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You’ve seen dogs howl on funny videos and wondered: How do I teach my dog to howl?
There are various ways to make your dog howl. Some dogs are more likely to howl than others.
My first Shih Tzu, Cuddles, would howl when my husband Tom howled. Shih Tzus are a toy breed not usually inclined to howl.
But when Tom howled attempting to get Cuddles to howl, it worked. And it was very cute and funny to see them howl together, singing the call of the canine’s “people.”
In this article, I’ll discuss why dogs howl, which dogs are more likely to howl, and how to teach your dog to howl on cue. I’ll also discuss how to get them to stop unwanted howling.
Why Dogs Howl
Howling is a form of communication for dogs, as barking or whining are. It comes from their wolf ancestor roots and is a natural instinct.
Howling can help call pack members to come together. Dogs sometimes howl when you leave the house to call you back because they see you as part of the pack.
Or a dog may howl to help protect its territory when he sees or hears a stranger approaching. It means he’s being vigilant in observing his area.
Dogs who are protecting their territory may howl and bark too to make you aware of a potential threat–and to attempt to make that threat go away.
So when the Amazon delivery person is bringing Max’s treats, he may inadvertently try to send her away with his howling and barking.
Dogs also can howl to get your attention. Howling can also be an expression of loneliness or boredom.
And some dogs howl when they’re ill, injured, in pain, or otherwise in distress. It’s a cry for help and part of their survival mechanism because injured or sick dogs are more vulnerable to predators.
Some hunting dogs howl to indicate that they’ve found and trapped their prey. They howl to alert the other dogs and hunters that they’ve cornered the prey.
So our domesticated dogs may also howl to alert us to something similar, such as when they see a squirrel or rabbit cross their path.
Some dogs howl when playing with another dog. And a dog may howl when he hears another dog howl as a sign of friendship. This can be compared to humans singing together.
Other dogs may be triggered to howl by a high-pitch sound like that made by an alarm, siren, or musical instrument.
And some dogs howl because they suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.
Some breeds are more likely than others to howl, including
- German shepherds
- Siberian Huskies
- Alaskan Malamutes
- American Eskimos
And many hound breeds. These include
- Bassett hounds
- Coon hounds
It’s in their genes.
I was hired by a family with five beagles and beagle mixes. When I went to their house, I was greeted by the harmonious sound of a beagle choir. I went to train them to perform basic obedience commands. But we also worked on stopping excessive howling.
How You Can Teach Your Dog To Howl on Cue
Even in various breeds, some dogs more readily howl on cue than others. To discover how to teach your dog to howl on cue, you need to explorer what his triggers are.
Some noises can prompt a dog to howl. High-pitched alarms or sirens can make some dogs howl. Has a fire-engine’s siren ever started your dog howling?
You can use certain apps on your cell phone or the sound from YouTube videos to attempt to teach your dog to howl on cue. Not all dogs will howl when hearing these sounds, but many will.
Turn the volume up and see how your dog reacts. Try various types of siren sounds such as those made by fire engines or police cars. If those don’t work, try the sound of a house siren or alarm clock.
Playing a musical instrument such as a harmonica, piano, or organ can prompt some dogs to howl on cue. Such high-pitched sounds can set off some dogs’ howling.
Even some types of music–especially high-pitched music–can trigger some dogs to howl. So try out different types–classical, heavy metal, or other high-pitched music may be what your dog prefers to accompany his howling.
Our whistling, singing, or even howling can set off some dogs’ howling. And if he howls, when you sing, don’t take it as criticism. Take it as a compliment! He’s singing along.
If all else fails, play videos with sounds of dogs howling. Sometimes with any trigger, the sound has to be loud enough or have a high-enough pitch to set off your dog’s howling.
If one of those sounds works and your dog howls, praise (Yes!”) and reward him with a treat. Then, turn the sound off for a minute and start it up again. Praise and reward again.
Just repeat this a few times a day for a week. After a couple of days, start adding the cue “howl” just as your pup starts to howl.
Reinforcing behavior that you want works for all obedience cues. Dogs will repeat behaviors that are properly reinforced.
Once your dog begins to understand what’s expected, start adding the “howl” cue just before you start to play the triggering sound, not after.
Once you see that he understands what “howl” means, you can start to phase out even playing the triggering sound. This process may take weeks.
After you’re sure that he understands what “howl” means and you can just cause him to howl on your verbal cue, start to wean treats down. Over weeks, give fewer treats. Go to 90 percent of the time to 80 percent all the way down to 10 percent of the time.
Always praise (“Yes! Good howl”) even as you’re cutting down on the treats. I still recommend giving some treats randomly to maintain the desired behavior of howling.
In addition to your verbal “howl” cue, you can also add a visual signal such as clicking your fingers or clapping a couple of times.
Once your dog understands the verbal cue, add the signal for a few weeks. Then try using one or the other to determine whether he understands them. Don’t phase out the treats until he understands each cue individually.
I recommend also teaching your dog a “quiet” cue so that he doesn’t keep howling indefinitely. The second he stops howling (even to take a breath), tell him “quiet.” Praise and reward him for being quiet.
What if you’ve tried all of the above methods and your dog still won’t howl for you? I would recommend teaching him another trick.
Not all dogs like howling. Because it’s not an important command such as come or down, I would just let it go. You never know: a sound may eventually trigger him to howl.
Friends of mine have a Maltese mix rescue named Dunkin–certainly a breed not known to howl. One day, my friend was singing Happy Birthday to someone and Dunkin chimed in with a howl.
After that, my friend taught Dunkin to howl on cue. It’s really cute to see a little 10-pound dog happily pouring his heart out while greeting an unsuspecting birthday partier.
