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My neighbor’s dog has started howling recently. I don’t really mind it, it’s kind of funny to me actually.
But I know he only has a Pitbull and I was under the impression that Pitbulls didn’t howl, or at least not as loud or as much as this guy’s does. As I got to thinking about it, I’d only ever seen hound dogs and huskies howl.
So do Pitbulls howl?
Pitbulls are a quiet breed that usually doesn’t howl. They may howl to express anxiety or pain, but those are only a few of the reasons why a Pittbull may howl. Teaching a Pittbull to howl can be easy but teaching one to stop can be more complicated so be careful what you wish for!
You may be reading this because you have a Pitbull who is howling and you need them to stop. It can easily become a loud, annoying habit, especially if you live close to other people who may not find it charming.
Or you may be reading this because you have a Pitbull that doesn’t howl and you want to teach them to.
No matter which side of the fence you are on when it comes to the great Pitbull howling debate if you have any questions at all about your Pitbull howling, or how to get them to start or stop howling, I have the answers for you!
Why Don’t Pitbulls Usually Howl?
Howling is a very specific vocalization for a dog to make and it’s 1 of only about 10 distinct vocalizations within a dog’s physical range.
This loud, low, sustained sound can carry over extremely long distances, much farther than any of their other vocalizations. It’s been reported that you can even hear a dog howl up to a mile away.
This makes it an excellent long-distance communication tool.
It makes sense, then, that howling would be utilized most by dogs and breeds of dogs who have historically had to communicate across far distances.
Hounds, both sighthounds, like greyhounds and Salukis, as well as your more traditional bloodhounds and Basset hounds, are known for howling more than other breeds. So are outdoor winter sporting dogs like Huskies and Malamutes.
These kinds of dogs were bred to maintain a constant or near-constant vocal, auditory connection with their owners or handlers, even if they were very far away. This is why hounds will often howl and bay constantly or frequently while they run. This is a leftover from their historical breed purpose.
Conversely, Pitbulls were not bred to do fieldwork at a distance from their handlers or pet parents. They have also not historically worked in conjunction with other dogs in such a way that they would need to howl or bay to get their attention.
Pitbulls that we know today are descended from Old English Bulldogs. They were bred, as the name suggests, to fight bulls in pits. One or two of the dogs would be put into an arena with an actual bull and were made to harass and attack the bull until the bull either dispatched the two dogs or it collapsed from exhaustion or injuries. It’s a pretty grotesque thing to do for everyone in my opinion.
Once this act was rightfully outlawed, people began using these “ Pitbulls” to competitively attack and kill rats and, as most people know, fight each other in the first dogfighting rings.
This history is distinctly important when understanding why you’re Pitbull will not howl. There is no circumstance when faced against a ball, rat, or another Pitbull, that it would ever need to howl. Everything that they are interested in, their owner and the threat, is right in front of them.
In fact, Pitbulls are now known to be one of the quietest breeds of dogs. They of course make some vocalizations and will bark, but they, as dogs who were bred to live close with humans in kennels, simply do not have a long history of needing to make vocalizations.
That said, physically, a Pitbull is perfectly capable of howling if it were so inclined. Some of these readers may be well aware of this and want to cut to the chase – how do you get them to stop?
Why Does My Pitbull Howl?
Before you begin the process of curbing your dog’s howling behavior, you need to understand what is causing it.
Pitbulls are very quiet and breed, so if they are making this very particular vocalization, there is probably a very specific reason for it. Context is key, so be sure you’re paying close attention to the situations your dog is in and the possible factors that could be getting them howling.
Read on for some of the most common triggers that can get a dog howling:
Communication is the primary reason that your dog is howling. I know that “ communication” is a vague term, but your dog could be trying to communicate any number of things by howling at you or at others.
Howling can be a simple form of greeting, especially if your Pittie gets very excited around other dogs. Overwhelmed with excitement, they may actually be hyperventilating a bit, and a big long howl is a great way to relieve all of that pent-up air and excitement, like releasing the steam from a steam engine.
Your Pitbull may also be howling with or at other dogs. This may be very obvious if your Pitbull is always howling with your other dog or with your neighbor’s dog who you can hear. But Pitbulls have excellent hearing and may be able to hear the neighbor dogs howling from far, far away, so far away that you cannot hear it. But your Pitbull can!
Pitbulls may also be howling as a means of communicating back to you. Pitbulls listen to their humans when they speak, and it is not uncommon for dogs to try to participate in what they hear as a vocalization party.
They may grunt, snort, or even howl in an attempt to recreate our voices. For all we know they think they’re doing a great job.
