Howling Good Fun


My sister and her husband used to live down the street from a fire station. At least 10 times a day (often many more), they would hear sirens from fire trucks leaving the station, responding to fires and medical emergencies. Their little dogs would howl every time they heard a siren, which, in these “work from home” times, would have been a huge distraction. But my sister and her husband thought it was cute! They enjoyed the little dog howls; they also had to keep their windows closed at all times, to keep the noise from bothering the neighbors. When I was visiting them, I thought it was mainly a pain in the rear, having our conversations interrupted every hour or so!

Today, they live in a semi-rural neighborhood. If they hear a fire engine, it’s a real cause for concern, not a prompt for a fun little “singing session.” So sometimes my sister starts a session herself. It doesn’t take much, just one or two howls, and the dogs all immediately get to their feet and join in.

Here’s the funny thing: When my senior dog Otto stays with them (when I’m out of town  i.e., not much any more), he joins in with the little dogs, adding his big deep voice to the chorus of little voices. I keep telling my sister to try to get this on video, because at my house, Otto will NOT join in! And I have no idea why! If he’s outside when a fire truck or ambulance goes by, he will howl for a moment or two – but not if I’m near him. He will grow animated, like he’d like to howl, but he won’t do it. It’s so strange to me! I’ve never admonished him for howling, I would think it’s cute, too! But he just won’t do it in front of me!

Otto is sticking to his no-howling-at-home standard

My son and his girlfriend drove up here last weekend for a socially distant visit. I cleaned my detached home-office thoroughly and put mattresses on the floor for them, and gave them their own bathroom to use, and we ate meals and hung out outside together. They spent the days canoeing and playing disc golf at a course in town, relaxing, while my son’s hound dog Cole and his girlfriend’s parents’ dog, Bailey, stayed with me and my dogs. One evening after dinner, we were having the dogs show off their tricks for various bits and pieces of leftover dinner, and my son mentioned that Cole now knew how to howl on cue as a trick – and that little Bailey, a terrier-mix, would join in very earnestly. We turned on the camera to capture the action, and I hoped Otto might join in.

Nope. He wagged his tail and paced and looked like he wanted to join in, but held to his “no howling at home” standard. The big surprise was Woody, who did join the fun, in a surprisingly high-pitched tone. I would have thought such a big, big-chested dog would be more of a bass, or at least a baritone. He’s nearly a mezzo-soprano!

Now I want to practice, and see if I can put the behavior on cue, too, for one or both dogs. (For video of our one-time howling fest, see the Whole Dog Journal’s Instagram page, dogsofwholedogjournal.) What’s your stance on howling? Cute? Or annoying? Can your dog do it on cue? If so, share a video on our Facebook page! I’ll put a post there, asking for your contributions.


  1. My doberman will howl at different things. The first time I hear him howl was in answer to some howling coyotes near our home. If we howl, he will howl along with us. But there are certain songs that will make him howl: Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ (when they sing woo woo in the background) and Fleetwood Mac ‘Hold Me’ (when the synthesizer plays). His howls sound different depending on what he is howling at. I love listening to him.

  2. Where we live in the Santa Cruz mountains, everyone has been participating in the 8pm Howl, in support of frontline medical workers. We go outside to join in, we hear howls from every direction in the valleys and forests. My GSP listens, whines and paces, but does not join in. A friend’s vizsla that lives up the valley from me adds her voice every evening, it’s so cute! I wish my girl would join in! Tell me how you get Otto to sing on cue!

  3. I too think the howling is hilarious!! I have three (used to be four) ridgebacks and none of them has ever done this and they’re HOUNDS for heaven’s sakes. Please do post how you trained Otto, I’m so hoping to get a few notes of my own!

  4. My late Blue Tick Coonhound, Peon (I didn’t name him but it was appropriate) sang along with every siren and taught my grandmother’s schnauzer to sing along. But Peon would howl alog with two pieces of ’70s music, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (in the chorus, where the guitar decrescendos during the title words) and Heorge Harrison’s ‘Long, Long, Long’ which has a similarly distorted guitar riff.

  5. Otto *won’t* howl at my house! He howls at my sister’s house, but not here. It’s my son who taught his hound, Cole, to sing on cue. And I think he just started by howling himself, and Cole was more than happy to jump in. I may have more luck with Woody. We are going to start practicing; 8 pm is the perfect time!

  6. I remember when I was a young girl growing up and the neighbor kids had a bloodhound names Bugle. They would siout “Blow, Bugle Blow!” and he would howl on cue. Was so funny and cute. My Springer, named Flicka never would howl at anything and I always wished she would , The dog I have now does howl at sirens and coyotes. But not on cue.

  7. We have two BCs. Puck, the younger of the two, howls at sirens like your sister’s dogs. That’s the only thing that sets her off. Peaches, the elder, doesn’t howl at all, even when Puck does. However, twice over the years she has howled in her sleep! That is just freaky when it happens!