How To Stop Unwanted Howling
What if your dog howls when you don’t want him to? You can have too much of a good thing. It’s important to figure out why he’s howling so that you can stop the unwanted howling.
If he hears other dogs barking and howling or an ambulance goes by and he howls, you want him to stop howling so that he doesn’t continue to make noise.
The same is true if he’s trying to defend his territory by howling when he sees or hears someone approaching your home.
Teaching him a “quiet” cue can help. So can redirecting him to another activity. If he starts howling in response to such noises, call him over–or go to him–and have him perform a known command such as sit or down.
Then, praise him for that activity and give him something else to do rather than howl. This can be a favorite chew, a frozen stuffed Kong, or an activity toy that will occupy him and prevent him from howling.
Just don’t reward the howling. Interrupt it–or even better–redirect your dog to a desired activity before he howls if you’ve identified what triggers his howling.
You can also close the window or put on other noise that doesn’t trigger your dog to howl, such as the TV or a white noise machine to help mask the outside noises that trigger him to howl.
If your dog is howling because of outside noises such as a siren or alarm and these noises are regular sounds where you live, you can even work on counter-conditioning his response and desensitizing him to the sounds.
You can play the sound at a very low volume at first while rewarding him for calm, quiet behavior. Over time, as he’s able to handle it, you would play the triggering sound at a higher and higher volume.
Again, you would reward calm, quiet behavior. This process usually takes a while–at least weeks. You may need help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to properly desensitize him and counter-condition him to the triggering sound.
But your dog might be howling for other reasons, such as separation anxiety. If your dog has separation anxiety, there will probably also be other signs, such as door or window frames that he’s chewed or scratched.
Some dogs with separation anxiety will howl and/or bark for prolonged periods of time. They also may have housebreaking indiscretions because of their distress.
If you suspect that your dog has separation anxiety, you may need professional help from a certified trainer or behaviorist who specializes in dogs with separation distress.
What if your dog howls at you for attention? If you give him attention–even negative attention–you’ll be reinforcing that behavior.
It’s usually best to turn away from him and turn back when he’s quiet. If you need to, you can even walk a short distance away when he howls for attention. Give him attention only when he’s quiet.
If your dog needs more attention than he’s been getting, make time to meet his needs. Take him on a walk. Play with him. Do short training sessions reinforcing known commands or teaching him new cues and tricks.
Giving such positive attention also helps if your dog’s howling because he’s lonely or bored. You can also give him some activity toys or treat-dispensing toys to help prevent the howling.
Have him perform a known command before he starts howling. Praise him and reward him with the treat-dispensing toy. But nothing replaces your attention.
Also, all behaviors are generally improved if a dog is given a sufficient amount of physical and mental exercise.
Some dogs may howl because they have too much pent-up energy. So, meeting your dog’s exercise needs may be one piece of the puzzle in stopping excessive howling.
If your dog’s howling and you can’t figure out the reason, he may need medical attention. This is usually true when a dog suddenly starts howling out of the blue for no other discernible reason.
If your dog’s in pain, there isn’t always a visible illness or sickness. He may have arthritis or an unseen injury. Or you may be aware of an injury your dog has suffered and know why he’s howling. In either case, of course, a vet visit is in order.
What NOT To Do
If your dog naturally howls without being prompted by you to do so, don’t punish the behavior. Some people try to use shock collars, spray bottles, or other abusive devices to stop dogs from barking. These are cruel methods and aren’t necessary either.
Why do dogs howl?
Dogs howl for many reasons. It’s a form of canine communication. It can signal many things, such as a warning when a stranger approaches your house, or it can be a call to draw the pack together.
Some dogs who are anxious, such as those with separation anxiety, may howl. Dogs who are ill or injured may also howl.
How can you teach your dog to howl?
If your dog doesn’t naturally howl, there are techniques you can try to get him to howl. You can try whistling, howling, or singing at a high pitch to see if they trigger a howl.
Or you can play sounds on your phone or computer, such as sirens, alarms, other dogs howling, or whistling. Or even certain music triggers some dogs to howl.
Once you find what prompts your dog to howl, you can reward the behavior and give it a command/cue, such as “howl.”
Is it cruel to teach your dog to howl?
Even if your dog doesn’t naturally howl, teaching him to howl is just another trick. However, if you’ve tried the above methods a few times each in certain sessions and he doesn’t respond by howling, let it go.
There are so many other tricks you can teach your dog that he will enjoy learning.
Is it alright to howl along with your dog?
If you’re just teaching your dog to howl on cue, this can be a way to start. You start howling and your dog joins in.
Reward the behavior and give it a command/cue such as “howl.” But also teach a “quiet” cue so that you don’t have to live with unrelenting howling. If your dog’s howling on his own, howling along is not acceptable if he’s howling because of anxiety or illness.
Do certain dog breeds howl more than others?
Yes. Although most breeds can howl, some breeds are much more likely to do so. These include Alaskan Malamutes, Huskies, American Eskimos, and German Shepherds.
Of course, many hounds are also natural howlers, such as beagles, Bassett hounds, dachshunds, coonhounds, foxhounds, and bloodhounds.
Dogs howl for many reasons and some breeds are more likely to howl than others are. It’s a form of canine communication.
It can mean a warning to strangers or be a call to draw the pack together. Some dogs naturally howl when they’re anxious, stressed, ill, or injured.
If you want to teach your dog to howl on cue, you need to discover a trigger that he’ll respond to. This can be many things, such as a siren, an alarm, or music–or even you singing or howling along.
If you reward when he howls, he’ll howl again for that trigger. But be sure to teach him how to howl only on cue so that you have a howling good time–not just constant noise.
Does your dog howl?
What triggers him to howl?
Tell us about it in the comment section below.
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