Your Pittie may also be howling because they just want your attention. Or because they want snacks or treats…because what dog doesn’t love treats?
Frankly, your Pitbull, and any other breed, may just be howling because they are bored and haven’t gotten out much. They may think howling is just great fun (have you ever gone outside and howled? It kind of is fun).
Research has shown that wolves communicate extremely complex tidbits of information through howling. Even very specific information, such as their location, the presence of predators, or the location of a potential prey animal, can be communicated through a wolf’s howl.
While it is unlikely that your Pitbull is howling out their GPS location to the neighbor dog, the fact remains that it is nearly impossible for us to understand and describe all of the things a dog could be communicating through howling.
However, this is YOUR Pitbull. This is your dog and no one is better suited to come to an understanding of why your dog is doing nothing than you are.
Through careful observation and by keeping an open mind about the possible things your dog could be asking for, you should be able to understand what it is your dog is trying to say to you, or to the neighbor’s dog, when they are howling.
2. Response To A Noise
It’s nice to think about your Pitbull, standing on a mighty rock, howling at the moon, greeted by the cries of their primordial wolf ancestors. But keep in mind this is the same guy who drinks from the toilet.
Howling is a form of communication, so if your dog hears another dog howling, it is likely to want to howl too. But that also means that if your Pittbull thinks they hear another dog howling, or another animal making another type of howling noise, they may think the appropriate response is to how back in turn.
Many Pitbulls are prone to howling when a siren from a police car or a fire truck goes by. The loud, wailing sound of the siren sounds like howling to your dog.
Your Pitbull, being the polite dog that they are, is simply returning what they think to be a friendly howl.
Dogs are more sensitive to loud, high-pitched noises than people and they may even be hearing something so far away that you can’t hear it. Not only can this explain why some Pitties howl but it can also explain they may growl at apparently nothing too.
3. Physical Health Issue
When dogs are in pain, they will often make new, different vocalizations, seemingly without any context.
These vocalizations can be quiet grunts, moans, or whimpers, or they can be loud barks and growls.
If your Pitbull is getting up there in years, they may be experiencing new symptoms related to aging.
Howling is a very active motion for a dog to do, so if they are howling in pain, the pain is probably extreme and you need to bring one to the vet right away.
4. Separation Anxiety Or Loneliness
If a Pitbull feels lonely or is experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, they may decide to reach out to try and find a canine companion or even a human one.
What do you think they would do if they were alone and wanted the attention of somebody who was far away?
That’s right, howl!
Remember, howling is one of the best ways to communicate across long distances which makes it a great method for seeing who’s out there.
Dogs that are scared, similar to dogs that are experiencing health issues, are likely to make unexpected and surprising vocalizations, like howling.
If your dog has recently been startled or is afraid of something, it’s likely that it will respond by howling.
If your dog always howls at the vacuum cleaner or when you run the garbage disposal, it is likely because they are afraid.
Warnings, Territorial, or Aggression
This is another very common reason for a Pitbull to howl. Howling is a great way for your Pitbull to warn someone or something, from a safe distance, that they are there and that they mean business.
Pitbulls are prone to being territorial, barking at and warning off intruders or visitors from their homes and property. Indeed, this is even today one of the main reasons people want to get Pitbulls: for guard dog duty.
Most Pitbulls will alert or intimidate intruders by barking because that is a more natural vocalization for these dogs, who are bred to work in close quarters.
However, lots of dogs are different and, when faced with a threat or the perception of a threat, they may decide that howling is the more appropriate response.
If you have a Pitbull who is howling, you should know that it is abnormal but not necessarily unhealthy behavior.
Your Pitbull is probably trying to communicate something to you. That something could be as simple as “give me a treat” or as important as “there is someone crawling through the window.”
Through careful observation, you should be able to figure out which of the above factors is causing your Pitbull to howl. The cause of the howling will determine what you do next.
If you are sure that your Pitbull is healthy and you also have determined that you need to stop them from howling anymore, there are some things that you can do to curb this behavior.
Keep in mind that your Pitbull may be howling because of a medical issue. If they seem like they are distressed or are in pain, you should take them to your veterinarian before you start stressing them further by trying to get them to stop howling.
How To Stop My Pitbull From Howling
Teach Them To Howl
I know, I know, you are trying to do the opposite of this.
But there is actually a very good reason that teaching your dog how to howl on command will help them to stop howling at other times.
Your dog is trying to communicate something to you and they are howling. They believe that howling is the right tool to communicate this thing.
By teaching your dog that howling is a trick that they perform to get treats when you ask them to, they will begin to learn that it is not, in fact, the way to communicate other things.
