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Why Does My Dog Howl When I Howl? 7 Surprising Reasons

Why Does My Dog Howl When I Howl

You howled.

Your dog howled back.

In video game jargon, you just unlocked Speech Level 100! You’re thrilled!

But at the same time, you’re not really sure what just happened.

I’m here to walk you through it. So stay tuned and…

Read on to find out:

  • 7 reasons why they respond to you.
  • Whether they really have wolf’s blood.
  • What they’re trying to say with that howl.
  • How they feel about your own attempt at it.
  • And so much more…

Why does my dog howl when I howl?

Your dog howls when you howl because it’s an instinctive response rooted in wolf ancestry. They do it to communicate and strengthen pack bonds. They could also be responding to that high-pitched sound, imitating you, or giving you attention. And perhaps you might have reinforced their vocal nature.

Why does my dog howl when I howl – 7 reasons

#1: They’re acting on instinct

The majestic gray wolf, Canis lupus, is commonly believed to be the ancestor of all domestic dogs. Hence your pooch’s scientific name, Canis lupus familiaris.

“Whoa! My Chihuahua has wolf ancestry!”

Sure. Your Chihuahua too. And Pugs. And Corgis. And Dachshunds. Fascinating stuff. Natural selection might want to point fingers at selective breeding for some things, though.

It’s a bit easier to believe if we’re speaking of German Shepherds. And if we go to Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies, it’s a no-brainer. 

But question marks are stamped on a number of other breeds. Especially those that look more like a wolf’s prey than a wolf. And not just any prey – those that hardly even make up a mouthful.

Years of breeding fun-size dogs aside. All domestic dogs have the gray wolf as their ancestor. And they’ve retained some of its traits and behaviors to this day.

A very distinct example is howling.

Think back to before you had your own howler. What often came to mind on the topic of this vocalization?

I’d wager it was a wolf at the edge of the forest. Standing on a rock. Howling up at a full moon.

Your domestic dog doesn’t have such a dramatic environment. But they can still howl.

“Why, though?”

The answer to that question is found in why wolves howl in the first place. 

The primary reason is communication. 

And it’s particularly useful over long distances.

They can howl to warn off other packs trespassing on their turf. Or to signal to other members of their pack when they’ve found something of interest. Or to help a hunting party find its way home.

So your dog howls at you to communicate with you. You did start the conversation after all.

“But they’re right in front of me.”

While it’s especially useful over the vastness of the pack’s territory, wolves (and your dog by inheritance) still howl in close proximity to each other.

As we’re about to see…

You might also want to know: 8 reasons why your dog is obsessed with your cat

#2: They’re strengthening pack bonds

Experts on wolf behavior have noted something truly fascinating.

According to National Geographic, wolf packs hold “daily howling choruses.” You’ve probably seen videos on the Internet of such sessions. Or maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to witness it in person. 

But whether on a digital screen or right in front of you, it’s definitely awe-inspiring and goosebumps-inducing. 

And they don’t just do it for your entertainment. It’s believed that this practice strengthens bonds among the members of a pack.

A study was conducted on the factors that drive howling. And experiments were carried out on captive wolves.

The sound of a howl is emotionally charged. This initially gave rise to an explanation that it “may be driven by emotions and the physiological state evoked by changes in the social-ecological environment.”

But the title of the study sums up its findings: “Howling Is Mediated by Relationship Quality Rather Than Underlying Emotional Stress.”

This vocalization has a significant social factor in wolf packs. No studies have investigated if it’s as much among dogs. But not every trait they’ve inherited has been thoroughly researched.

The howling chorus behavior isn’t seen in the domestic descendants. For one thing, they’re not commonly found in large packs.

But perhaps when you howl, your fur ball’s wolfy senses tingle.

“I think I know what that means! Dad wants us to have a howling chorus. Okay, Dad! Awoooooooooo!”

#3: They’re giving you attention

It’s a very atypical reason. Asking for attention is what we’d normally associate with dogs. But in this case, they’re giving it to you.

You did howl, didn’t you?

Sure, there are countless instances where a dog would howl for attention. And here, I mean howling to ask for it. Much in the same way they would bark, whimper, or whine for it too.

But the question we’re tackling right now is why your dog howls when you howl. That would imply you started it.

So they’re not asking for attention. They’re just eagerly acknowledging you. They think you want attention. And you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll give it.

As we know all too well, dogs are quite the empaths. You groan, moan, sniffle, sob, cry, or even just have hiccups. They’ll be all over you in a second. With such physically overpowering concern to boot.

And Mom howling is something new and exciting! Of course, they won’t just carry on as normal. You’ve commanded their undivided attention. They’re going to howl right back.

#4: They’re imitating you

Howling is obviously more of a dog thing than a dog parent thing. But it’s entirely possible that when you howl, your dog jumps in to imitate you.

Vocal imitation is one of the most captivating things about the animal kingdom. It’s always a cause for amazement when a member of one species imitates another’s.

Parrots are the most notable examples. Who didn’t want their own as a kid? Especially after watching Cotton’s parrot do the talking for him in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

This ability is not limited to bird species, though. Vocal mimicry is rare in other animals. But National Geographic has documented some who’ve managed to utter words.

