Why Do Dogs Howl When They Hear Music?

by Melissa Schindler Google
    While cute, Rex isn't exactly Pavarotti.

    While cute, Rex isn't exactly Pavarotti.

    George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Perhaps you play an instrument, or just love listening to your favorite tunes. Whenever the music starts, Rex “sings along” with a howl. While you may enjoy watching him howl along to his favorite tunes, it can lead you to wonder why the music makes him howl.


    When Rex starts howling, it's a form of communication. Since you're his best pal, he's probably trying to communicate with you. For example, if you're playing the trumpet, the high-pitched sound is likely reminding Rex of another dog howling. Sirens and other high-pitched sounds will often trigger him to howl. He'll howl back at you because it makes perfect sense to him that that's what you want him to do. If you've ever heard the chain reaction of one dog howling leading to the entire block of pups having a howl-fest, you've witnessed this form of pooch chatter.

    Wild Howling

    Wolves in the wild will howl to communicate with one another. Wolves use howling a little differently than your canine does. Since the high-pitched wail of a howl can be heard over great distances, one wolf will howl to another to let him know his position. It's kind of like wolf GPS. If the pack is spread out over acres of wilderness, a howl can help bring them back together. Your lovable pooch is descended from wolves, and while he doesn't use it to locate his pack, the instinct to return a howl hasn't diminished. When Rex hears the high-pitched sound of music, it triggers the howling instinct he's hung onto from his wolf ancestors.

    Is It Painful?

    You may fear that the sound of music isn't near as pleasant to Rex as it is to you, but this isn't likely. If your pup was in pain, he wouldn't be howling, he'd be hiding. He'd bury his head, cover his ears with his paws or run away to another room. Howling isn't a signal of pain, it's just another form of puppy talk. Unless your dog displays signs of pain, he's likely just trying to chat with you.

    Curbing The Behavior

    Most of the time watching Rex “sing” is just good for a laugh and a smile, but if you have to practice an instrument every day, his song may become troublesome. The ASPCA recommends a form of training called desensitization and counterconditioning to help keep Rex quiet. Desensitization involves exposing him to increasing amounts of the trigger, like starting with a bit of soft music and leading up to what was causing the howl. By exposing him slowly, he'll get used to the sound and won't be as apt to react. Counterconditioning means teaching Rex to associate the sound with something good, like getting a treat every time he hears it. If he learns being quiet when the music plays earns him a treat, he'll be less likely to start howling. Speak with a qualified dog trainer if Rex's song becomes an issue.

    Photo Credits

    • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Melissa Schindler has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes about pets, animals, technology and parenting for various websites. Also a fiction writer, she is author of "Houston After Dark." She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.

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