectionate and emotional companions. They are deeply attached to their owners and families. When they feel a sense of separation, they howl. Normally, when you take your dog to a new place, he or she will enjoy the new abode as long as you are around. But once you leave your dog alone, he or she will feel separation anxiety and may start howling.

An owner alleviating her dog's separation anxiety.

An owner alleviating her dog's separation anxiety.

5. Attention Seeking

Dogs are always keen to get your attention. When they lack physical exercise or feel nervous, they may need even more of your attention, and sometimes they may do different tricks to get you to notice them. If their needs are not being fulfilled, they can develop behavioural problems. Such behaviours may include a repetitious mild howl, which is your dog's natural way of requesting your attention.

6. Isolation Distress

If a dog is left alone for a long time, he or she may feel isolated and can develop unusual habits. Have you ever left your dog home alone and then returned to find that he or she had destroyed furniture and soiled the carpet? Your neighbour probably complained about your dog howling and making noises, too. Isolation anxiety is a common issue for all dogs, and they will start howling and behaving in an unanticipated manner if they are left alone.

7. Success and Excitement

When your dog achieves something or feels excited, he or she might like to show off and receive praise. But if you aren't noticing, he or she might howl, because howling is a dog's natural mode of vocal communication. You may have observed that hunting dogs usually howl when they've detected some game or succeeded in their hunt. They feel excited and like to communicate their success—they just want a little appreciation, which means they'll start howling to call their owner.

A dog ready to go sledding and howling with excitement.

A dog ready to go sledding and howling with excitement.

8. Medical Issues

You might have observed that stray dogs howl when they have accidental injuries. Sometimes your dog might howl due to illness: Something could be physically wrong and he or she could be suffering from internal pain. So if your dog is howling consistently, then you need to make sure he or she is not sick and check for any physical injuries. If the dog does have any visible injuries, then you need to visit your veterinarian.

A dog howling and trying to rest.

A dog howling and trying to rest.

9. Feeling Upset or Irritated

If your dog is feeling annoyed or sad, he or she may howl. For some dogs, music (especially instruments like the mouth organ) is an irritating noise, and if they've been hearing it consistently, it may trigger a howl. There are some other sounds that can annoy them like alarm clocks, electronic beeps and sirens.

A dog irritated by the sound of a mouth organ.

A dog irritated by the sound of a mouth organ.

10. Responding to High-Pitched Noises or Sounds

If you make a howling sound, then it’s possible that your dog will also start howling, or when one dog starts howling, then other dogs will also start howling. It may be a natural pattern for dogs to respond. Some specific high-pitch sounds can trigger howls: some examples include ambulance or fire truck sirens and some musical instruments.

A dog waiting at night.

A dog waiting at night.

Why Do Dogs Howl at Night?

Dogs do not howl only at night, but nighttime is usually when they do howl. There are many possible reasons to consider:

  • The most convincing reason why dogs howl at night is that they have more relevant reasons and needs at this time. This may be why mostly stray dogs howl at night.
  • Dogs hear lots of other noises like traffic, horns, shouting humans, music, etc., so during the day they may feel more comfortable resting, sleeping and staying less active. But at night—maybe after 11:00 pm—they may want to find different and more suitable places to dwell where they can hear each other and ramble freely. They may seek a more appropriate environment full of social interaction and vocalization.
  • Dogs may actually howl just as often during the day, but the sound of their howls is lost among all the other noises. At night, their high-pitched voices are clearly audible.
  • You may have observed stray dogs playing together at night after 11:00 pm or in the early morning around 5:00 am. It's difficult to find them playing together in the daytime (between 10:00 am to 7:00 pm). They are typically active at night and rest during the day, so they have less reason to howl in the daytime; they may also avoid howling in public.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Aaradhya


Aaradhya (author) on July 31, 2020:

If the dog is doing a hawl, then there is nothing to worry about it and unless it is very necessary, then let it be natural.

If this change has come suddenly then also there is nothing to worry about.

One of my dogs suddenly started frequent howling that continued for a month, which happened in the mating season whenever he see other dogs outside he He used to howl, but after a month he started behaving normal.

