Why Do Dogs Howl at Night?

dog howl at night

Howling is one of the many forms of vocal communications employed by dogs. The first thought that strikes my mind when my dog howls at night or I hear a street dog howling is that either there is a ghost around or somebody is going to die soon. Weird it might sound, but yes, this is what I have been made to believe since my childhood, and I know many of you would agree with me this thought. Dogs are believed to sense the presence of evil spirits, and interestingly, it is also believed that the direction towards which the dog is howling, some bad news would come from that direction or that particular house.

Dogs have a fantastic hearing sense ranging from 67-45000 Hz, as compared to that of humans which is 64-23000 Hz. There is no universal reason behind the dogs howling at night, but more specifically it’s because their ears are extremely sensitive to the even the faint sounds. Since the atmospheric disturbance is low at night and so, when the sun goes down, dogs can hear all sorts of sounds clearly; causing them to alert their owner or the other dogs of any danger at night. During the daytime, such minute sounds do not catch the attention of the dogs due to other louder environmental disturbances and sounds like music, machines, and continuous honking.

Dogs are considered to be the successors of the wolves, and thus, they have inherited some of the characteristics of the wolf pact. Howling happens to be one of them. They howl when they sense danger and communicate it to other dogs surrounding them — the urge to howl lies in their genetic code. The canine howl is, however, one of the most unpleasant things to our ears. Especially, when your dog continues to howl even after he is stopped multiple times from doing so. During the night when people are asleep, and the whole world seems to be at rest, the smallest of the sounds tend to attract the dogs’ senses. He anticipates any danger before we do.

Why Dogs Howl?

Your dog may not have any reason to bark but would start with it as soon as he hears other dogs barking. This is a natural behaviour of dogs which causes them to follow and join what other dogs are doing. However, this is being used to engage dogs in social and cooperative activities. The behaviour of one dog increases the intensity of the behaviour of other dogs too. Since dogs are social animals, they are likely to follow what other dogs do in their surroundings. So, you can clearly understand as to why dogs begin to howl by simply following the howling of each other.

I am an owner of four dogs, (three miniature dachshunds and fourth being the St. Bernard). Dachshunds are known for their continuous barking skills. When one of them barks at night, the other two follow and start howling, irrespective of the area of the house in which they are sleeping. Not only dachshunds, but I have also had Dalmatian, German Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel, and Labradors. This particular trait of howling at night persists in all the breeds. Even the slight movement of the door due to wind causes them to bark. Too irritating at times, when you are sleeping during the wee hours of midnight, your dog may start with their usual task of howling; causing the other dogs of the colony to join too.

Here are a few more reasons which can help you to understand as to why your dog barks/howls at night;

Animal Howls

  • Highly Sensitive

Most of the dogs are easily attracted to squirrels, mice, household rats, and lizards. Their sensory organs are so sharp that even at night they easily edge the presence of these creatures and may begin to wreak havoc for you. Even a faraway noise in your neighbours’ backyard can trigger your dog to bark.

  • Social Animals 

Many times you might have heard your neighbour telling you about your dog crying in your absence. Yes, dogs do feel lonely and sad. Recently, my family and I had gone out for dinner, and the next day, my neighbour told me how my youngest (six months bitch) dachshund kept howling badly and how he had to jump over the wall and pet her for a while because she kept crying. Dogs are social animals; they cannot, in any way, live in isolation.

  • Easily Bored

Sounds weird but yes, our dogs need lots and lots of attention. At night, when you are engrossed in using your mobile phone, busy with your laptop, with your partner, or lost into your peaceful sleep, your dog cannot handle this ignorance. He might come and start barking straight at your face. These hilarious creatures get bored when they have nothing to do; especially during the night or more specifically when you haven’t taken him out for his walk or haven’t played with him on that particular day. So, make sure that when you are sleep, you let your dog sleep with his favourite toy or a ball.

  • Attention Seeking

Dogs also indulge in howling when they need your attention. When I am sitting on the couch eating something, watching television, or using my mobile, my youngest dachshund, Diana, comes and sits directly in front of me and continues to bark until I pick her up or start playing with her. Not only this but whenever I ignore her calls, she picks up my sandals or crocs, and keeps them in her basket.

  • Sensing Fear

Humans, when scared of something, start shouting to let others know of the harm. Similarly, dogs sense the danger too. If a dog is fearful, it is more likely to bark and let you know about the threat regardless of the time, after all, they act as guards who are more efficient than the watchman of our street.

  • Emotionally Delicate

Just like humans, who emotionally cannot bear any separation, dogs also cannot handle separation from their beloved canine or human companion. Around eight years back my cousin got married and decided to leave her cocker spaniel at my place forever. Princess, the cocker spaniel, used to sit near the gate at late evenings and night, in the expectation that my cousin would come to take her back. Not only this, when a car with a horn similar to that of my cousin would be heard, she would go running towards the gate and howl for hours in the anticipation that her owner would come back.

