If you have a Bloodhound, you are probably used to the sound of howling. Bloodhounds are known for the distinctive loud baying sound that they make. This habit has made the breed very useful to hunters, but it can get old quickly in a private home. You may have listened to your Bloodhound bay and wondered what is prompting the behavior, since you are not chasing a rabbit through the woods. The truth is that while a Bloodhound's signature howl can help to alert a hunter and keep him or her on the trail, there are many other things that your Bloodhound has to communicate to you. The exact message will vary from dog to dog, but the basic process is consistent.
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The Root of the Behavior
All dogs vocalize in some way or another. Whether the sound is a bark, a yip, or a howl, it lets your dog communicate to members of the pack about how he or she feels. The howl is one of the dog's most primal pack behaviors, as it comes directly down the line of generations from the dog's wolf ancestor. Wolves are a roaming species, and they howl as a way of communicating across distances. They use the drawn-out sound to tell their pack mates where they are or express a particular need, such as the need for back-up on a hunt. Although 15,000 years have passed since the domestic dog has evolved, breeds like the Bloodhound continue to howl to communicate with its pack. Now that its pack is made up of humans, though, they often don't understand what the dog is trying to say. Often, the Bloodhound howls to tell you that he or she is lonely. Bloodhounds tend to bay a lot at night or when they are separated from their families for long periods of time. If you and your household go out for the evening, take a few moments to listen for a low howl. It might be your dog trying to call you back from the hills, as though you were his wolf pack.
Sometimes, if your dog gets really anxious about your absence, he or she will start to act out and engage in destructive behaviors to calm his energy. Destructive behavior alongside howling may also mean that your dog needs more exercise or activity. Bloodhounds are naturally high-energy dogs and need a lot of stimulation. If they don't have enough outlets for their energy, they often let it out by howling. This is true for positive energy as well as for negative energy, which is why your dog howls when he or she is excited. So, what about that howling that your Bloodhound does when he hears a high-pitched noise such as a siren? Believe it or not, your dog is probably communicating with the siren like it is another dog or wolf. Listen to the siren and you will notice that the pitch goes from low to high, just like your dog's howl does. When your dog joins into a siren's wail, it is akin to joining in the pack howl that bonds a group of wolves.
Encouraging the Behavior
Even if you know why your Bloodhound is howling and understand it is a normal pack behavior, you might wish it would at least happen less often. One way to try and reduce the amount of howling in your house is to take your dog on more long walks, preferably in places where there are many things for him or her to see and smell. You may also consider taking your Bloodhound to a dog park regularly or even taking on another dog in your home, as Bloodhounds tend to be less stressed when they have plenty of companionship. If your Bloodhound still howls when you leave the house, and you are definitely a one-dog family or person, think about leaving a classical music station on the radio to calm your dog.
Pheromone collars serve a similar purpose and are available at most pet stores. Spending extra time with your dog and keeping him or her calm when you leave the house may work with separation-related howling, but it is unlikely to stop howling associated with sirens or other stimuli in the environment. For these howling moments, you may need to counter-condition your dog. Keep treats handy and reward your dog with one every time he or she does not howl at a sound that normally incites baying. You will need ot continue this routine until your Bloodhound is howling significantly less at prior triggers.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you have tried in vain to figure out why your Bloodhound is baying and put a stop to it, or at least slow it down, you may need to see a veterinarian. This is particularly likely if your Bloodhound has never been a frequent howler but suddenly seems to be howling all the time. This may mean that heor she is experiencing discomfort from an illness or injury. Even if your vet is able to rule out a physical cause, he or she may be able to talk to you about treatments for separation anxiety. There are medications available that work for many dogs and their owners. If these aren't right for your dog, you can ask your vet about corrective collars, special behavioral training, and other tools.
Chances are, you brought home a Bloodhound because you liked at least some of the breed's qualities. Whether howling is one of these qualities or not, it is part of who your dog is as a “person.” Remember to empathize with the behavior as a form of communication and never yell at your dog for howling, lest you damage your bond. Instead, work with your dog to meet his or her needs so that he or she has to howl less.That way, your Blood hound can stay man's (or woman's) best friend!