Why Huskies Howl & What to Do About It
Every husky owner knows they’re one dog breed that loves to talk. But hearing these lovable dogs howling and not understanding what they mean can be frustrating for both the pet and its owner.
Dogs retained howling from their wolf ancestors. Since Huskies are particularly close descendants of wolves, howling is a favorite form of communication for them. It may get on your nerves and bother neighbors from time to time, but that’s part of the responsibility you take on when you become a husky owner.
A howling husky is a happy one unless of course, they’re sad. Read through this guide to find out why huskies howl, what they could be trying to tell you when they do, and how to stop Husky howling when it gets to be too much.
Why Do Huskies Howl?
Dogs are pretty limited in terms of communication. They can bark, growl, howl, sigh, and whine. That’s pretty much it. Maybe your husky will put a paw on your leg if they want something, but even then they can’t really tell you what it is they want unless it’s something they can walk up to like an empty food bowl.
So when they’re howling, they’re trying to express something that barking and growling aren’t suited for. Growling is for aggression and barking is used to ward off strangers, get attention, ask for more food, and a host of other things.
The husky breed is particularly keen on howling because they’re a sled dog breed, a group that can trace a higher percentage of their genetic lineage to a prehistoric hypercarnivore called the Taimyr Wolf.
After dogs and wolves split from their common ancestor about 27,000 years ago, the sled dog breeds began a course of adapting to their chilly environments while the features of other breeds started to diversify a bit more.
Modern-day wolves, like their ancestors, howl to send messages across great distances. It’s not only during a full moon that they howl, either. The rest of the pack can be alerted to the presence of predators, prey, or the location of other wolves at any time.
While wolf and dog howls don’t appear to have any level of detail to them, they at least put friends and pack members on the alert. It’s wolves’ main form of communication because it’s the fastest and most efficient way for them to send messages over a long distance.
If you aren’t sure where the rest of the pack is, howling really comes in handy. Wolves and Huskies also bond with one another by howling. Think of it kind of like friends singing together.
Howling Triggers for Siberian Huskies
When your Husky starts howling you should look for what caused it. When Huskies talk, they want you to listen – and they probably aren’t talking about philosophy. There’s a direct trigger that has your husky howling, but it might not be what you’d expect.
Here are some of the main reasons Husky dogs howl:
Howling at a high-pitched sound is an instinctive Husky dog behavior. Anything that might sound like a fellow Husky howling will probably start your Husky howling too. Remember, this is a central method of communication for them.
Their dog brains immediately think someone is either in trouble or trying to send a message when they hear things that sound like howling. It’s their way of acknowledging that they have heard the noise.
Of course, huskies might be howling at an ambulance or car alarm that’s indifferent to their response. But to the Husky, that could be another dog stranded or in trouble far away. Some huskies may even ‘sing along’ to music.
Too much time in a crate or kennel can put stress on Huskies, especially since they can be quite large. For most dog owners, the kennel is reserved for when they aren’t home, but some people need to put their Huskies away when they have company or some other situation arises.
How long is too long in a kennel? 8 hours is a widely accepted maximum stay, although we’d personally advise not to keep them in one for more than four hours if you can possibly avoid it. Husky puppies and older dogs need to spend even less time inside a kennel.
Crate training is one of the most frustrating parts of dog training. Huskies are pretty clever animals and they’ll quickly learn to howl when they’re kenneled if they find that it gets you to let them out.
Even if you don’t leave your Husky in a kennel, they could experience some separation anxiety when you’re away.
Howling is just one way dogs express their distress when their owners are gone. They could also tear things up and make quite a mess, so even if your Husky does excessive howling when left alone, just remember they could be acting out even more.
Dog owners who live in apartments face lots of stress because of dog howling. Neighbors complain and it can be quite embarrassing, especially if you simply cannot find a way to stop your dog or puppy from howling.
You can prevent separation anxiety in many ways. Firstly, learn the difference between true anxiety and a fakeout designed to get you to do something. If it’s the real deal, take it as a compliment. You’re your Husky’s whole pack and the source of all their positive reinforcement.
Boredom or a sudden change of routine can cause separation anxiety. But the way the dog handles these problems is a result of the training they received.
If you were lucky enough to get your Husky from the time they were a puppy, you should immediately and consistently be teaching them to entertain themselves without inadvertently rewarding them for whining.
If they know you’ll pick them up, pet them, and talk to them when they whine, then they also know you’ll do the same thing when they howl. If you suddenly stop responding to minor signals like whining, then the Husky will up the ante.
Invest in a dog trainer or an obedience school if you’re having trouble getting your Husky to be less pushy.
Other dogs like Australian Shepherds and Beagles howl, but only Huskies talk. We’re talking about the strange and often hilarious vocalizations they make when they move their jaw mid-howl rather than letting out one continuous noise.
