How To Teach Your Dog To Howl

Judging from the number of videos out there, we humans seem to be endlessly entertained by videos of dogs howling. Perhaps that goes back to our fascination with our dogs’ ancestors, the wolf. 

All dogs, at least in theory, are capable of howling but it’s those breeds that are closer to wolves, such as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes which seem to howl more frequently. Breeds like Terriers and Chihuahuas are less likely to howl, but they can learn. But you should know, depending on your particular dog, that some dogs are more challenged by this task than others.

Teaching your dog to howl on command is one of those “tricks” that is not absolutely necessary of course, but it is fun and dogs seem to enjoy finding their inner wolf!

So how do you go about doing this? 

One – the first step is getting your dog to be vocal. If you can get him to howl that’s great. Some dogs will howl in response to certain sounds, such as howling yourself or singing. Musical instruments will bring on howling in others. Try playing videos of dogs howling, as hearing other dogs howl will often stimulate howling in response.

When your dog does howl, immediately reward him. Don’t worry about a vocal cue or command right now, as we are not ready for that yet. If you can’t get your dog to make an actual howling sound, go with the sound that is the closest to a howl and reward that, as you can sometimes “shape” the sound to be more like a howl by continuously rewarding improvements.

Two – Now that your dog is howling, it’s time to pair this with the command. So, when your dog begins to howl, add your vocal cue, such as “Howl” or “Sing” or even “Let’s rock!” The important thing is to be consistent with your cue and to pair it with a treat.

Three – Do this for several rounds and eventually your dog will associate your vocal cue with howling and in turn, the howling with getting that yummy reward.

You will be able to lessen the initial stimulus to howl, such as a recording or howling yourself and just get your dog to howl by using your vocal cue.

Four – Once your dog is constantly howling on cue, only reward your dog for howling when you have asked him to do it. Otherwise your dog will soon realize that he can howl for a treat!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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