Howling is one of the many ways a dog communicates. Dogs howl when they want to get attention, make contact with other dogs or announce their presence. It can also be a response to high-pitched sounds from musical instruments or a vehicle siren.
Howling may simply be a natural instinct. But, if an underlying problem triggers it, it could mean that your dog is in trouble.
Does your dog howl excessively? There are two common reasons behind it: behavioral or medical. In other words, it could be:
1. Separation anxiety
If the neighbors complain of excessive howling when you are away, it might be caused by separation anxiety. This kind of howling usually comes with constant pacing, destructive behavior, depression or other signs of distress.
If you suspect separation anxiety, purchase a camera so that you can watch your dog’s behavior in your absence. If your dog appears to be bored or slightly anxious, first address this issue by giving your pup plenty of durable toys to enjoy if you are going to be away for a length of time. If you do not see improvement as you watch him through the camera, contact your veterinarian and a professional certified trainer.
2. Underlying medical condition
Dogs sometimes howl when they are sick so there could be a medical reason behind the behavior. If your dog is howling more than usual, look for signs of injury or illness. Then, take him to the vet to rule out any underlying problem.
Is there a remedy to excessive howling?
The answer is yes. You can address excessive howling by first identifying the trigger behind it.
If your dog howls in response to sounds
Does your dog howl every time he hears a siren or another dog howling? He most likely will stop when the sound is gone. If the howling occurs more frequently, you could teach him to be quiet through desensitization and counterconditioning.
What is DSCC?
Desensitization and counterconditioning are training programs to address anxiety, phobia and aggression – behaviors that involve emotion or arousal. The objective of DSCC programs is to change a pet’s attitude or emotional response to a stimulus. If your pet is displaying high anxiety, phobias or aggression, always seek a professional for advice.
If your dog howls to get your attention
Some dogs learn that howling can get them attention, food, treats or other objects they want. You can curb this behavior by teaching your dog that howling doesn’t work, but being quiet does.
Step 1: Make him feel invisible.
Try to ignore your dog as soon as he starts howling for attention. Do not touch, speak or make eye contact. Do not punish or scold him either as this will only make the howling behavior worse. Instead, pretend that he is not there or try folding your arms across your chest and turn away.
If he starts making noise, don’t give him what he wants until your dog stays quiet for five seconds. If he manages to stay silent longer than five seconds, then you can pay attention to him again.
Step 2: Reward quiet behavior.
Another positive reinforcement training technique is to reward quiet behavior. When your dog stays well-behaved despite outside triggers, give him a praise or a toy. This way, he knows that being quiet is the right way to get your attention.
You can also teach your dog to speak or be quiet upon command. Teach him to bark when you say “speak!” and then praise him when he does. But, do NOT give him a treat! Then command him to stop by saying “quiet!” and again offer praise. After every successful sequence, increase the time to five seconds, 10 seconds, and so on. Do this repeatedly until he stays quiet for longer periods before rewarding him with a treat.
Step 3: Spend more time with your dog.
Some dogs howl excessively when they are lonely especially when left alone or kept outside for long hours. Remember, dogs are social creatures who need constant interaction with the family. As such, they may feel anxious or sad when you do not give them plenty of love and attention.
If your dog often howls when by himself, take a walk or play games at the park. If he is constantly alone outside, bring him in more often and spend quality time indoors. You can also sign up for training classes that focus on positive reinforcement.
A Dog Behaviorist Can Help Address Excessive Howling
If these tips do not work and howling continues to be a challenge, then seek professional help.
Try looking for a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) near you.
If you cannot find a behaviorist in your area, you can hire a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) instead. Many CPDTs offer classes that can help with attention-seeking howling.
However, if you are hiring a CPDT, ensure that they have extensive experience in desensitization and counterconditioning.
Is your dog displaying excessive howling that keeps annoying the neighbors with no solution in sight? Here at Positive Paws, we customize a plan to address specific issues such as separation anxiety and aggression. By identifying the triggers behind your dog’s behavior, we can help replace those unacceptable behaviors with desirable ones.
Contact us today at 636 352 3104 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.