When they’re very happy, Huskies may talk – almost as if they can’t contain their joy that you’re home or that they have a new toy to play with. But be careful because talking isn’t always a signal that your furry friend is beside themselves.
Huskies might also be trying to express confusion, frustration, impatience, or curiosity when they talk to you. Pay attention to the context of the vocalization. It can often be as important as the signal itself.
Warning of Danger
Like most dogs, Huskies are natural guard dogs. They can be very loud when they think someone is trying to invade their territory. We’ve already mentioned how they’re pack-minded animals.
It’s also important to understand that they have a denning instinct and get quite protective of space that they perceive as belonging to them.
They aren’t as territorial as other breeds like German Shepherds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers, Bull Mastiffs, or Doberman Pinschers, but they do like to keep strangers out of their space.
If you’re having company over, it’s likely easy to win over a Husky with some attention and get them to stop howling. But your doggo might still want to say hello, thanks, or I love you with a bit of howling or talking.
Living alongside humans for so many thousands of years has affected the way dogs’ brains work. They’re more attentive to human facial expressions and have a better short-term memory for auditory signals than monkeys do, for instance.
They’re one of the very few animals that engage in group sound-making as a method of socialization and bonding. Some Huskies make friends with one another and are likely to howl together upon meeting.
This goes back to the use of howling to express joy, as we talked about earlier. Sometimes they also form a similar kind of bond with their humans, too.
Compilation videos of Huskies howling back and forth with their owners are all over the internet, providing ample evidence that they use howling as a way to cement their social relationship and affection for people as well as to send signals.
When Is It Okay to Howl?
If only we could teach our Huskies to read the room and stifle their howling when it’s not appropriate we’d have a much easier time keeping the peace. Unfortunately, we can’t. But what we can do is train them to understand our signals to stop howling.
Before we get to some tips for getting your Husky to stop howling, it’s important to note when howling is okay. Setting this kind of boundary will help your dog understand the rules a bit better and help you be more consistent with your reinforcement efforts.
It’s completely normal to howl when they meet other Huskies, for example. Although you might not want to let them continue howling for a long time, introductory vocalizations should be allowed as long as they’re not interrupting anything else going on at the time.
Deciding when it’s not ok to howl is perhaps more important. Keep them from howling if they’re using it to make their whining louder. If they have separation anxiety, it’s sad to behold but still not alright to keep howling, especially if you have neighbors who are bothered by all the noise.
How to Get Huskies to Stop Howling
You have to be proactive if you want your Husky to stop howling. Here are a few things you can do to get them to be a bit more reserved about expressing themselves.
1. Start Training Early
If howling is discouraged from the earliest weeks of their lives, Huskies are less likely to do it frequently.
They probably won’t ever stop howling completely because it’s an instinctive behavior, but negative reinforcement for howling and positive reinforcement for being quiet and finding other ways to communicate will make everything less confusing.
It’s really important to be consistent with these rules. If you punish them sometimes and pet them other times, the training probably won’t have much of an effect.
2. Give Them Stuff to Do
Not only will stifling their boredom stop them from howling, but you can also tire them out with physical activity until they’re not interested in making lots of noise. Lots of activity is especially important for Huskies who have to spend lots of time kenneled or left alone at home.
Apartment-dwelling dogs should be taken for long walks and be allowed to run around in safe areas whenever possible. It’s a great secondary benefit to having these dogs.
Huskies were bred to run long distances while pulling weight on a sled, leaving them with tons of energy and a strong desire to play and run around. If you can’t give them time and space to run and play, then a Husky may not be the best dog breed for you.
3. Establish a Routine
Let your Husky know what you expect them to do by doing the same sorts of things with them at certain parts of the day. People who work regular hours will have an easier time with this than dog owners who might have to pick up sudden shifts and work at odd times.
Your Husky will start to understand the pattern pretty quickly. The second part of this trick is making sure they don’t start whining when there is a change in the routine or the expected activity is not happening or taking too long to get started.
The routine should be a structure for when things like eating, playing, and going for a walk happen. You don’t have to have a highly detailed program scheduled for every single day, but don’t go for random walks with your Husky in the middle of the night, either.
Howling is a natural and instinctive method of communication for Huskies. While it can be entertaining and endearing at times, it can also be annoying and interruptive.
Now that you understand why Huskies howl and some of the things they might be trying to tell you, it should be a bit easier to get your pup to learn how much howling is too much. Use a few of the tips in this guide to get your Husky to stop howling when it’s too much.
Training is the single most important solution for excessive howling. Start it early and make sure you’re consistent about the signals and rewards you give to your Husky. Any changes or inconsistent signals will only confuse your dog, causing it to howl more often.
Take time to define when howling is fine and when it isn’t. You can also train your Husky to understand what degree of howling is appropriate in more general terms.
With the information in this guide, hopefully, your husky will tone down its howling and give you a bit more peace and quiet.