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Imagine the cold air hitting your face, the dark closing in around you, the silence--then the mournful howl of a pack of wolves in the distance getting ready for the evening hunt. Beautiful, isn't it?
But what if that howling is from your Basset Hound, and instead of being up north in the wilderness, you live in a suburban neighborhood, and it’s 11:00 at night. Your neighbors and their kids are all in bed and have just been awoken by your Basset's serenades! This is not going to make you popular in your neighborhood.
Why do dogs howl? Why are Basset Hounds particularly prone to howling behaviors? Dogs are closely related to wolves; they howl to communicate with each other when hunting and on the move. Basset Hounds are particularly likely to emulate their wild cousins. They too are a pack hunting dog and use howling, barking and baying to communicate with their pack members and handlers for hunting. But unless you are actually hunting with your Basset, or live a long way out in the country, howling behavior is going to need to be brought under control if you and everyone around you wants a good night's sleep!
Your howling hound is going to need to learn when it is appropriate to howl and when it is not. Start by identifying triggers for howling. Do you live in an area where other animals, such as foxes or coyotes, are howling and triggering your Basset Hound? Is he bored or anxious? Identifying triggers will help you define a training method and mitigate triggers. Perhaps a Basset Hound that is hearing other dogs or wild animals in the night needs to be put inside the house, a garage or kennel so he cannot hear other animals.
Getting a Basset Hound to ignore other animals howling or prowling about may be asking a lot of your naturally vocal pet. However, you can mitigate triggers, especially triggers such as boredom and anxiety. Putting howling on command may sound counterintuitive, but actually, it is providing direction to your hound as to when and when not to howl, which is helpful in preventing the behavior when it is not wanted. Reinforcing the 'quiet' command can also be used to prevent your Basset from singing for you and all to hear whenever he wants.
To train your dog not to howl, make sure you have time set aside to be consistent. You will need patience. Punishing your Basset Hound for howling will cause anxiety and confusion, and will not be very effective, as he is just doing what comes naturally. Use treats to put howling on command, teach an alternate behavior, or teach 'quiet'. Ensure all your Bassets' needs for exercise, stimulation and comfort are met to avoid anxious or boredom howling.
The Howling on Command Method
Allow a trigger that causes your Basset Hound to howl to occur, such as a siren in the distance or another dog vocalizing. Say “howl” when your dog starts howling, let him howl for a while, then provide a treat.
Repeat over a period of several days, until your dog will howl when you provide the command,
Associate treat with 'quiet'
Command your dog to howl. A good smelly treat held in front of his nose will cause him to stop howling to get the treat. As he enjoys the treat, say "quiet".
Practice 'quiet' command
Find a quiet environment free of distractions. Give the 'howl' command, followed by the 'quiet' command. Do not raise your voice for the 'quiet' command.
When your Basset stops howling, wait a few seconds then give him the treat. If he continues howling, wait for him to stop howling, repeat the “quiet” command and then reward.
Repeat daily for several weeks, practicing the 'howl' and 'quiet' commands in a variety of circumstances, until you can reliably command your Basset Hound's vocalizations.
The Bust Boredom Method
Exercise your Basset Hound. Take him for a long run before putting him out at night, so he is tired and has no excess energy to burn off. Give your Basset lots of social interaction, play, and training to build up his confidence. Expose your Basset to lots of new situations so that he acclimatizes to sights, sounds, and noises in general.
Ignore howling. Do not come running to your dog when he howls; when he is quiet, approach your dog and offer affection and attention.
Provide your Basset Hound’s favorite toy or a blanket that makes your dog comfortable when you leave him alone.
Give your Basset Hound a chew toy or puzzle feeder to work on when he is alone, to distract him from howling.
Stimulate your Basset
Bassets are scent hounds. To stimulate his mind, stimulate his nose; teach him to track simple scent trails, give him work to do and an appropriate outlet for scenting and howling, as part of play, to minimize it occurring other times.
The 'Be Quiet' Method
Have treats at hand. When your dog starts to howl, say “be quiet” in a firm voice. If your dog continues to howl, don't yell or punish, as this will only escalate the behavior, ignore him. After a few minutes repeat be quiet command.
When your Basset Hound stops howling, even for a moment, provide the treat, repeat "be quiet" to further associate the verbal command.
Repeat, asking your Basset to be quiet for longer and longer periods before rewarding quiet.
Never reward or pay attention to howling.
Wean off treats
Start replacing treats with praise and attention for being quiet.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 12/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021