When the family gathers round to sing carols on Christmas Eve, does your pup love to join along? Dogs howl when they hear music because it's a means of communication. The behavior goes all the way back to primitive times when dogs communicated with each other by howling. You'll probably notice that whenever you play an instrument or crank up the stereo, your pup never fails to start howling! Basically, your howling hound dog just wants to sing along and join in the fun!
Dogs howl to communicate
When a dog starts howling, it's a way to get the pack together. 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 him 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 your dog 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.
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Why dogs howl
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 your pooch hears the high-pitched sound of music, it triggers the howling instinct he's hung onto from his wolf ancestors.
Does music hurt dogs' ears?
You may fear that the sound of music isn't near as pleasant to your canine companion 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.
Canines can hear pitch
Canines can actually decipher pitch and tone, and they even will howl in almost a harmony in order to distinguish and individualize the sound coming out of their mouths. Most of the time watching a dog "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 your dog quiet.
Desensitization involves exposing your dog 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 your pup 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. Another option is to put the dog in a different room and close doors, if you really need to practice without him joining in. Speak with a qualified dog trainer if your pooch's song becomes an issue.
Some dogs prefer certain types of music, just like people do. Music can get canines excited, or calm them down. Or somewhere in-between, we've all seen dogs groovin' to a strumming guitar, or closing their eyes while someone sings a soft lullaby. Choose your dog's favorite genre, and you'll have a musical companion if you don't mind him joining in on the fun!