Wolves use their distinctive, mournful howl to communicate with one another. The pitch and sustained duration of the howl makes the sound especially well-suited for traveling long distances. The characteristic upraised muzzle (“howling at the moon”) helps project the sound upward so it can travel farther. It’s estimated that a wolf howl can travel six or more miles. This unique sound is how a wolf pack, which may be separated from each other by great distances when hunting, identifies other members of the pack so they are able to reunite. Lone wolves may howl to greet one another or to find a mate, and each wolf’s howl is unique. Wolves also howl in unison to warn other packs of wolves away; their wavering chorus can make it difficult to identify individual wolves, leaving the impression of a larger group.
While dogs are more likely to bark, howling is also a form of communication used by dogs, which is not surprising, since dogs are descended from wolves. The howl of a dog may also be used to communicate with other dogs over long distances. Dogs howl for a variety of reasons; some dogs howl as an instinctive response when they hear particular sounds that resemble a wolf howl such as certain notes on a piano, singing, or the sound of a siren. Some dogs howl when separated from their owner, because they are lonely, bored or anxious about being separated. Other dogs howl when the owner is around because he has learned this gets him attention. Not all dogs howl, but certain breeds such as hounds and Huskies are more likely to howl.
Howling may also indicate that your dog is in pain or ill. If your dog’s howling is a new behavior and you are not sure what triggered the howling, contact your veterinarian for advice.