We all love dogs, but sometimes they do things that we could do without. Things like howling! Even if you don’t have a fur baby of your own, you’ve probably heard a dog in your neighbourhood howl and wondered what's going on. The answer boils down to one thing: Communication. There are many reasons for a dog to make themselves known, so let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
If your dog has recently started howling a lot out of the blue, they could be trying to tell you that something is wrong. Like their wolf ancestors, dogs also howl to warn their family that another dog is approaching their territory. Other times, they may just want you to know that they are upset or unhappy about something. On a more serious note, your dog could be trying to let you know about an undiagnosed injury or illness. If the howling keeps up, a visit to the vet is never a bad idea.
Dogs sometimes howl when they hear another dog howling, just as a form of greeting or organization. A sound similar to a howl can trigger this howling instinct, such as an ambulance or car alarm. Hey, we didn't say all dogs are smart.
Sometimes dogs just howl to get attention. While there’s usually nothing wrong with this, it can be a sign of separation anxiety. If your neighbour complains that your dog is howling in the yard or in the house all day while you’re at work, there’s a good chance they are very anxious and bored. In addition to howling, separation anxiety has many other symptoms, such as chewing, barking, and digging.
Once you’ve determined that your dog’s howling is because of attention seeking and not a medical issue, there are some proven ways to correct this behaviour. As with all dog training, positive reinforcement is the way to go. First, tough as it may be, start ignoring your dog’s howling. If their goal is to get attention, even negative attention can be interpreted as successful. In the same vein, try rewarding your dog with treats for being quiet. This way, they will realize that there are more pleasant ways of getting your attention.
If the howling is caused by separation anxiety, this could be harder to deal with. Cases of separation anxiety can range from mild to severe, and may require the attention of a vet or a professional trainer. But in milder cases, things like leaving the TV on can be a big help. Start doing things like getting your coat or your keys throughout the day and then reward your dog if it does not start to get anxious. this will teach your dog not to worry every time you’re about to leave the house. Another tip is to leave treats hidden around the house, or in small puzzle toys, so that your dog learns to associate being left alone with positive rewards.