Like most dogs, Border Terriers howl. Sometimes, they even engage in night howling. There are many theories to explain howling and these can differ based on a dog’s breeding. But some theories seem to hold true among all dogs, irrespective of their breed. One of these commonly accepted explanations is that since dogs are descended from wolves, they inherited some wolf characteristics and habits, such as howling. Wolves howl to communicate their presence and position to other members of the pack. Howling is thus a mechanism that helped and still helps them to find each other in the wild. If you live in a neighborhood with many dogs, you will often hear them responding to your Border Terrier's howls. This wolf behavior is believed by dog researchers to still exist in dogs even though they don’t live in packs or in the wild. Besides their ancestry, other concepts have been advanced to explain why border terriers howl. These are discussed below.
The Root of the Behavior
To understand howling among Border Terriers, it is important to first understand their character. They are often described as stubborn, lively, active, excitable, quick to bark, and quick to chase. These very traits are what make them good hunters. Border Terriers were originally bred to hunt small animals such as moles. This instinct to hunt is still alive in your terrier and he might even bolt out the door when he senses small animals in your yard. And because he is still a hunter, howling is how he communicates a successful hunt. Further, as the need to hunt it suppressed among dogs that live in towns, howling can also be a sign of boredom. Border Terriers were also bred to work well in packs, including working alongside other great hunting dogs like the Foxhound. Therefore, if you don’t own other dogs, this means that you have “separated your Border Terrier from his pack."
Add this to the fact that you probably spend most of your days at work, and you have a terrier who is lonely, suffers from separation anxiety and needs attention. Howling, in this case, is your dog’s way of expressing his anxiety and demanding your attention. Besides their natural traits, howling can also be attributed to medical conditions that are related to injuries or aging. If your Border Terrier who is advanced in age suddenly starts howling, this could mean he is suffering from canine dementia, poor eyesight, or poor hearing. These conditions are serious and could cause your dog mental discomfort if not attended to. Border Terriers are injury prone because of their active life. It’s not uncommon for them to snag parts of their body on the fence while trying to jump over or crawl through. Your dog could also have broken a nail while trying to dig after a mole or caught a thorn in his paw when tearing through a shrub. Check his body for signs of injury and get him the appropriate treatment immediately.
Encouraging the Behavior
You cannot eliminate howling, but you can prevent or discourage it depending on the circumstances. From time to time, your dog will howl at night because other dogs are howling. This cannot be avoided; you just have to let him ‘communicate’ with other dogs. However, incessant howling or that which results from an emotional or medical need should be discouraged. You can do so in the following ways. First, exercise your dog and ensure he gets sufficient mental stimulation. Your Border Terrier cannot suppress his natural need for activity and exercising him is the only way to meet this need. Take him for walks or play with him outside in the yard. If you don’t have time to exercise your dog, get a dog walker.
Second, take your dog for training. Though Border Terriers are independent thinkers, they can be trained to be obedient. Training will eliminate unwanted behavior by creating a connection between actions and consequences. It will also increase your dog’s sense of security when he receives praise and affection for good behavior. More importantly, through training, your dog will learn to respect you as his leader and to listen to what you say. Third, emotional and medical needs should be addressed on a case by case basis. If your dog has separation anxiety, consult a dog trainer for help. A visit to the vet is necessary if your dog is injured or when you suspect that his howling is age-related.
Other Solutions and Considerations
While it is important to let your dog outside to play, you should exercise extra caution. Border Terriers are very agile go-getters and only a strong fence that is high enough can stop them from running off. If they can’t jump over your fence, they will dig under it. Secure the area under your fence to prevent this. As well, if you are considering getting a Border Terrier but aren’t prepared to deal with all its zeal, get an adult dog. This is because adult dogs already have an established pattern of behavior so it’s easier to find a dog with a personality and temperament that suits you.