Remember that time Sparky bent his neck and howled at the moon like a little werewolf? It was adorable. But why exactly does your pup do it? Is he trying to tell you something? Well, if you’re wondering why dogs howl and what it means, that lone wolf imagery is a good place to start.
Way back when, before dogs were domesticated, they howled like their wolf relatives to communicate within and between packs. According to Lynn Buzhardt, DVM at VCA Animal Hospital, a howl signified a dog’s location to pack members (“Here I am!”) and served as a territorial warning to nearby critters (“No trespassing!”). Today, these instincts flare up frequently (they are animals, after all), and that’s when we’ll get a howl out of our pups. They’re usually just trying to make their presence known or ward off intruders.
But, wait! There’s more.
A study conducted by the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Bari in Italy found dogs use more variety in their vocalizations than wolves. This is likely due to their close relationships with and proximity to human beings. In addition, the study stated dogs use certain vocalizations with people and other dogs, though some sounds send completely different messages when directed at a person. Basically, this means a dog may howl at other dogs to let them know where she is, but she may howl at you to let you know she killed a rabbit in the backyard. (Thanks, Luna.) Here are some other reasons your dog might howl.