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As a natural form of communication between dogs, howling is probably something you will hear your pup do at least once in their lifetime. Whether it be in response to another dog’s howl or a plea for attention from their owner, the howl is just one of many ways your dog may “talk”.
But what happens when we wish to howl along with our pups, or encourage them to howl for views on our latest social media post? Is it considered cruel to make your dog howl?
It is not considered cruel to encourage your dog to howl, provided you are not using punishment or force and your dog is howling of their own free will. Dogs will howl for many reasons, and it can potentially be viewed as a bonding experience between dog and owner.
In this article we will look at why it’s not generally considered cruel to make your dog howl, as well as the pros and cons as to why you would want to encourage your pup to howl in the first place.
We’ll also look at how you can teach your dog to howl on cue, and the reasons as to why your dog may not want to howl at all.
Is It Cruel To Make Your Dog Howl?
No, it is not cruel to make your dog howl unless you are forcing them to do it some way (such as punishing them when they don’t howl).
Like their wolf ancestors, howling is a normal part of communication in dogs, and they will howl for a variety of reasons. Dogs may howl because they are lonely, bored, or in pain.
But dogs may also howl because they want attention, they are attempting to “talk” with another dog nearby, or they just enjoy the act of howling.
Dogs also enjoy having fun with their owners and howling along with our dogs is a unique way of bonding with them.
While we may not understand exactly what our pups are saying to us when they howl (and they do not really understand what we are saying, either!), it’s a fun way to provide enrichment and playtime with our dogs.
As long as your dog is willing to cooperate with your antics for encouraging them to howl, and you are not using punishment to force them howl, then making your dog howl is not cruel and could actually be a good way for you to have fun with your pup.
What Are The Pros & Cons Of Making My Dog Howl?
While it’s not considered cruel to make your dog howl, there are definitely some pros and cons that you should consider before trying to get your pup to howl.
Pro: Allows For Bonding
Encouraging your dog to howl (whether by you howling yourself or by playing the sound of a dog howling) can be a unique way of bonding with your pup.
Dogs are social creatures, and if you make the attempt to invite them to “talk” with you, they will usually happily take you up on the offer!
Dogs enjoy having fun just as much as we do, so howling matches can be a good way to help you and your pup have fun in a different way than the usual walk or game of tug and can lead to a better relationship with your dog.
Con: May Cause Noise Complaints
While making your dog howl every now and then might not cause much of an issue with your neighbors, it’s possible that if you encourage your dog to howl more frequently you may find a noise complaint in your mailbox.
Just as with barking, whining, and crying, repetitive howling can become annoying very quickly.
If you do want to teach your dog to howl, be mindful of the hours in which you are teaching your dog (early in the morning or late at night are probably not ideal!) and keep your howling sessions short.
If you live in an apartment complex or have roommates, it’s probably a good idea to go elsewhere to avoid any potential issues with your neighbors with the increase in noise. While we may enjoy the sound of our dogs howling, others may not.
Pro: It’s A Great Opportunity For Training
Teaching your dog to howl at appropriate times is a good way to work on impulse control. It’s also a great party trick!
Dogs who have poor impulse control (generally because they have not been taught otherwise) are used to getting everything they want, whenever they want. They often become obnoxious in their demands, and will resort to barking, crying, or howling to get what they want.
Similar to a child throwing a temper tantrum, if the owner gives in to those demands the dog will learn that he can act that way to get what he wants, rather than asking in a more polite manner.
If your pup is howling for attention, it’s important to ignore the howling and not reward it with any kind of attention (this includes yelling at the dog to be quiet!). As soon as your pup has stopped his howling, you can provide him with the attention he was seeking.
Over time, your dog will learn that he can get what he wants much more quickly by being polite about it rather than demanding, all while still using positive reinforcement and reward-based training techniques.
Teaching your dog to howl on cue is another good way to curb unwanted howling and allows for further training opportunities, as well as opportunities to create cute posts for your social media channels.
Con: Can Create Attention Seeking Behaviors
While encouraging your dog to howl can be a good training opportunity, if you are not careful with your timing and following through on the training process you may accidentally be encouraging your dog to perform an unwanted attention seeking behavior with the howling.
This is especially true in the beginning stages of the training process, particularly if you are working on teaching your dog to stop howling so much.
If you are not careful to ignore each and every instance your pup is howling when you don’t want them to, they will continue to howl, and it may even get worse.
Being precise with the timing of your reward when the dog is quiet (or only howling on cue) will help eliminate the risk of the dog learning to howl as an attention seeking behavior.
Dog breeds that are more prone to howling, such as the Siberian Husky, are also very prone to this specific attention seeking behavior and extra care will need to be taken to discourage inappropriate howling in these breeds, or provide a more appropriate outlet for their natural urge to howl and make noise.
Pro: It’s Fun!
One of the main reasons we ask our dogs to howl is because it’s fun! It’s often not only fun for us, but for our dogs as well.
Dogs are very good at reading subtle body language, and if they see that we are relaxed and having fun while they are howling, they’ll likely continue it because seeing us in a good mood makes them feel good, too.
As long as we aren’t forcing our dogs to howl for our own amusement (or the amusement of others) and they are doing it because they want to do it, then encouraging our dogs to howl will be a fun time for all involved.
Can I Teach My Dog To Howl On Cue?
Yes, it is possible to teach your dog to howl on cue!
The easiest and most effective way to do this is by using a training method called capturing. Capturing is an excellent way to teach a behavior that may otherwise be difficult to prompt.
With capturing, you’ll try and catch your dog in the act of howling and assign it a verbal cue so that your dog learns that the verbal cue means they should howl.
It is easier to teach a dog who is already more prone to howling (such as a Siberian Husky) using this method, but you can attempt to do it with any dog by playing videos of dogs or wolves howling and see if they react.
Some dogs will howl along with the video, and some won’t. It just depends on your pup!
Just as your dog beings howling, praise and reward them with a treat. Do this a few times, and then begin adding in a verbal cue just as they begin howling, such as “Speak” or “Howl”. Reward them with a treat, and then repeat the process.
Capturing (especially if your dog is not really a talker) can be a lengthy process, but it is possible to teach your dog to howl on cue.
Unlike other behaviors such as Sit and Down, it’s not really possible to use something like a lure or physical prompting to teach this behavior, though it is possible to “prompt” the howling behavior if you know your dog will howl along to a video, and then you can use capturing from there to teach the behavior.
What If My Dog Does Not Want To Howl?
Dogs are individuals, and each of them have their own personalities and unique behaviors.
Certain dog breeds are more prone to howling, crying, or making lots of noise, such as the Siberian Husky or the Basenji.
Other breeds tend to be much quieter and have no interest in howling, or there may be certain dogs who do not fall in line with what is expected of their breed, and they tend to be much quieter, either due to training or just personal choice.
You can see if your dog would be interested in howling along with a video, but if your dog chooses not to howl, then it’s best to just leave them be and not force them or become upset with them when they don’t howl on cue.
What Does My Dog Think When I Howl At Him?
As dogs do not understand human language, and your dog definitely understands that you yourself are not a dog, it’s likely you are not actually “saying” anything but gibberish to them if you are howling at them.
Because they tend to be happy when their owners are happy, dogs may be interested in your howling just enough to join in and continue the fun, despite not knowing what you are howling about!
While our pups may choose to howl for a variety of reasons, we can use positive reinforcement to encourage them to howl for all the right reasons.
Howling along with our pups can be a good way to bond and have fun with our four-legged friends, though a word of caution if you live next to anyone who are less enthusiastic about your dog singing the song of their people!