The Root of the Behavior
Today's Bullmastiff is the perfect complement to family living and is equally at ease on the couch as in the field at work guarding his owners' home. Armed with a thorough understanding of the breed's history, it is easy to see that howling is a skill that would provide little benefit to the Bullmastiff. If your Bullmastiff is a howler, what causes it? In its simplest form, howling is a means through which our dogs communicate with us. Careful examination of the context for the howling can help us to determine the reasons for the behavior. Some dogs howl to alert their owners to the presence of danger. This particular motivation would be in keeping with the Bullmastiff's history as a guardian of home and hearth. Howling is difficult to ignore, and the howling of a 120 lb muscular giant is even more difficult to miss. A hearty howl would scare away any potential thieves and sound the alarm to the dog's owner that his property was under attack. Other dogs like to make a big "splash" to let people know they are on the scene. A 120 pound dog clambering into a room certainly gets your attention, but a boisterous howl just adds to the intensity. Though Bullmastiffs are generally not dogs that create a great deal of noise or clamor, some do like to make a ruckus, and this may be what your dog is hoping to accomplish with his howling frenzy.
Encouraging the Behavior
Of course, one obvious cause for dog vocalizations includes attempts to bring your attention to the fact that your Bullmastiff is sick or hurting. In general, dogs remain very stoic when in pain, so if your dog is howling as a result of an injury or illness, it is most likely that the problem is serious enough to warrant immediate medical attention. It cannot be denied that the modern dog's ancient origins contribute to his behaviors today. Since our dogs trace their roots to the wolf in the wild, it is possible that a howling Bullmastiff is simply doing what comes naturally to him. Wolves in the wild would howl for any number of reasons. They may howl to alert their pack to the presence of a predator or to attract a lost member of the fold back to his family. Though our modern canine companions have no need to fear an attack by a predator, the instinct still remains powerfully alive in them today. The Bullmastiff's guard dog instincts may encourage howling behavior. Though most dogs would detract poachers through their sheer size alone, others may howl as a form of territorial marking. Howling provides a firm assertion of ownership which leaves little doubt in any intruder's mind as to who lives there and how unwelcome their presence on the property is.
Other Solutions and Considerations
While mental stimulation is very important for your Bullmastiff, it is also important to address his exercise requirements. While Bullmastiffs are not an overly energetic breed, they do benefit from a daily walk and change of scenery. If you are unable to provide daily exercise for your dog, consider sending Fido to a reputable doggy daycare a few days a week. Alternatively, you could hire a dog walker to stop by to take Fido for a run and a quick check of his pee-mail. Your dog will benefit greatly from the additional exercise, and a tired dog doesn't have the energy to howl. A win-win for both of you. Lastly, if your dog persists in howling in spite of your efforts to keep him occupied, it may be time to consult a behavior modification specialist. Through the use of desensitization and counterconditioning, it is possible for your dog to learn to keep his love of howling to a minimum.