Dogs are infamous for howling. It’s a phenomenon immortalized forever by Dodie Smith and later in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. There, they call it the “Twilight Barking,” and it’s the equivalent of the canine telegraph wire.
That’s charming as far as it goes, but since Huskies are especially notorious for howling, it’s natural for Husky owners to ask, “Why do Huskies howl?”
There are several reasons for this behavior, and Dodie Smith’s supposition that dogs howl in response to other dogs is far from the least of these. But there are several other reasons why Huskies howl. Here are some of the most common and how to combat the problem.
Why Do Huskies Howl?
Many dogs howl, but Huskies are infamous for it. Consequently, more than one dog owner wonders, “Why do Huskies Howl?”
There are a variety of answers to this question. Here are some of the most common.
Your Husky Is Anxious
One of the primary reasons any dog howls is because they experience separation anxiety. This is no less true of Huskies.
Huskies are loyal dogs whose history as work dogs means that they benefit from long hours of play or exercise. Huskies that don’t get enough of either start channeling that energy into other activities.
One of the most prevalent is howling. This happens for several reasons. One of these is that Huskies have no sense of time.
They’re devoted to you but can’t tell five minutes from five hours. That means their level of upset generated by your disappearance is the same whether you embark on a 16-hour day at work or a five-minute trip to buy the milk.
The other factor that causes separation anxiety in Huskies is an inability to socialize. They’re affectionate dogs, and when they can’t socialize, they become distressed. That distress gets expressed through howling.
But howling isn’t the only sign of canine anxiety. In addition to howling, an anxious Husky may display other symptoms, like:
Many owners report noticing signs of Husky anxiety before leaving for work. And you are just as likely to spot them on your return. That’s because your Husky is so relieved to have you home that their anxiety manifests as over-excitement or overreaction.
Crucially, too much isolation isn’t the only thing that can cause Husky anxiety and start them howling. It can also be triggered by a death of a family member, new family members moving in, and relocating to a new home.
Your Husky Has an Underlying Health Issue
Equally, anxiety isn’t the only reason your Husky might be howling. Another common reason why Huskies howl is that they have an underlying health issue.
As dog breeds go, Huskies are healthy. But they are predisposed to several genetic conditions, including heritable eye disease and hip dysplasia.
While neither condition is exclusive to the Husky, they are more likely to experience them than other dogs. Keep your eyes peeled for other symptoms. In the case of hereditary eye disease, these include lethargy and cloudy eyes.
Hip dysplasia can be uncomfortable for your Husky because it involves the hip bone slipping out of position. Watch for signs of:
- Reduced mobility
- Reluctance to jump/rise/climb stairs
- “Bunny hop” when walking
If any of these symptoms coincide with an increase in your Husky howling, it’s time to call the vet. The howling could indicate pain, and it’s your dog’s way of asking for help managing it.
Howling: The Sign of a Happy Husky
The final answer to “Why do Huskies howl?” is counterintuitive. Huskies can howl for various reasons, from nervousness to discomfort, but they are equally likely to howl in ecstasy.
This happy howling usually occurs when a Husky is reunited with a family member or canine friend.
It’s hard to describe the jocund howl of a Husky except to say it sounds different from howls brought on by distress, illness, or unhappiness. Much like babies, Huskies are capable of many different sounds when they howl, and owners quickly learn to recognize the emotions behind these.
If you are still learning to speak Husky, look for other signs of canine contentment behind the howl, like:
- Wagging tail
- Wiggling rear
- Loose-limbed body posture
The pitch your Husky howls at can also tell you lots about their mood. A Husky howling in contentment howls at a higher pitch than an anxious or injured one. And a Husky that wants to warn you about impending danger pitches its howl significantly lower than normal.
Why Do Huskies Howl?: What To Do About It?
So, there are three reasons why Huskies howl. But what can you do about this behavior?
How you handle howling Huskies varies depending on the reason behind the howling. You can’t approach illness-induced howling the same way you would a happy animal. Here are some of the most common ways of managing a Husky that howls.
There are a variety of ways to handle separation anxiety in Huskies, but one of the best is through environmental enrichment.
Environmental enrichment requires keeping your Husky active enough that they no longer feel the need to howl when left alone. One of the most effective ways to do this is through regular walks—either with you or a dog walker.
Another alternative is through independent play. It may take a while for you to teach a Husky to play independently since they are naturally social. But it can be done, and interactive activities like puzzle toys are an effective way to do this.
Another way to discourage your Husky from howling is through synthetic pheromone dispensers.
These are primarily effective for managing anxious dogs because pheromones decrease canine stress. They help your dog relax in a new environment, and that, in turn, leads to less howling for you and the neighbors.
Pheromones are an effective solution because they act as scent-markers in a given environment. Dogs release them when marking or claiming a space, typically through:
- Anal glands
- Facial glands
In addition to howling, one of the classic signs of canine anxiety is inappropriate urination because your dog needs to reassert their claim to its home. By increasing the amount of pheromones in the atmosphere, you lessen the need for your Husky to do this while ensuring they feel relaxed without you being present.
Consult Your Vet
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to manage a howling Husky is to call the vet. This is particularly true if you suspect the reason for the howling is an underlying medical problem.
As discussed, no two variations on the Husky howl are the same, and a Husky howling out of pain is as distinctive as any other sound they produce.
If you suspect a medical condition, keep your eyes open for other possible symptoms, however vague. Whatever the problem, you know your dog better than anyone, and what looks to a stranger like normal behavior may not be.
Crucially, never try to manage the problem yourself. In particular, avoid giving your Husky human medication unless the vet prescribes it. Getting the dosage right is extremely complicated and may exacerbate rather than solve the problem.
When it comes to managing happy howling or barking, it can be tricky. You want to balance the need for discipline with fostering a positive relationship with your dog.
If your Husky howls when you come home, the best thing you can do is ignore it. Don’t interact with them until they quiet down. Anything else promotes the idea that howling gets your attention from you, and that encourages the behavior.
Moreover, to effectively dissuade your Husky from howling when happy, you need to be consistent. When discouraging howling, it can be helpful to have a command word for your Husky to respond to, like “stop” or “enough.”
That’s not to say you can’t still show your Husky affection. But do it once they settle down, and their excitement is limited to over-eager tail wagging.
Huskies howl for many different reasons. How you address the problem depends on what’s causing it in the first place.
Context is everything in this situation. So, pay attention to when your Husky howls and how often it happens. Then, you can start formulating a plan about how to tackle the problem while keeping your Husky happy and healthy.