Aaradhya (author) on July 13, 2020:

Dear Margie,

Its difficult to predict but for sure he didn't saw any ghost :).

margie on July 03, 2020:

for the first time my dog howl yesterday. He loves to be kiss a lot. he likes lot of attention. but I have to go to work. but last night he howl while he was asleep in my bed and I was with him, that I got scare. i waited until he finish. I just hug him. what you think this is about?

Shier mae C on April 29, 2020:

Well when i was sleeping my dog suddenly started to dream about something...well i dont know but it seems that its sad so i come to check her up, then when she was awake she suddenly howled along with the stray dogs, it sounded like a sad howl...

Nadeem on April 14, 2020:

My pitbull howls like a wolf... What must I do

Lucinda H on February 11, 2019:

I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much, but he barks A LOT... So, leaving home is always a challenge for us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to 'doggy school', but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest 'doggy school' is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!

Betty Steele on January 29, 2019:

I have been charged for the dress I ordered on my mastercard but have not received my dress.

Imelda on October 27, 2018:

My dog started howling when I blocked up all of his holes at the fence line. He was continually digging out of the yard under the fence. And I just kept blocking up all the holes with concrete blocks. Finally when there are no more places for him to dig out, he has started howling during the day. When I walk over to the fence with him, he begins to whimper for a little bit and tries to peek over the concrete blocks. I know he's howling because he is sad that he cannot get out of the yard.

Amanda on August 20, 2018:

I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he barks A LOT... So, leaving home is always a challenge for us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to 'doggy school', but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

Judy P on August 15, 2018:

Good thoughts, but someone needs to proofread! Pleas!

Aaradhya (author) on May 26, 2018:

Dear Dhoy,

As I mentioned no one can tell the exact reason to howl.

YES. many people believe - they sense nearly death and howl. but have no scientific proof and believe.

Dhoy on May 17, 2018:

Is this sign that it's sense nearly death when it's howling so long?

Aaradhya (author) on March 28, 2018:

Dear ?,

Many people believe that. But no one can confirm.

The most common believe about this believe is -

Dog has very high senses and can predict early about, earth quake etc ..

And @old days some incidences happen - dog started howling before natural disasters (Because they sense such things), And some people believe dog howl predict death.

Aaradhya (author) on March 28, 2018:


Dog howl need attention but no need to be scared. Because most of the time they have some valid reason. You may like to hear one of the example,

One of my friends dogs - suddenly started howling daily,at night ~10:00 pm. And after 2-3 months he stopped. He was wondering about his behavior change but was clueless. Again in next summer, dog started the same ..

and incidentally he crack the reason, ..

Actually, they were staying in an apartment and dog was making howl- "When he was listening the exhaust fan sound and vibration. And that was the reason he was making howl only in summer and at nights ..

? on March 16, 2018:

Is it true that dogs sometimes howl cuz the dead are comming??

Roaa on February 20, 2018:

My dog keeps howling all night and there is something wrong with the howl it seems a little bit like wolf's voice and this scares me a lot ,I always make take the dog for a walk And also play with,so the dog isn't suffering from anxiety or even injured.. I don't know what to do!!

Billie Raucci from Illinois on February 01, 2018:

Very informative article.

Aaradhya (author) on September 10, 2017:

That must be a rare dog

on August 14, 2017:

I found a stray dog and he howls at night. Now I know that he is looking for his pack.

Aaradhya (author) on August 09, 2017:


It's not only in Phillipience.

In Many other countries, people have the same belief.

Including Nepal, India, Pakistan and some of the European countries :)

Aaradhya (author) on June 03, 2017:

Judy delaune,

That's real strange :(

Was he sick or had any stomach issue?

Judy delaune on June 02, 2017:

My dog at 9:20 tonight he howled twice and that was the end of it. Strange

Niki on December 08, 2016:

Dogs howl at night sometimes when they sense a loss of a loved one - owner. Interestingly, they howl before the owner is departed. They a have powerful 6th sense.

Aaradhya (author) on October 16, 2016:

Thanks SirBraddles!

SirBraddles on October 15, 2016:


Thank you so very much for writing this article. I found it helpful in so many ways. I can't wait to read your other articles!