Why do Dogs Howl?

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Does your dog howl? Of all of our dogs, only Tino howled, and only occasionally – mainly when he heard fire engines or the ice cream truck. It was odd because those two don’t have the same pitch or tone at all. They sound nothing alike, so why did he howl to them? Steve could also get Tino to howl if he started howling. Yes, that was odd too.
 
Howling dog
 

I did a little research on the topic and came upon an interesting article in Psychology Today about whether dogs have a musical sense and whether howling was a dog’s attempt to sing. He talked about an actual musical called Howl, which played at Carnegie Hall in 1980 which was a musical work for twenty humans and three canines. They actually appeared on David Letterman too, see the video below. Oh, the nutty thing people do…
 

 

Putting the musical aside, Dr. Stanley Coren, who writes weekly about dog behavior for Psychology Today, said that “Howling is actually a form of communication, which can indicate loneliness in an isolated dog, but often serves other social functions. Wolves howl to assemble the pack and also to reinforce the identity of the group.”
 
I agree, I think Tino was howling to tell the ice cream truck to come to our house.
 
Interestingly, in the research on wolves, they found that wolves do have a sense of tone and pitch, but do not like being in the same pitch as their fellow howlers. They will change pitch when others join the group so they all stay at a different pitch! That’s why a pack of wolves, or coyotes or even dogs sound so diverse when howling as a group. Check out these super howlers.
 

 
How about you, does your dog howl? Can you get him to howl on cue?

 

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18 Comments

  1. Haha, that Boxer howling along to “Happy Birthday” was awesome!! Missy & Buzz aren’t howlers per se, although every now & then Buzz will sing/howl/mumble along when we start by making funny sounds 😉
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  2. We met a guy in NYC whose pup would howl when the guy played his harmonica. Got to love a dog whose ready to sing at a moment’s notice.

    Eko and Penny aren’t too vocal. Though Penny had a mighty puppy howl when I first began crate training her.

  3. I’ve never had a howling dog, but there are a lot in my neighborhood. They love to sing along with sirens.
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  4. Sherman howls sometimes. Mostly it’s when I take Leroy for walk. I can hear SHerman howling as soon as we step onto the driveway back home.
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  5. R howls sometimes. He howls along with the coyotes outside our house. And, he howls when he’s left totally alone at home because Shyla has to go with us for some reason. It tugs at my heart – he sounds so mournful.
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  6. You know we had to read this post! Of course, we howl, we are hounds! Pack animals love to howl, to gather the pack together. Howling alone is no fun, so if one of us howls, the others always join in. We have different howl tones too depending on what we are howling about, danger, fun, sad. We are professional howlers here.
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  7. Easy can howl like Wile E. Coyote… it mostly happens when he hears the howling of other dogs… I sometimes howled with the two huskies… after one arrrooo they howled a long with me like wolves… the neighborhood was not amused lol
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  8. Very interesting. Gambler will roo and howl when he is pooping and it is stuck, lol he is such a nut.
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  9. The only time our dogs howl is when I leave the house to walk one of them and the other two are left behind. I guess that means they don’t like the pack being split up, and want us to come back! Now that you mention it, they do each have their own tune when they do it though…I can always distinctly hear two different voices.
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  10. We have tried to get Bentley to howl, but he simply doesn’t. I don’t think that he is musically inclined. Hah! What he does sounds like a dove cooing. It is the weirdest noise that any of our dogs has ever made. I love the sound of a hound dog howling, but the coyotes in the woods near our house can give me chills when they do it.
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  11. Interesting post. Like your dogs, my two only howl when they hear a siren. We’re more barkers than howlers at our house.
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  12. I will NEVER forget the first time I heard Harley howl. It was at Sunrise Service – about 5:45 in the morning by the lake. When the Men’s Chorus started singing – Harley threw his head back and got to whaling like Rick James LOL Every year since, you can expect to hear him participate in at least one song.

  13. Thunder is silent, but Storm and Freighter howl occasionally. Freighter more than Storm. Freighter is very vocal and expressive.
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