Why Does My Dog Howl With Me?

By John Martin - August 4, 2021

Dog howling in the yard

Sometimes it can be fun to emit noises to see how your dog will react to the sound. If you have ever tried emitting a howl and observed that your dog simply howls along with you, you may be wondering why they are doing that.

When you let out a howl or a loud noise, it will certainly incite a reaction from your dog or at least get their attention. But if they start howling along with you, does that mean something? There are several reasons why your dog may join you when you howl. The following sections will provide some of the common reasons why they may be doing this.

They Are Bonding with You

One of the most apparent reasons may be that your dog is trying to bond with you by howling back at you. Howling back at you could be a way for them to say they acknowledge your howl and think of you as a member of their pack. This is their way of communicating with you and responding to what they think is you initiating a call.

If you notice that your pooch is doing it especially when you howl at them and not at other times, this is likely the reason that your dog is howling back at you. For instance, if your dog was in the wild, they would howl with others in their pack. The setting here may have changed, but the instinctive reaction will be the same.

Besides, dogs are generally sociable animals and they think of you as the leader of their pack. So, when you howl, it makes them happy to join you and participate in this familial exercise.

It’s in Its DNA

For several breeds, howling is also a mark of their genetics or ancestry. Among wild dogs, wolves, foxes, etc. it is in their genetic makeup to howl when they hear a high-pitched noise so they can warn other members of their packs in case of danger.

No matter how domesticated your dog has become, there are some traces of their ancestry that they cannot let go of. So, if they hear a high-pitched noise such as howling, it is an instinctive reaction for them to start howling as well as if to let other animals around know. In this case, the other animal around may even just be you so they are howling in response to what they think is your way of communicating with them.

It’s Looking for Rewards

If when your dog howls back at you, you get visibly excited, then your dog perhaps can also perceive this excitement. Especially for breeds that like to please their owners, they may howl back at you simply because they like the reaction you give. They can see that when they howl back at you, you get excited or give them attention. That is a reward for their howling so they think that this is the behavior they must exhibit each time you howl. They howl in order to get more rewards in the future.

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Like Sticks?

Things to Observe

There are a few things you may want to observe about your dog’s behavior when they howl. These things may be indications of other behavioral patterns and may let you know whether they are just howling along with you for fun, or whether that may be an indication of something else.

Do They Howl with You Each Time?

Do you notice them howling along with you each time you howl? If there are instances when your dog doesn’t howl along with you, notice why that might be. What is different about the circumstance when they do not howl?

Perhaps, they do it to get your attention for treats but they are not in the mood for treats, so they do not howl back at you. So, notice some of the differences in the instances when they do not howl back at you.

When Else Do They Howl?

Do they only howl when you are howling? For instance, if a car’s siren passes by your house, do they react to that? Or if there are other dogs in your area that howl at night or in the morning, does your dog join their chorus as well? If you notice that your dog is howling in response to other stimuli and sounds as well, then it is likely their response is because of genetic makeup. They are doing it to warn others in their pack nearby.

What Is Their Body Language?

Notice the body language of your pooch while they are howling. Do you notice any whimpering before or after? Do they get restless? Keep your eyes out for signs of anxiety.

If you notice that your dog’s howling, even if it is in response to your howling, is accompanied by signs of anxiety or distress, you may want to look into that. Of course, the solution would be to simply stop doing it if it makes your dog feel distressed.

But if your howling makes them anxious, then there is a chance any other type of high-pitched sound will also cause them distress. So, it could be useful to try this howling technique to figure out possible sources of anxiety for your pooch.

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Steal Your Seat When You Get Up?

What to Do About Excessive Howling?

If you notice that your dog tends to howl at odd hours in the night or if you have neighbors calling to complain about the spooky noise emitting from your home, then you may want to do something to reduce the howling even if you cannot curb it. The following are some of the ways you can handle excessive howling.

Don’t Encourage It

First of all, do not encourage howling. If your dog thinks their howling is being rewarded in any way, they will repeat the behavior in order to get more rewards. It is one thing to have your dog howl with you for fun or just as a prank.

But if it turns into a behavioral issue or if the howling becomes difficult to manage, then that is a problem. Often, your dog may be howling to get your attention so if you show them that this is a good way to get your attention, they will try this method as for them it seems like a guaranteed way to get results.

Spend Time with Your Dog

At times, the cause of your dog’s distress (which leads to howling) may be that they are alone or separated from the ones they love. Separation anxiety is an extremely common occurrence in dogs, especially in new pets.

Some breeds of dogs react especially poorly to being left alone, but all dogs to some degree enjoy being in the company of people (and animals) they love. So if it is separation anxiety that is causing your dog to howl, then certainly spend more time with them and gradually train them to be by themselves. The younger your dog is when you start training them to be alone, the easier it will be for them to adapt to this kind of lifestyle.

Try Counter-Conditioning

If your dog is howling to get your attention, then, as mentioned above you should not encourage that behavior. But other than simply ignoring it or not giving them attention when they are asking for it, teach them other acceptable behaviors that you will reward.

If they are howling so you will play with them or give them affection, then they need to know that staying quiet can also get them the same results. So, while you are trying not to encourage the howling, also provide them counter-conditioning so that they have other behaviors to rely upon.

Eliminate Any Triggers

If your dog is howling in response to some kind of high-pitched sound or if they feel threatened by something in their environment, see if whatever is triggering them can be removed from the area.

If it is a car passing by or if your neighbor’s dog has also emitted a howl, in response to which your dog is howling, then it will probably stop once the trigger stops. But if what is triggering them is a frequent occurrence in your environment, like a cuckoo clock that chimes every hour or the sound of your doorbell, then, perhaps, you can think about having those things changed if it will get your dog to stop howling every day.

Let It Phase Out

Another way to manage excessive howling is to simply let it go on without reacting. Dogs are, after all, animals that are accustomed to living in packs. No matter how much they are domesticated, some traits cannot be erased from their personalities.

Especially, if your dog is a breed like a Siberian Husky or German Shepherd then howling is going to be part of their behavior and the most you can do is ignore it and let it phase out by itself.

If you try to curb the howling by force or by reprimanding your pooch, that may in turn backfire and lead to unpleasant reactions. You do not want to curb what is your dog’s natural reaction to something. So, simply let it play out and accept a few things as par for the course.

Get Professional Help

If you still think the howling might be an indication of some kind of disruptive behavior and you really wish to get it under control, then consider enlisting the help of a professional who can train your dog to manage the anxiety that is causing them to howl or simply teach them that this is not behavior that warrants any rewards.

In most cases, the best results are if the pooch is trained at an early age when they are being socialized. This is the time that they are developing their personalities and are the formative years when small traits become solidified into lifelong habits.

So if you intervene at this point and train your dog not to howl excessively, the results may be quite fruitful as opposed to teaching them a different behavior when they are much older.

Also Read: Why Do Dogs Dig Holes?

Final Thoughts

A dog howling is one of the most natural sounds they may emit. If they notice that you too are howling, they may enjoy participating and howling along with you as if this is a pack activity.

There are several reasons why your dog may be howling with you. As the sections above have described, it could be genetics or it could simply be their way of responding to your howl.

However, if you find that the howling is becoming out of control, certainly do not encourage them to howl along with you. Find ways to discourage them from howling by rewarding other behaviors.

But if it is anxiety that is causing them to howl, you may want to look into that as well. The bottom line is, pay attention to your dog’s behavior. But if it just seems like a harmless activity where your pooch is simply trying to bond by howling back at you, then there is no need to overthink it.