You’ve just rescued a dog – congratulations! It can be very enjoyable and rewarding but it’s not uncommon to have teething problems when first introducing your new pet to your home. Howling, or excessive vocalisation, is something that many owners encounter, which may be disruptive to both you and your neighbours. However, many have been able to successfully overcome it, and here’s how you can too.
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Why do dogs howl?
Howling is a natural canine behaviour and a form of communication. In general, there are many reasons why dogs do it. It can mean anything from a greeting, response to noise (particularly loud or high-pitched noises), or a sign of distress which may be both physical or emotional.
Why is my dog howling at night?
As mentioned, howling can be a sign of distress and anxiety. It is understandable that if you have just introduced your dog into your home that they may be experiencing this.
Separation anxiety can also be quite common in rescue dogs. This means that a dog struggles to be left alone, or separated from their owners – especially if you want your dog to sleep in a separate room to where you do. Your dog may also exhibit behaviours like pacing, trembling, being destructive, and toileting indoors.
Your dog might also howl if they want attention! They might be confused as to why you’ve left them alone to go to bed, or have previously learned that making lots of noise will mean they get a fuss made of them.
How can I help my dog settle?
If the howling is anxiety based, it can be great to make a few adjustments to make your dog feel more at home. Pheromone plug-ins can be a great way of helping dogs feel less anxious (these release Dog Appeasing Pheromone which are meant to have a calming effect). Make your dog a cosy bed or crate, where they will feel safe. It’s also good to establish a good routine around bedtime.
Dogs are social creatures, so make sure your dog has had plenty of interaction and stimulation throughout the day. Play with them and make sure they’ve had enough exercise.
Can I get rid of this behaviour?
With time, the majority of dogs can be trained to settle overnight. If you respond to your dog when they howl, it’s likely that they will learn that this behaviour will always get a response. It is really important not to punish your dog for howling – this is still a response to their behaviour. Instead, reward your dog for being quiet. The length of time you reward them for being quiet for is likely to start shorter, but over time you will be able to build this up.
If you need more help, please seek a professional
Sometimes, separation anxiety is a deep-rooted problem and you may need further assistance in dealing with your dog’s howling. It may be worth paying a visit to your veterinary practice to help rule out any underlying conditions.
You could also consider employing the help of an animal behaviourist if you need extra expertise. The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors have lots of information on how to find a behaviourist who can help you to change your dog’s response to distressing situations. (https://www.apbc.org.uk/).
Do not be afraid to go to a professional, it is their job to help you!
While howling is an unwanted behaviour, it is often a way of your dog signalling to you that they are unhappy – now you can take steps to change this. Remember that things won’t change overnight but the result will be rewarding for all.