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My husky might only rarely bark, but she’s still very, very noisy! From awoo’s, to yips, to howling and groaning, the variety of noises that can come out of one dog is astonishing. Whether you’re an owner of this unique breed or have just seen one of many viral videos floating around, you may wonder: why are huskies so vocal?
Like their ancient wolf ancestors, huskies instinctively vocalize to communicate with their pack mates and loved ones. This method of communication comes from their origin as sled dogs, as howls and other noises work best across long distances. These vocalizations may also mimic human tonal patterns due to reinforcement and shaping.
In this article, we’ll try to decode all of the strange noises that huskies make and explore the why behind it all.
What Sounds Do Huskies Make and Why?
Huskies aren’t known for yapping by the window, but they are known for making a variety of strange and unusual sounds instead. In fact, the AKC rates them 5 out 5 in terms of how vocal they are!
These vocalizations include talking, howling, groaning, chirping, and the occasional barking. Each of these noises have slightly different meanings and contexts, so it’s useful to know what each means.
Although all dogs have the ability to tap into their ancient wolf ancestry and howl, some breeds do it much more than others. Huskies are known for their variety and frequency of howls, and for good reason– howling (or screaming, when a husky is in the middle of a tantrum!) is the main way that huskies communicate with their pack. This can be in the form of hyping one another up, gathering attention, communicating their desires, or simply expressing their emotions.
Huskies are predisposed to howl due to their breeding, as howls can travel long distances and be easily heard. This makes it an excellent form of communication from one sled dog to the next. Howling can also occur when a husky experiences negative emotions, such as boredom, loneliness, or anxiety. Finally, dogs often howl along to sounds in their environment, such as sirens or other dogs.
Usually, huskies groan when they are frustrated or annoyed, but a content husky may on occasion groan. Often, huskies will lay down and groan when they are frustrated and disappointed, often after failing to gather attention or get what they want.
As we’ll discuss below, huskies can’t technically talk like humans, but they can get pretty darn close by mimicking human intonations.
Talking is typically a shaped behavior that is used as a tool by huskies to get treats or attention more effectively than other vocalizations. In some cases, it can also be a sign of affection from your husky.
It’s not very common, but huskies do bark! Of course, this friendly breed rarely issues alarm barks.
Instead, you’re more likely to experience barking when your husky is frustrated, trying to get your attention, or more often, when they’re excited.
Why Are Huskies So Vocal?
There are many reasons why some dogs are noisy. In the case of huskies, it comes down to a combination of nurture and nature.
1. It’s In Their Genes
Huskies aren’t genetically more wolf than other dogs, but they do retain many wolf-like qualities that other breeds do not.
As confirmed by a 2010 discovery, canine lineage split between gray wolves, domestic dogs, and the now extinct Taimyr wolf 35,000 years ago. Unlike other domestic dogs, a 2015 DNA study showed that huskies and Greenland sledge dogs have 1.4% to over 27% DNA in common with Taimyr wolves.
Many scientists argue that this shows that huskies are an ancient dog breed that arose tens of thousands of years ago, and one which many wolf-like behaviors and instincts haven’t been bred out of through extensive selective breeding.
If anything, breeding to turn the husky into a highly social sled dog has reinforced the need to audibly communicate with pack-mates over long distances.
2. To Communicate and Express
As a breed that pulls in large groups, huskies naturally feel the need to communicate. Considering how reactive, opinionated, and dramatic this breed is, there are plenty of things for your husky to communicate!
These friendly dogs regularly express their excitement when meeting new people and animals, when their pack mates have returned, and while playing. It isn’t just happy feelings that are expressed, however. Huskies express their fear, frustration, anger and— as we’ll discuss below— stubbornness with various vocalizations.
Huskies are also likely to try and communicate basic needs and wants to their owners by vocalizing, such as the need to go outside or have a snack.
3. You Reinforce it
Even if you aren’t giving your pup a treat every time they make a noise, you’re probably still rewarding them for their amusing sounds. When the adorable puppy below says, “A roo roo!” (I love you), isn’t your first reaction to give them a pet and praise?
And while the pets and doting that “talking” incites are a great reward, this social breed is reinforced by almost any attention or interaction. The back and forth of husky owners “arguing” with their dogs is plenty of fun, and a bored husky will gladly take an annoyed “hush!” from their owner.
4. They’re Stubborn
The noises that a husky makes aren’t always meant to communicate happy feelings. Often, huskies vocalize when they are frustrated and don’t want to do something! Seeing how naturally stubborn and willed this breed is, this happens a lot.
Aside from the joy of hearing their own voice, vocalizing gives your husky a chance to get what they want. If their husky argues passionately enough, many husky owners are willing to give their dogs 5 more minutes outside. The back and forth itself also prolongs the amount of time before a husky inevitably must obey their owner’s command.
5. They Hear Something
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that dogs have good hearing. With sensitivity four times greater than humans and a significantly larger hearing range, dogs have excellent hearing. Many dogs howl along to sounds such as sirens, music, and other dogs, and huskies are no exception.
