Throughout history, dogs have been known to howl at the moon, but why?
Is there an evolutionary reason, or is it just instinctual behavior?
In this blog post, we will explore the mysterious reason why dogs seem to howl at the moon and then talk about how to stop it.
Why Do Dogs Howl at the Moon?
Dogs do not howl at the moon. Instead, they howl to communicate with other dogs.
They look up while doing so because the position allows them to vocalize more effectively, giving dog owners the illusion that the dogs are howling at the moon.
A dog’s howl is associated with bad omens in many cultures, and it can be surprising for some people to find out that there is no actual connection between a howl and an untimely event.
This article will explain why dogs howl, why they look up when doing so, and how to stop them from howling if you don’t like them doing so.
Why Do Dogs Howl?
Dogs howl to communicate with humans and other dogs. They also do it to get their humans’ attention.
Sometimes, dogs also howl to express different emotions, such as pain and anxiety.
Dogs get their howling instinct from their canine ancestors.
Although howling seems to be a typical behavior among dogs, and they all have the physical ability to produce such sound, not all dog breeds do it.
Some breeds are more likely to howl than others. These breeds include the following:
Other dog breeds howl only under special circumstances, mainly to communicate how they feel.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why dogs howl.
Dogs Howl To Communicate With Other Dogs and Their Humans
Before dogs came to live with humans, their canine ancestors would often hunt in packs and communicate with others for two reasons:
- To notify others about their location. It can help other members of the pack to find them in case they get separated during a hunt.
- To warn others not to invade their territory. Howling can also be a warning against other packs which may try to compete with them for prey.
Wolves and coyotes howl for the reasons mentioned above. If you live in an area near where coyotes hunt and notice your dog howling every night, it may be because they are responding to the sound produced by their canine relatives.
Modern-day, domesticated, and city-dwelling dogs may not howl for the same reasons as their ancestors.
This change in communication primarily happens because they don’t have the same pack mentality as their canine relatives, like wolves and coyotes.
However, regardless of the reason, dogs have the physical ability to howl, and they have learned that howling is an effective way to communicate with other dogs and their humans.
The behavior is further reinforced every time they get what they want whenever they howl.
NOTE – You also find this article about dogs crying when they see their owners fun to read.
Dogs Howl When They Feel Anxious
Dogs have developed creative ways of communicating with their humans.
They are able to produce different sounds to express various feelings and can even communicate using body language.
Every dog is unique, and one dog’s howl may mean something different from another dog’s howl, even if they live in the same household.
This is because the dogs have different feelings and may have different triggers for producing such a sound.
Very often, however, howling is due to anxiety.
Here are some reasons why your dog may feel anxious:
- Many dogs have a strong attachment to their humans. If you leave your dog unattended for extended periods, they would most likely resort to howling, barking, or other sounds, hoping to get your attention.
- Physical pain. Dogs generally try to hide their pain as it can be a sign of weakness. However, when your dog howls and whimpers, it can signify that they are suffering from something severe. In such a case, the howl functions as a cry for help.
Note – You might find this post interesting, it asks why do dogs whine and cry when they see you?
Why Do Dogs Look Up When They Howl?
Members of the canine family can produce various sounds, such as barking, growling, howling, and whimpering.
If you have raised dogs before, you have most likely noticed that these various sounds come with different head positions.
Dogs look up when they howl because it can help with the abduction of their vocal folds and open up their larynx enough to vocalize more.
It can also help the sound reach long distances.
Many people from various cultures strongly believe that dogs howl—especially during a full moon—for supernatural reasons.
The most plausible explanation to debunk this is that wild canines like wolves and coyotes would often hunt at night and especially during a full moon when they can see their prey more easily.
These wild canines may then howl, inviting a response from nearby dogs who can hear it.
Dogs howling at night and looking up while doing so can give anyone the impression that they are howling at the moon.
However, dog owners would know that dogs also howl at any time during the day, and they do raise their heads while doing so.
In this video, you will notice how the quality and intensity of the howl change as the dogs lift their head
NOTE – You may also like to read this post. It answers the question – why does my dog whine in the car?
Why Does My Dog Howl On A Full Moon?
Dogs are known to howl for a variety of reasons, and one of those reasons may be in response to the full moon.
However, the exact reason why dogs may howl during a full moon is not clear.
One possible explanation is that dogs are more sensitive to the brightness of the full moon.
This may lead to an increase in their activity levels, which can include howling.
Additionally, some studies have suggested that dogs may be able to sense changes in the earth’s magnetic field during a full moon, which may also contribute to their howling behavior.
Another possible explanation is that howling is a natural behavior for dogs, and they may simply be responding to the increased nocturnal activity that occurs during a full moon.
It’s also possible that howling is a form of communication, as dogs may use howling to signal their presence or to communicate with other dogs.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for guidance.
NOTE – You might also enjoy reading this post asking the question: why do dogs show their teeth when feeling guilty?
How To Stop Your Dog From Howling
Howling is a natural instinct among dogs. However, some dogs may howl excessively, causing disturbance to you or your neighbors.
Luckily, there are several ways to reduce their howling or make them stop altogether.
1. Identify the Cause and Address It
Unusual howling in dogs can be due to various reasons and may be affected by the dog’s breed, age, and health.
Dogs have very sensitive ears, and they may respond to slight sounds like scratching or footsteps by howling.
On the other hand, puppies are likely to howl to call for their mothers.
Older and sickly dogs may howl to express pain.
Spend more time with your young dogs suffering from separation anxiety, and seek a veterinarian’s help if your dog is hurt or sick.
Whatever the reason is, the behavior will most likely go away or at least reduce once you address the underlying cause of the howling.
2. Hire a Professional Dog Trainer To Condition Your Dogs
If your dog howls excessively to almost any trigger, it may be beyond your skills to stop them.
However, if you are willing to try, it is best to understand that it will take time, patience, and the right attitude to achieve results.
Sometimes, the only way to go is to hire a professional dog trainer who can more easily recognize the root cause and more effectively employ ways to reduce your dog’s howling.
Final Notes Why Dogs Howl at the Moon (They Don’t)
Although it may look like it, dogs do not howl at the moon.
They howl for various reasons associated with their natural canine instincts and their desire to communicate with humans.
If your dog is howling excessively, and the sound is accompanied by other symptoms like whimpering or misbehavior, you will need to identify the cause and address it accordingly to minimize or stop the behavior.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!