Dogs vocalize in various ways to communicate with their kith and kin, which include a series of screams, howls, barks, moans, and growls. Then there are the non-verbal modes of communication as well, like jaw-snapping, whining, panting, and so on. Not to forget that dogs descended from wolves, and howling is one of the traits they have inherited since time immemorial.
Dogs may howl for umpteen reasons which include communicating with others, making their presence felt, and attracting their owner’s attention. Now getting to the topic, dogs will howl instinctively when in need. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can also encourage them to howl so that they can bond well with you.
But making your dog howl forcefully for your entertainment to achieve a purpose isn’t a good thing to do. Let’s understand how cruel it could be to make your dog howl by applying forceful measures.
Is It Cruel to Make Your Dog Howl?
Yes, it is cruel to make your dog howl against its will by using forceful and aggressive measures. Let’s get into a detailed explanation.
Dogs vary from one another when it comes to their intensity and frequency of howling. Breeds like the Dachshund, Siberian Husky, Bloodhound, Basset Hound, and Alaskan Malamute are known for their strong howling abilities. While some, like the Rhodesian Ridgeback, Newfoundland, and Greyhound, belong to the list of silent breeds that rarely howl or bark.
So, if your dog doesn’t howl a lot, and you want to get it to do so to make it bond and communicate with you, then there’s nothing wrong with it. You may even desire to have some fun with your pooch during a game of fetch. When your dog answers your commands by howling, it will give you immense pleasure indeed.
However, trouble strikes when your dog isn’t willing to howl and you are hell-bent to achieve your goal. Many owners often end up exerting force on their dogs and even punishing them for not howling. Now, that’s something cruel indeed.
To mention it in simpler terms, encouraging your dog to howl isn’t cruel. But when that encouragement turns into a forceful activity, that’s inhuman.
What Does It Mean When Your Dog Howls? 6 Different Meanings
Howling is quite commonly observed in most dogs. There are various reasons for the same. He is perhaps trying to reach out to you. It may even be that your dog desires to grab your attention after you’ve returned home from work.
He may even be in pain. Let’s take a detailed look at all the factors which could make your dog howl.
1. To Communicate
Just like humans, dogs need to communicate with their peers, owners, and the outside world. Besides the barks, whines, and growls, howling is a manner in which dogs would reach out to people around them. If yours is a home with multiple dogs, you may have often seen them howl at one another. It’s not that they are fighting.
That’s their way of communicating with their peers. He could even be doing the same during a play session. You ask him to fetch the ball, and he acknowledges your command by letting out a howl.
2. Attention-Seeking Behavior
When the whines and soft growls don’t work to get your attention, your dog might resort to loud howls. This may happen more when you are busy with work or have returned home after a long day.
Well, the moment you respond to the loud growls, that would mean acknowledging the behavior from your end. This will tempt your dog to get noisier whenever he wants your attention. So, if you sense that your dog is howling to reach out to you, avoid making eye contact. Once he quietens, you could pat his back or give him a soft cuddle.
If your dog doesn’t stop even when you are not paying attention, you could firmly say ‘No’ or ‘Stop.’ If your dog is trained to follow commands, he will listen to you.
3. To Express Their Alertness To Their Surroundings
Some dogs are highly sensitive to high-pitched sounds, which include those of an ambulance, a shrill-sounding doorbell, loud music, barks of other dogs, or even their owner’s voice. They could be startled and alarmed by the sudden noise and, as an instant reaction, will howl along.
In most cases, they would stop once the sound ceases. Well, if your dog does the same regularly, it could be a nuisance not just for you but for your neighbors as well. Training your dogs on socialization since their puppy days and exposing them to different experiences and sounds may help manage this problem to a certain extent.
4. As a Warning Signal
More or less, every dog understands his territory or domain. But some dogs are more territorial than others. The moment they see any unknown face whom they consider an intruder in their domain, they would bark and growl. This is a warning sign for the stranger to stay away. They’ll even do the same when they come across unfamiliar dogs wandering near their homes.
Proper socialization and exposure to different people and experiences will help your dog differentiate the good from the bad.
5. Out of Stress
Anxiety is another cause for increased vocalizations in dogs. Your dogs could be stressed about anything. You may have brought another dog home, or there has been a change in his dwelling. You have a lot of guests at home, or your home has suddenly become chaotic. The reasons are endless.
It could even be separation anxiety, which is making him agonized and worried. Whatever it may be, a stressed dog could express his woes through howls, barks, grunts, and whines. If he is overly anxious, you could even observe other gestures in your dog, like drooling, yawning, licking, pacing in circles, and so on.
6. When in Pain
It could be that your dog wounded or injured itself during a play session in your garden or a walk in the park. He may even be suffering from muscle or stomach pain. One of the first things that your dog would do when in pain is vocalize. It could be soft barks, low grunts, or even loud howls.