By giving them a word to assign to this behavior, they will learn to understand when it is appropriate to howl and, more importantly, when it is not appropriate to howl.
Some folks think that howling is a charming thing to do with their dog or to watch and listen to their dog do with other dogs. Therefore, for those of you who have come here to learn how to teach your Pitbull to, there is a section below just for you.
The words “negative reinforcement” often get a bad rap in articles like these. I think when most people hear the phrase “negative reinforcement,” they conjure up horrible images of people beating their dogs and abusing them.
That is, of course not what I’m saying. Do not punch your dog if they start to howl (please).
When I say negative reinforcement I simply mean teaching the dog not to do something.
Does your Pitbull know the word no?
If so, when they start howling, tell them no! Telling your dog to stop a behavior is, technically, a negative reinforcement. Every time they do it, something that they don’t like happens and they have to stop doing what they were doing.
There is no other way for dogs to learn not to do something. You can redirect their behaviors and you can give them other things to do, but those are just distractions. All of those things, which are important, need to be coupled with actions taken to teach a dog not to do something.
Whenever you have successfully gotten your Pitbull to stop howling in a situation when they otherwise would have, you should heap on praise, treats, and love in big, hefty spoonfuls.
This will help to reinforce to them that, while it might have been difficult not to howl, it was worth it in the end.
You should be giving them this positive reinforcement immediately and anytime that they stop themselves from howling. Even if they start to howl, if they respond to your correction, you should still give them lots of treats.
You will be able to cut back on treats later, once your dog understands the new rules. But until then, you’re the candy man.
Desensitize To The Stimulus
Some Pitbulls will howl in response to some external factor that they perceive to be negative. Again, it depends on what it is that’s causing your Pitbull to howl that will dictate the appropriate response.
One thing you will need to do though is to make sure that you are desensitizing your Pitbull to the stimulus, assuming that the stimulus has in fact harmless (don’t try exposure therapy with robbers and trespassers).
If your Pitbull always howls at the mailman, it may be a good idea to reach out to him and see if you can introduce him to your Pitbull.
Your Pitbull may lose the impulse to howl at the mailman once he realizes that he’s not a threat.
Similarly, if your Pitbull always howls at the vacuum cleaner, desensitize them to it by spending time with them around the vacuum cleaner. Give them lots of treats and comfort and reassure them that it is not dangerous or anything they need to worry about or try to communicate with.
Many pet parents want to solve the problem by removing the stimuli from their dog’s environment, but this just gets rid of the opportunity for them to howl, it does not actually help them to learn not to.
This one is pretty straightforward. Many Pitbulls will howl out of boredom or an abundance of excitement and energy.
Pitbulls are extremely active dogs and, if they do not get enough exercise and stimulation, you are likely to see strange behaviors crop up, like howling.
It is recommended that your Pitbull get at least forty-five minutes to one hour of active playtime and exercise a day. This may be a long walk coupled with a long game of fetch in the backyard.
Giving your Pittie an outlet to get their energy burnt off may help curb the negative behavior that is howling.
Reinforce Good Behaviors
This is distinctly different than giving them rewards specifically after you have stopped them from howling. Instead what I mean is, you should give them rewards whenever they do anything that you like.
See your dog laying quietly being a good boy? Give them a treat.
Did they sit nicely when you looked at them? Give them a treat.
By sporadically giving your Pitbull treats anytime they, of their own volition, engage in positive behaviors that you like well help teach them generally, all around, what your rules and expectations are.
If you like dogs that are quiet, reward them any time they are quiet. This will help them to learn long-term that howling and other loud, aggressive vocalizations are not the best way to get through to you. Maybe they should try sitting nicely by the door when they want to go outside instead of howling?
Howling is often a sign of loneliness or separation anxiety in a Pitbull who wants to spend more time with their family.
Separation anxiety is a very serious condition that can make your dog’s life incredibly stressful and uncomfortable.
If it seems to do your Pitbull is howling because they are lonely, consider spending more time with them. Take them for walks and make sure that you are engaged with them.
If you are able to, consider getting a companion animal for your Pitbull. Pitbulls are incredibly social and do very well in packs of other dogs, especially other Pitbulls.
If neither of these are good options for you, consider getting a professional dog walker or signing your dog up for daycare. They are surprisingly affordable services in some areas and having someone come and break up what would otherwise be a long, lonely day can make all the difference in the world to your Pitbull.
Give Your Pitbull Other Tools To Communicate With
Your Pitbull is likely trying to communicate something to you by howling, but it’s not like you ever taught them to howl to go outside.
