Dogs use many kinds of vocalizations to communicate and howling is one of them. Wolves and other canids also howl. Dogs will howl if they are lonely, to announce where they are to other dogs, if they are injured or in pain, or in response to certain high pitched sounds such as sirens. Howling is often an instinctual behavior for a dog.
In the wild, a wolf or dog will often howl to tell members of another pack to stay away. When your dog is safe in his backyard and he howls, he is probably telling other dogs, “This is my territory! Stay away!” If you have a lost dog, another dog still at home might howl to try to guide him home. “Hey! We’re over here, buddy! Come home!” Dogs can recognize the howls from their fellow pack mates, so a lost dog might be able to hear his friend howling for him and find his way home.
If your dog howls when you leave the house, he might be telling you to stay, or hoping that his howling will guide you back home again.
The dog that howls in response to a siren might be warning the noisy siren away – or telling it where to find him. Or, maybe the siren hurts his ears.
Dogs can howl in pain the same way that people do.
If your dog comes near when you are singing or playing an instrument, and then starts howling along, maybe he is singing with you. It’s hard to say in some cases what a dog’s howl means, but dogs seem to enjoy doing it.
The dog that howls at the moon may be feeling a connection to his wolf ancestors. Maybe he is feeling lonely or wild. Perhaps howling at the moon will elicit a howl from another lonely dog.
Howling is usually nothing to worry about unless it becomes excessive and your dog starts howling all the time. In that case you could become unpopular with your neighbors. If your dog begins to howl frequently or starts howling to get your attention, you can deal with the behavior by ignoring him when he howls. Teach him that he does not get your attention by howling. Instead, only pet him and respond to him when he is quiet.
If your dog does have a problem with howling, it’s a good idea to make sure he doesn’t have an injury or other health problem. Ask your vet to examine your dog so you can rule out any health issues. In some cases a dog will develop howling behavior if an owner is not spending enough time with the dog. Try spending more time with your dog – play with him, pet him, and make sure the two of you are getting plenty of exercise together.