Imagine you are sound asleep in the comfort of your bed, it’s 4:00 am on Saturday and your are abruptly jolted awake by your beloved dog’s howling. It may appear that your dog is howling for no apparent reason at all. You may even be angry that he woke you up or you may be somewhat concerned with this unusual behavior. But let me reassure you, howling at anytime is a perfectly normal behavior. In fact howling could go back to instincts and the pack mentality in dogs. Or it may have something to do with some other underlying issues. Let’s explore these reasons a bit more closely.
The Root of the Behavior
It wise to say that late at night or early morning things are a lot more quiet, the noise of cars, trains, planes and people interacting is relatively gone unless you live in a big city that never sleeps. This is when wolf behavior is a little more common in dogs. Wolf type howling is where dogs vocalize and communicate to each other. It is easier in the early morning hours or late evening hours to hear other dogs and try to communicate back with them which is why you will see this behavior in the morning. So being descendents from wolfs is naturally the root of this behavior. However there are many other reasons why dogs howl. You may find that your dog will howl at loud noises such as car horns, musical instruments or sirens. Typically this is due to high pitch noises. This may be because the sound hurts his ears or annoy him. Some believe that by howling the dog feels as though he is chasing the noise away. Dogs are pack animals and have a mentality that revolves around their pack. Pack animals do everything together within their pack. With that being said, your dog thinks of you as part have his pack. When you leave for work each morning your dog may have separation anxiety which can cause howling. If your dog is in pain or not feeling well he may howl. If you suspect an injury or an illness talk to your vet right away to find the reason behind the illness or pain. You may need to go in for a visit to see what is really go on with your pooch. Often times when dogs are are excited or happy with themselves they will howl. This can be observed in the wild as well. Wolves will howl after a successful hunt. Dogs are very social creatures, just like humans. When they feel they are not getting your attention they will come up with different behaviors in order to get your attention. Howling is just one of their attention-seeking behaviors. Dogs mark their territory in a number of ways. It is widely known that they are marking their territory when they pee in certain areas. The same is true for howling. Just like their wolf ancestors, a dog will howl when he is alerting others that they are coming to close to his terrority.
Encouraging the Behavior
For the most part howling in the early morning hours is a harmless act, but it can disturb your sleep. You can train your dog to be quiet. One method that works well is teach your dog to ‘Speak.’ This encourages your dog to bark, yelp or howl loudly. Reward your dog with a treat and positive affirmation when he achieves that. Then teach your dog to ‘Hush’ or ‘Quiet’ Be quick to give him a treat when he is quiet, even if it is only for a few seconds. Continue this training game of speaking and hushing. He will eventually learn the commands so that when he does howl in the morning, you can say ‘Hush’ and he will quiet down. Another method is to spend more time with your dog. Howling can sometimes be seen as attention getting or a sign of separation anxiety. Try new activities or games with your dog. Always reward him with a treat or positive affirmation for good behavior. Be sure to not reward your dog’s attention seeking behavior with negativity. For example if your dog is howling for attention and you yell at him, this can have a backwards effect. Sometimes when a dog is lonely or needs attention, any attention even negative attention will suffice. Instead spend that time with your dog. Giving him positive attention and rewards for good behavior will take you a lot further in training then negativity.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Sometimes training your dog might take an outside force. If you have tried to teach him not to howl with different methods like the Speak/Hush method and it failed you might want to find a personal dog trainer or even a dog class that can work with your dog. Classes can be nice because often times you can participate in the training. Don’t give up on your dog right away. It is hard to get an old dog to learn new tricks, but it is completely possible. Always be patient with your dog and if one method doesn’t work, try something new.
Sometimes howling can be a nuisance. However, you have to keep in mind this is an instinctual behavior in your pet. You can train and encourage your dog to have the right behavior with time and practice. First, figure out what is causing your dog to howl in the morning and then take the necessary action to encourage the appropriate behavior.