  8. Sometimes as part of play we’ll howl to get our two golden’s howling. Most of the time they join in and seem to enjoy it. Sometimes our male will just bark. (One of our former dogs would always give a little yip along with a Ricky Lee Jones song ‘Satellite’.)

  9. We had four dogs sometime back while living on 185 acres in the NC mountains. One dog, Barney, who was one of the smartest dogs we have ever lived with, would look around at his pack and, for no apparent reason other than the joy of it, start howling. The other dogs joined him and they kept it up until Barney got tired and trotted off. He was a hoot.

  10. The only times Stella howls is when the dog walker comes, 3x week. She’s never howled at any other person and she doesn’t howl even when I try to encourage it. When the dog walker gets here Stella will start howling. Sometimes I join in and she looks at me and we kind of have a little sing along. It’s so funny. When she first started I looked it up because I didn’t know if it was a stress reaction, (like when little kids get overly excited and excitement turns to anxiety). I couldn’t find a good answer and I know she loves the dog walker so I don’t worry about it. She’s happy just knowing she’s going to get loved, walked, play and treats. I have a video somewhere. I’ll post on your page if I can find it.

  11. We had a rescued Dalmatian that would howl only for fire engines, not fire trucks, fire ladders, paramedics, ambulances or police patrol, just fire trucks. Asked a fireman and he confirmed that each type of vehicle have a unique siren. Our current Dalmatian puppy hasn’t learned to howl as yet.

  12. Some years ago, I had a dog, a setter mix, Emily, who would howl whenever she heard Bruce Springsteens song Born In the USA. She would only howl to that song. Not to any other songs, and never at any other time. She just seemed to enjoy it.

  13. When my husband’s garage door goes up my two Chinese Crested dogs barely lift their heads off of their dog beds. When my garage door goes up, it sounds like the Alps with all the yodeling and howling going on. As I come into the house from the garage I join in the howling fun and its mayhem. I can get my dogs to howl if I start to howl. I makes me laugh, I love it.

  14. In a wolf pack, if the alpha doesn’t howl, then no one in the pack is “allowed” to howl. Sometimes, the pack members will try to encourage the alpha to howl by licking his or her face. But if the alpha doesn’t feel like it, everyone stays silent, even if other packs are howling. I wonder for the dogs that seem like they want to howl, do they need their alpha to set the pace?

  15. I wonder why dogs howl and what is the function of their howling. Our Springer’s nature is shy cautious. When she was a puppy I would howl and try to get her to join in, but she wouldn’t​ and actually seemed stressed so I stopped. She is now four and I may try again. However I wonder. Is the howl a communication to join up with the pack. Do dogs howl because they have become separated​ from the pack?

  16. My Golden Cooper, will howl if I come home from shopping, and I stop and talk to a neighbor. He can hear my voice from in the house, and will howl because he wants to be out front with me and the neighbor. He barks at strangers when they knock at the door, or come on the porch. But he only howls when he hears me talking to someone outside. He is a Golden, they love people. They don’t like to miss out on visiting.

  17. My Golden Cooper, will howl if I come home from shopping, and I stop and talk to a neighbor. He can hear my voice from in the house, and will howl because he wants to be out front with me and the neighbor. He barks at strangers when they knock at the door, or come on the porch. But he only howls when he hears me talking to someone outside. He is a Golden, they love people. They don’t like to miss out on visiting.

  18. My late Rottweiler, Indy used to howl in her sleep – the most mournful howl ever. But the unfortunate habit she developed was howling when the phone rang! What would you think if a howling dog answered your phone call?? Our friends thought it was funny, but business calls – not so much! And the neighbors were always wondering what she was howling about. Then she taught the puppy, Dylan, to do the same. They competed for loudness – 2 Rotties! Big howls.

  19. My GR often offers “talking” noises which I’m trying to put on cue….still quite unsuccessfully. When I suggest that he talk he looks at me like I’m stupid. He has never barked (except for little squeaky barks sometimes in his sleep!).

  20. My son has a German Shepherd named Boomer. We have a Shih Tsu named Apollo. When Boomer was a puppy my son was living with us and my daughters and I would howl and get the two dogs howling. We loved it! 5 years later my son is married and my husband and I go visit him and his wife. As we were leaving to fly back home, they stood out in front of the house with Boomer waving goodbye and Boomer started howling as we were driving off. I rolled down my window and howled back. I knew he remembered those singing sessions we all had. I cried for miles.

  21. I tried learning to yodel using “Riders in the Sky” band’s “Learn to Yodel”. My chow mix and my nearly deaf cat joined in with what was so obviously pain that I restricted my lessons to the car.

  22. I had a rescue part poodle who would howl if the phone rang, or he heard sirens. He hardly ever barked.

    I had a Mini Poodle who in his last year suffered from dimensia. Towards the ends, he was not able to back up so he would end up stuck e.g. behind a toilet bowl, in the shower, in a corner somewhere. I also have to say he was almost blind with cataracts. Whenever he found himself in trouble in the house, or he wanted us, he would howl.

    I think i read somewhere howling is like a form of “here we are” or “where are you” with wolves I may be wrong.