Dogs don’t join this list of wonders. But our furry buddies are known to imitate us in the most hilarious ways.

Observations on dogs imitating humans aren’t new. They didn’t just begin in the age of fur parents with YouTube. They go as far back as 1871.

Charles Darwin himself noted some instances of this. 

He was not only the Father of Evolution. He was also a fur father of dogs. He had a number of four-legged companions throughout his lifetime. And his observations on them made it into his scientific works. 

He touched on some examples of dogs imitating humans in his publication “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.”

More recently, researchers have looked into dogs’ imitation of humans. One study, the first of its kind in canines, dealt with automatic imitation.

This type of imitation occurs when an individual’s body movements prompt the same movements in an observer. 

In this case, the dogs were the observers. They watched as their owners demonstrated the opening of a sliding door. This was done with the use of head or paw. 

The overall results of the experiments showed that dogs were determined to imitate their owners – with or without reward.

So dogs apparently have this inclination to copy their owners. Wouldn’t it be all the more so when the owner is doing something that’s natural to dogs?

It’s quite obvious then. You howl, they howl.

Like dog parent, like pup.

#5: They’re responding to your pitch

Howling is an indicator of a dog’s responsiveness. According to VCA, high-pitched sounds can act as an auditory stimulus for your canine. Examples of such sounds are:

  • Music.
  • Sirens.
  • Another dog’s vocalizations.

But it’s not limited to these. There could be so much more.

My friend’s puppy, Valkyrie, howls only when she’s playing with her squeaky ball.

She retreats somewhere with it when she’s tired of playing with her other toys. She then settles down and gnaws at it for minutes on end.

The howling first happened shortly after she turned 2 months old. She was gnawing at her ball. Only this time, she seemed more invested. She made little groaning sounds along with the squeaks.

Minutes of this passed. Then without warning, she let out a long, adult-sized howl. It caught everyone off guard – including herself. She looked absolutely flabbergasted.

Now close to 5 months of age, she does it more frequently. Gnawing at the ball, imitating its squeaks. 

A stronger bite force makes for louder squeaks. And these eventually lead to louder and more prolonged howls.

You can imagine what a work-from-home experience it makes.

In your case, you’re the squeaky ball. And your dog is responding to your pitch. Or you could fall under “Another dog’s vocalizations.” Take your pick.

#6: They’re naturally vocal

Some dogs are more vocal than others. It can come down to individual personality. But it generally has to do with breed.

PetMD lists the following as being the most prone to howling:

  • Husky.
  • Beagle.
  • Bloodhound.
  • Alaskan Malamute.
  • Redbone Coonhound.

They also note that “some dogs will go their whole lives without howling.” That’s an interesting factoid. And something probably unimaginable for a dog parent of, say, a Husky.

So your pooch falls under one of the above-mentioned breeds. It’s no surprise then that they howl back at you.

Let’s conjure up fond memories of when you were a kid. Especially those long, hot summers.

One of the things you loved to do was splash around in the river. Or go vine-swinging through the air. Or a number of any other things kids enjoy that adults don’t.

Imagine the thrill if your parent had joined you. If you’re lucky, you’re not limited to imagining it. You can remember cos it actually happened. That must be the same feeling for your fur kid.

Howling is very likely one of their favorite pastimes. And they frequently do it without you prompting them to.

So when you howl… Oh boy! It’s like a dogfather’s offer they can’t refuse. They enthusiastically accept your friendship and howl right back.

And they’re undoubtedly hoping this exchange goes on and on.

#7: You reinforced it

Your Dog Howls When You Howl Because Your Reinforced It

This reason usually comes with somewhat negative connotations.

But it doesn’t always mean you’re a witch to be burned at the stake.

Dogs have varied personalities. Some fur parents will send their baby off to a specialist for certain quirks.

But to others, that particular quirk is a source of pride and joy.

Open a Google search page. Type in “how to make my dog howl” and the top 2 autocomplete suggestions are:

  • How to make my dog howl on command.
  • How to make my dog howl with me.

You might be one of the people who looked that up. That means you wanted your dog to howl with you. And so you reinforced it.

If that’s the case, mission accomplished! Congratulations are in order. Your dog now howls when you howl.

People also ask:

Do dogs like when you howl?

Some dogs like it when you howl, others don’t. It depends on the individual canine. 

You’ll need to note their reaction. Some dogs are thrilled when their fur parents howl. And they happily join in for a duet. 

But others may find it unsettling. They know that howling isn’t normal for humans. So it might weird them out when you do it.

Why do my dogs cry when I howl?

Your dogs cry when you howl because you’re not doing it right. You’re attempting to imitate a wolf calling to its pack. But instead, you might be coming off as fatally injured. This is distressing to your dogs. That’s why they cry out of concern for you.

Does it hurt my dog when I howl?

It’s unlikely that it hurts your dog when you howl. 

The intensity and duration of the howl and the distance between yourself and your dog could factor in. But the likelihood of actually causing them physical pain is very low. 

Read their body language to better determine how it makes them feel. 

How do they react when you do this? 

If they seem happy and join in, there shouldn’t be a problem. But they may seem upset. Or they might look like they’re wishing you’d just stop already. If that’s their response, it’s best not to repeat it.