Superstitious Beliefs

As soon as you hear a dog howling, it might cause you goosebumps. Isn’t it? Our stronghold over the superstition related to the howling of the dogs dates back to the ancient times when the howl of dogs was considered a bad omen. This still controls the mindset in many cultures. We, as the members of society, must have heard our grandparents saying that a crying dog needs to be stopped immediately; because their sad cry often forecasts misfortune. To add on, it is also believed that the direction or a house towards which a dog is howling, then, somebody residing in that particular house is going to fall sick or die soon. Not only a human death, but when their canine companion is sick, or about to cross the rainbow bridge soon, they howl for them as well. We have been made to believe such things to an extreme level of surety that even I get scared when I hear a dog howling at night, making me think that somebody among us might leave us soon, forever. There is not a single reason to ignore this fact, because I have personally experienced something. This happened a long time ago in my neighbourhood. Around ten years back, my neighbours’ dog kept howling the whole night and wouldn’t stop, and the very next morning we got sad news that their grandfather had passed away at 5 in the morning. So, I guess the dog knew beforehand and kept crying for the same reason.

The popular show series, ‘A Haunting’ based on paranormal activities showing the real-life experiences of the victims, has brought us close to another aspect of the dog howling; whereby many dog owners shared that their pet dogs actively experienced the presence of supernatural elements in their houses. How at night the dogs would cry in a particular manner or in a particular way and depict strange behaviours.

haunted house

Do Howls mean Crying?

The answer is No. Your dog may not always howl out of sadness or pain. Out of my experience of more than twenty years of dealing with dogs, I can confidently tell you that dogs often show their joys and extreme happiness by howling too, for instance when they see their dog friend outside their house, in the excitement of meeting him, your dog starts howling. Not only this, but you might have also seen your dog crying differently when you return after a few hours from the market, or after a long holiday, or a trip. Your dog is so glad to see you that on hearing your voice, he starts growling badly. It’s not only you, my friend, but this is also what I get to see every day as when I return from my office in the evenings. Just like we get happy when we meet our dear ones and become teary-eyed, so do the dogs. So, the next time your pet howls in this way, do not commit the mistake of thinking that he is sad or in pain or has some physical injury.

Howling- The Warning

I have often seen street dogs howling at some people on the streets, especially the drunkards, this is because they smell alcohol, which the dogs know isn’t good. This behaviour of barking at drunkards can be authenticated from the fact as to why dogs are used as sniff dogs at airports and other places to detect narcotics and bombs.

Barking of Street Dogs at Night

The street dogs howling in pacts at night are justified based on their natural tendency of protecting their territory. I have also adopted three stray dogs besides the four canines living in my house. There is not a single reason to ignore the fact that street dogs are the best guards. Whenever they see a new person entering the colony lane, they start barking. Not only this, street dogs mark up their territories and would not let dogs, of nearby areas, wander near their territory. If a dog of the other pack is seen in their territory, they start howling, warning the other dogs to become conscious of their enemy. This is the most common sight; which I think all of you must have seen happening in your colonies.

How Can the Howling be Stopped?

There is no way to stop your dog from howling because it is their natural behaviour which cannot be shunned entirely. What’s more important is that howling is the only way they can communicate. However, I have tried a few ways which are helpful and would let you sleep peacefully at night.

  • If you keep your dog outside at night, you certainly need to bring him indoors; so that he doesn’t get distracted by the strange voices at night and cause a disturbance by barking continuously.
  • Most importantly, during the festive season, it’s always better to keep him indoors at night, so that he doesn’t cry sitting outside out of the fear of the crackers and other loud voices.
  • The best alternative is a physical exercise or a long walk in the evenings; so that he gets tired and sleep quietly at night rather than acting mischievously.
  • Ignore him; this is what Cesar Milan, the popular dog psychologist, has to say. He may howl to draw your attention, and the only way to train him is by ignoring his howls.
  • Never use the aggressive way of correcting him. You can simply ask him to sshh down by using your gestures, and trust me it does work.

Apart from this, if you own a puppy, who howls at night, then there are a few additional tips which you would love to follow. He probably cries at night because he is hungry, or he wants to play. The best idea is not to let him sleep in the late evenings and feed him before you sleep so that he doesn’t get up at night to ask for food.

I hope this is all helpful to you. However, let me tell you, howling is a natural behaviour. No matter how much you train your dog not to howl, they are still going to do it at some time or the other. Nevertheless, this reaches the next level in case of certain breeds such as Foxhounds, Dachshunds, Tamaskan Dogs who become persistent barkers at times.  And, I being a mother to three dachshunds, know it very well; how messy it becomes, at times, when all of them start barking together without stopping for even a second. Even the smallest of the movements triggers them to bark. And my youngest one is the most mischievous, she keeps stalking me in the whole house, and more importantly during the nights, too. The moment I get up during midnight to drink water or to go the washroom, she gets up and starts crying. So, see, as a dog owner, there are multiple ways by which you can deal with their barking traits. However, I would suggest that if you are a profound dog lover, keeping all reasons aside, you are still going to have to face such attention seeking dog howls.

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