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Howling is one of the most common ways in which dogs communicate. They do it to attract attention, to make their presence felt and to establish contact with the others. Some of them also howl in response to high frequency sounds, like musical instruments or ambulance sirens. Let us look at some of the problems you need to rule out if your dog howls excessively.
How can you help him?
- Separation anxiety – If your neighbors often complain that your dog keeps howling away when you are at work, then it is a clear-cut sign of separation anxiety. That occurs when your dog is alone and away from you. It is usually accompanied by at least one more symptom or sign of anxiety, like destruction, pacing, depression, elimination and more.
- Medical causes – Dogs also howl when they are sick or hurt. If your dog is howling more than usual, take him to the vet to rule out injury and illness before you do anything else.
- Response to sounds – If your dog is howling in response to a trigger, such as a nearby siren or some other high pitched noise, he will stop once the sound stops. This is usually not excessive, provided that the trigger does not occur very frequently. If it does, you can use counterconditioning and desensitization to help him to be quiet.
- Systematic counterconditioning and desensitization – If the problem stems from how your dog feels about something in particular, you need to address his feelings and motivation, which are the underlying reasons for his behavior problem. Counterconditioning and systematic desensitization are two common treatments for anxiety, fears, aggression and phobias – basically, any problem that involves emotions or arousal. It is extremely effective when you use both of them together to resolve the problems with animal behavior.
- If your dog whines or howls to get attention – If your dog howls to seek your attention or get his way with something, you need to teach him that howling does not work. More importantly, you need to show him how keeping quiet works. Make it a point to ignore him totally when he starts making noise. Do not touch him, look at him or speak to him. Don’t scold him either. Dogs are often like kids when it comes to attention – they find any kind of attention rewarding. So, if you scold him, it will only make his behavior worse. Just pretend that he is invisible. If you find that difficult, fold your arms across the chest and turn away from him completely.
- Spend time with him – Most of the dogs howl because they are lonely or left alone for a long time. They are highly social animals and they need regular interaction with and play with their human families. Take him to a training class that rewards him for good behavior. If you need to leave him alone for a long time, make sure that you give him a lot of attractive chews and toys so that he can enjoy himself.