Howling along to these high-pitched sounds is instinctual for this breed. It’s also common for a husky to express their excitement or frustration if they hear something in the walls or outside the house, whether or not you can hear it.
6. They Are Bored
For a dog bred to work in the tundra for hours on end, day to day life as a house pet can be uneventful, to say the least. If a husky isn’t exercised or given any sort of job, this intelligent breed will gladly give themselves something to do.
For many huskies, vocalizing is a self-reinforcing behavior, meaning that it is encouraged simply because the huskies enjoy it. As a result, bored huskies often make noise just for the sake of making noise and hearing their own voices.
Alternatively, the positive or negative attention that they get in response to making a ruckus is a way that this social dog can seek out stimulation in an otherwise dull environment.
Lastly, bored huskies may vocalize to their owner or other animals in an attempt to recruit them for play.
7. They Are Scared or Have Anxiety
Anxiety is a commonly experienced phenomenon in many dogs, with one study suggesting up to 72.5% of dogs may suffer from symptoms.
Per this study, the majority of these dogs showed anxiety symptoms related to environmental factors such as storms Ike sudden change. Although huskies are generally considered to be an adaptable breed, in the instances that something does scare these reactive dogs, they can howl and cry like their life depends on it.
What happens when you leave an incredibly social dog alone? Unfortunately, the answer is often destruction and anxiety. Separation anxiety is common in a variety of dog breeds, but pack animals like huskies are especially prone to it.
Vocalizations such as howling can be an unwelcome self-soothing technique or an attempt to get their pack-mates to return. The vocalizations associated with anxiety and fear can easily become disruptive to neighbors and damaging to the psyche of the dog itself.
Why Do Huskies Talk Like Humans?
I don’t know about you, but when I listen to husky talking compilations for too long, it all starts to sound like the same noise. And in a way, it is.
Humans have an incredibly unique vocal structure to the extent that even our closest biological relatives are unable to speak like us. The list of animals that are able to accurately mimic human speech is small, and the list of those able to truly understand what they are saying is nearly non-existent, save for the rare African Gray.
That said, by mimicking human intonations, some dogs can come remarkably close to talking. This mimicry isn’t inborn in huskies, but is instead shaped from their natural vocalizations.
Shaping is the modification of an existent behavior to progressively become another behavior. Whether you intend to or not, you are constantly shaping your husky’s vocalizations with your reactions and interactions. You may reward your husky with treats or attention when their howls become more and more like specific vocalizations.
Because huskies 1) naturally make such a wide variety of sounds and 2) are incredibly social, instinctive vocalizations can turn into human-like sounds over time.
Do Huskies Know What They’re Saying?
Dogs have been shown to be able to genuinely understand the meaning of verbal commands and even simple sentences . That said, it hasn’t been proven that dogs understand what they’re saying when they’re the ones that are talking.
Chances are, our dogs don’t understand something as complex as human grammar or meanings when they talk, but they may understand the context in which various vocalizations are reinforced.
So even if your husky doesn’t actually understand what they’re saying when they say “I love you,” they’ve learned that this vocalization makes you react joyfully, especially when you first get home or are cuddling. In a sense, the intention to communicate your bond and make you happy is still there.
Why Do Huskies Scream?
Alongside their usual howls or groans, huskies are known to scream at times. Screaming is caused by most of the same things as other vocalizations, such as reinforcement and a desire to communicate. More specifically though, screaming is often an extension or extreme version of howling that occurs when a husky is especially agitated.
This may be in a positive way, such as a husky being extremely excited or riffing off of one another, but more often it is associated with huskies who are scared. Scared husky will howl and scream like their life depends on it in the hopes of getting their owner to stop whatever the husky doesn’t like.
But sometimes, as with the husky in the below video, screaming is just for fun.
How Much Noise is Too Much?
Although your neighbors may beg to differ, regular vocalizations are a sign that your husky is happy and sees you as their pack-mate. But while pure silence is atypical for this naturally noisy breed, too much noise can also indicate a problem. To figure out if your husky is vocalizing too often, you should examine the contexts they vocalize in and the length of their noises.
If your husky howls for hours on end when you leave the house, it is likely they are experiencing separation anxiety or boredom from missing you. This is an especially likely explanation if your husky destroys your house by scratching on the walls and floors or chewing up your furniture and home. Alternatively, anxiety caused by environmental factors or anxiety without a specific cause is likely to be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, such as panting, whining, shaking and yawning.a
Secondly, boredom and a lack of things to do can cause your husky to excessively vocalize in an attempt to entertain themselves.
Aside from the possible noise complaints, any cause for the non-stop ruckus indicates that changes need to be made to help your husky be happier and more comfortable. Options include investing in foraging toys and enrichment, increasing exercise and activity variety, getting your husky a companion dog, and discussing treatments for anxiety with your vet.
But you should generally avoid going straight to discipline when it comes to a vocal husky and instead focus on the real root of the problem.
As anyone who has been around this loud breed might expect, there are many, many reasons huskies vocalize so much. The variety of noises a husky makes are the result of centuries of breeding as well as reinforcement from their pack mates. For as strange as all these sounds may be, they’re simply part of what makes a husky so lovable!