How to stop your dog howling

Why do dogs howl?

Ever wondered why dogs howl? Much like their wolf ancestors, dogs howl for a number of different reasons, but, essentially, howling is one of the main forms of communication for dogs.

From attracting attention to making their presence known, dogs use vocal communication to alert other dogs and humans. They are also known to do so in response to certain sounds, like high-pitched tones, musical instruments, or sirens.

Are dogs happy when they howl?

It depends on the circumstances. In some instances, a dog can become over-excited and howl loudly. This type of elated howling doesn’t tend to last very long and is often accompanied by cheerful wiggles and a few barks for good measure.

However, howling can also indicate that your dog is agitated by something - be that an illness, boredom, or pain of some sort. Dogs usually howl more when they’ve been contained for long periods of time or when they haven’t received much attention. If you suspect that your pooch may be in pain, we recommend contacting your vet.


How to stop your dog howling

Whether they’re over-excited or want to get your attention, there are a number of ways to try and stop your dog from howling.

Reward your dog when they’re being quiet

By rewarding your dog with a treat of some sort during quiet time will help the associate being quiet with good behavior. Howling = no treats. Have a small supply of toys or treats on hand for when you want to reward your pup for being quiet - and try not to treat them unless they’ve been silent for 5 seconds or so. If your dog starts howling while waiting to be treated, ignore them until they stop.

Learn to ignore their howls

If your dog is howling for attention, you need to make sure your dog understands that howling isn’t going to get them what they want. Obviously, don’t punish them for howling - but do exercise ignoring your dog's howls. Ignoring their howls instead of shouting at them will help prevent reinforcing the behaviour - as some dogs might find being told off rewarding. Simply turn away and pretend not to notice.

Train your dog to keep quiet

Much like training your dog to do ‘paw’ or woof on command, you can also teach them to stop howling. Try encouraging your dog to make a noise every time you clap and say “speak!”. Once they’ve gotten the hang of it, praise your dog and give them a treat - this will encourage your dog to associate making noise with this cue, and therefore not howl without it.

What if my dog howls at night?

Usually, a dog only howls at night if it wants attention - and this could be for a whole host of reasons, the most common being that they’re lonely or hungry. Though it can be very disruptive to your sleep cycle, it’s really important to listen to what your pup is trying to tell you - as they might be in pain or be in some sort of discomfort.

To help make your pup feel more at ease during the evening, why not try playing some white noise or classical music at bedtime? These types of sounds and symphonies help reduce anxiety and can really assist in settling your pooch down for rest. It works for babies, and it can work for your dog too. 

We’d also suggest an evening walk or play in the garden before putting them to bed - as this will help release any pent-up energy from the day.

What age do puppies start howling?

Grunts and whines tend to start when your puppy reaches 2 to 3 weeks - once their ears and eyes have fully opened. At around the 7-week mark, you may start to notice small and short barks or little yips, which will then eventually turn into barking and howling at around 16 weeks. As with any aged dog, howling could be a sign of discomfort or illness.

How to calm a howling puppy

Here are a few pointers on how to manage a howling puppy:

Don’t give them too much attention

We all know that puppies love the drama - so it’s important to remember that, though the howling can sound distressing, it’s usually just your pooch pushing the boundaries. So, instead of showering them with cuddles to perk them up, try popping something that smells like you in their sleeping area (like a t-shirt or a blanket) to give them some reassurance.

Tire out your puppy

Naturally, if your puppy is tired out it’s unlikely to have much energy for howling and barking. By introducing gentle exercises and playtime before hitting the hay, you’ll help them wind down for a calm, quiet bedtime.

Establish a routine

Keeping bedtime the same throughout their development period will help your puppy feel settled and calm. Try and make sure they go to bed at the same time every night and limit any changes to sounds or lighting. Mixing things up can encourage howling or whining.

Visit our Dog Advice section for more information on how best to take care of your dog.

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