Dogs howl to communicate with humans and other animals, in response to high-pitched noises or just simply for attention. It can also be a sign of separation anxiety.
After spending quality time together during quarantine, our dogs may be nervous when we go back to work. Howling is one of the main signs that your dog is suffering from anxiety. Fetch by The Dodo's on-staff veterinarian Dr. Aliya McCullough shares how to help relax your dog and also reduce any complaints from neighbors.
First, it’s important to determine that the howling isn’t a result or injury or illness
Schedule an appointment with your vet to rule out any underlying issues. If your vet establishes that the cause is from separation anxiety, there are a couple of things you can do to distract your dog while you’re away:
- Get toys that distract them and use a keyword or cue so your dog can associate a fun activity with you leaving and returning.
- Talk to your vet about giving your dog melatonin.
- Make sure your dog gets a lot of exercise (at least 30 minutes of playtime) before you leave.
- Use dog-walking services to get them out of the house (but make sure they’re comfortable with the walker).
- Create a relaxing environment where there are limited doors and windows, as this stimulation could make them more anxious.
- Leave an audio book or soothing music on so the house isn’t completely silent.
- Practice leaving and coming back by extending the amount of time you’re gone each time.
While you’re helping your pet relax while you’re away, there are some things you shouldn’t do:
- Never punish your pet. Yelling, spraying water and shock collars make their anxiety worse. They’re not trying to upset you. Your pet is doing anything they can to get back to you.
- Medication alone won’t fix howling. It’s important to reach out to your vet if the quick tips above don’t help.
However, if your vet decides that the howling isn’t because of separation anxiety, there are a couple other explanations:
- They could be reacting to high-pitched noises.
- Your dog could be trying to get your attention (To avoid it becoming an irritating habit, ignore your dog’s howls and don’t reward them for the behavior — this will encourage them to try a new tactic).
If you try these quick tips and your pet still seems anxious, reach out to your vet to find a veterinary behaviorist (Fetch offers coverage for behavioral therapy) who can help make your pet comfortable.