He’ll display other signs as well to show that he is in pain. He may lick or scratch the affected area. Your dog will also show disinterest in exercise or playing. If he has hurt his legs, you may see him limping. In case of stomach pain, your dog will have a loss of appetite, and his abdomen could appear distended.
What Are The Pros & Cons Of Making Your Dog Howl?
When you encourage your dog to howl, you should even know about the pros and cons of initiating the behavior. When your silent dog responds to your encouragement and gets to howling, it could be hard to stop him. So, let’s take a look at the boons and banes of your dog howling.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of encouraging your dog to howl. Here are some of the essential points to consider.
1. Helps to Develop Bonding
It is always important to bond well with your dog from the time you’ve brought it home. While some dogs get along quite well, a few may have a reserved attitude at the onset. One of the best ways to make your dog get along with you is to spend quality time with him from the very first day.
Howling is a form of communication. When you encourage your dog to howl in response to your commands during a play session, you’re taking a step forward to enhance the bond between the two of you.
2. Serves As a Good Training Tool
When you teach your dog to howl or bark only when the need arises, it will help to strengthen his impulse control.
When a dog’s impulse control isn’t strong enough, he will bark, howl or cry to get his needs fulfilled. This is similar to the tantrums of a child to have his or her demands met.
So, when you encourage your dog to howl, you must even teach him to do the same at appropriate times. If your dog is well-trained in commands, he will master the skill better.
3. Makes Your Dog Watchful
Many dogs are great watchdogs and guard dogs. The moment they spot a stranger in the vicinity of their homes, they’ll let out a loud bark or howl. When you encourage your dog to howl or bark on purpose, he too may fruitfully use this newly learned skill.
There are certain downsides as well when you encourage your dog to howl. Let us take a look at each one of them.
1. A Noisy Affair
When you encourage your dog to howl, make sure you are doing it at a time when your neighbors wouldn’t be disturbed. Early mornings and late nights are a strict no-no.
It’s better to do it at a time when people have set off to work. Also, you must keep the howling sessions short. Once you’ve succeeded in encouraging your dog to howl, make sure they do not do it frequently. If you find your dog howling without a purpose, take his name and say a firm ‘NO.’
2. Can Trigger Attention-Seeking Behavior
When you teach your dog to howl appropriately, make sure that you do not end up triggering his attention-seeking behavior. Like if you want your dog to stop howling, avoid giving the treat until he is silent.
If you reward your dog in between the howling, then he’ll understand that when he goes on howling, you’ll give him a treat to stop him. The same goes for howling when given a cue. Like, when you say ‘Speak’ or ‘Start,’ only then should your dog howl.
Again hearing a ‘Stop’ from your end should make your dog cease howling. If he follows this cycle, only then you should reinforce him positively.
3. Could Lead to Aggression in Dogs
When you encourage your dog to howl quite often, just because you want to have fun, or desire to put his antics up on social media, it can harm his behavior as well. When he doesn’t know when to stop, he could overdo it, and sometimes it might lead to aggressive behavior.
Before you encourage your dog to howl, he should be well-trained in commands. This will help him understand when he should begin to howl and when he should stop. If your dog howls only when needed, then his howling won’t create any menace as such.
What If Your Dog Does Not Want To Howl?
Despite all the cajoling, trying, and positive reinforcement techniques, if you find your dog not interested in howling at all, then it is better not to force him further. This won’t be a good thing to do.
If teaching tricks is your motive, then there are a lot of other interesting things to do with your dog. These include asking him to shake hands with you, giving a high-five, and so on.
What should you do to stop unwanted howling in dogs?
If your dog is howling a lot, you need to identify the trigger. If it is the noise of a siren or any other external sounds that are making your dog howl a lot, then take your dog to a quieter place from where the sound isn’t audible. You may even distract your dog.
You could even teach him the ‘Quiet’ or ‘No’ command, which will help him to stop howling excessively. However, a sick dog will howl excessively as well, so if you notice any other signs of discomfort in your canine alongside, take him to your vet.
Is it good to howl with your dog?
There isn’t anything wrong when you encourage your dog to howl by howling along. However, keep it short, and do not overdo it, as that could make your dog pick up the wrong habit.
How to teach your dog to howl?
There are various ways in which you could teach your dog to howl. You could howl along and encourage your dog to imitate you. You may even play videos of wolves or dogs howling. However, this will help more if you have a dog like a Siberian Husky who is already adept at howling.
Then there is the positive reinforcement technique with verbal cues. Once your dog is trained on commands, say “ Speak” or ‘Howl.” If he follows your cue and begins howling, reward him with a treat. Also, teach your dog to stop on command.
We all have our personal choices and liberty to act as we desire. Dogs aren’t an exception in this regard. So, if you find your dog doesn’t have an interest in howling, don’t make him do the same against his will. If you do that, then it will be an act of cruelty indeed.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.