They have decided to howl because they don’t know of another behavior to do to get what they want. Therefore, it is a good idea to give your dog a new, distinct behavior to do in place of the howl.
You will need to know exactly what it is that your Pitbull is asking for when they howl in order to give them a new behavior. Once you do though, it’s not too difficult to swap them out.
If your dog used to howl before you took him for a walk, instead, make him sit nicely by the door. Make him sit in control himself for a few seconds before you take him out. Later on, if you find him sitting by the door, take him for a walk to help him to understand that sitting by the door is the way that you get to go for a walk, not howl.
The idea here is to give them something else to do to get your attention. You will still need to do the thing they are asking for in order for this to work.
Your dog will still be asking to go outside or whatever, but they’ll be able to do so through a means of communication that you have decided on.
Ignore The Howling
If, after all of this has been done, your Pitbull is still howling, the last thing to do is to completely ignore them when they howl.
Just ghost them. At this point in the training process, you have given them other tools to use to communicate and have discouraged them from howling.
If they continue to do it, they have likely realized that when they howl, they still get some sort of attention from you, treats, reassurance – whatever.
That may in and of itself be enough reason for your Pitbull to continue to howl.
By ignoring the behavior completely, your dog will eventually learn that it is just not a worthwhile practice and does not get the rise out of you or the response that they were looking for.
How to Teach My Pittbull To Howl
So, you either have a Pitbull that does not howl and you want them to, or you have a Pitbull who howls too much and you are taking the first steps towards controlling that behavior.
Either way, being able to get your dog to howl on command is a useful ability that is not that difficult to do, so long as you are willing to get a little bit silly with it.
1. Get Them Howling
For some of you, this is easy. They may be howling while you read this.
For others, you are going to have to work a bit to elicit this behavior. If they howl in certain situations, all you need to do is recreate one of those situations.
If they have never howled before, you’re going to have to get creative in order to teach them
Howling is a social activity, so the best way to teach them to do this is to get them around other dogs, or people, who are howling.
If you know somebody with a dog who howls, get them together and get that dog howling. Get your dog to pay attention to that dog so that they notice and hear that it is coming from them.
But your dog may not want to do this with just any old body. You yourself may need to get howling.
Believe it or not, you may be able to get your dog howling just by howling yourself at and with them for only a few minutes.
If that is a little bit too cringey for you, you can go to YouTube and find videos and recordings of dogs howling. There may be something lost through the digital connection, but anything to elicit the how will work.
This one should do the trick:
If your dog barks with us now, you may be able to start there.
Get your dog barking and the tone out longer for them, demonstrating the long sustained howl. Get your dog barking while you how and they should overtime transition from the familiar barking noise to the new howling noise.
2. Name The Behavior
Once your dog is howling, you need to name the behavior. While they are howling, repeat the word “howl” or whatever your command word is for howling.
You may want to enlist a dear friend’s help so that you can say the command word while your friend howls at your dog.
This will take several different sessions of repetition.
While you are teaching them this word, cycle through other command words that you and your Pitbull know.
Get them to howl and then ask them to sit. Then ask them to bark then ask them to howl.
That’s going to help them to understand what you are saying is a command, similar to the other commands that they already know.
Over time, they should come to understand that howling and the command word for howl are associated with each other.
3. Do It On Command
This step should come naturally after step number two. Once your dog understands and can howl when you say howl, you need to use it in their normal repertoire of tricks.
Casually throughout the day, ask them to howl.
Get them to howl before you give them their food or when you are taking them for a walk.
This is not so that you teach your dog to howl whenever it wants to, but rather so that they get to practice remembering the word howl and associating it with the behavior they now know.
4. Teach Them To Stop
An often-overlooked step, but one that is very crucial when you are teaching your Pittie something invasive howling.
Throughout your training sessions, be sure that you never lose control over your Pitbull. You should have a word, like “down” or “no” or some other way of getting them back under control.
The last thing that you want to do is to stir your dog up into a howling tizzy. Be sure that you are not creating a monster by also teaching them a way of stopping howling once they get started.
All dogs have the ability to howl but that doesn’t mean that they all naturally will.
Pitbulls are a breed that will likely not howl on their own unless there is a very specific situation.
As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to figure out what your Pittie’s trying to communicate to you when they are howling because it could be a sign of a serious medical problem.
However, more often than not it’s just a loud way for your dog to communicate with you and those around them. Depending on your own specific situation, it may just be a benign, albeit surprising, behavior, for your Pitbull to engage in it. Or it could be the thing that gets you kicked out of your apartment.