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11 Spooky Reasons Why Dogs Howl At 3 AM (Is It Ghosts?)

Why Do Dogs Howl At 3 AM

You’re having a peaceful sleep.



Your dog’s howling like a wolf.

And you’re having goosebumps all over your body.

“Did my dog see a ghost?!”

You’re about to discover:

  • Which the howler dog breeds are.
  • 11 spooky reasons why dogs howl at 3 AM.
  • The answer to your question, “Did my dog see a ghost?”
  • And much much more…

Why do dogs howl at 3 AM?

Dogs howl at 3 AM because other dogs are howling. They’re responding to environmental triggers. It can also be due to an injury or dementia. They could howl as a defense mechanism or for hearing noises you may not hear. They can be hungry and want your attention.

11 spooky reasons why dogs howl at 3 AM 

#1: Hunger

Howling at 3 AM? Your Fido might be craving for an early morning snack.

If they didn’t eat much throughout the day until night – or long gaps between meals, then they’ll be needing more calories.

They need to munch something that’ll give them energy. As well as something that can make them have a better sleep. 

#2: Injury 

Is your dog suffering from an injury or illness?

Because they don’t speak, it can be difficult to know they’re in discomfort. Whether it’s due to an external or internal injury.

Pain doesn’t come to your Fido at a specific time. They would feel discomfort anytime, even at 3 AM in the morning.

They’ll howl to vocalize the pain. And most of the time in an extended period. It’s how they’ll let you know that they’re aching. 

Sometimes, they’ll howl in a shrieking manner. Yelps and growls might also go with the howls.

According to Dr. Senestratro, many physical changes and behaviors can show that your dog’s in pain.  

You can suspect that it’s due to an illness when they experience symptoms.

Try to recall how they carried their body before the howls happened. Did you think something was off?

Here are a few physical signs of pain in canines:

  • Panting.
  • Arched back.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Tight or twitching muscles.
  • Holding their head below their shoulders.

Behavioral signs will also tell you if something’s troubling your Fido. Especially if they’re being unusual. Dogs that are ill also tend to be crankier. 

Look out for these behavioral signs:

Note: PetMD says that anything that destroys cells or creates inflammation causes pain. Urinary tract infections, severe stomach upset, and sprains are examples.

You might also want to check: 7 reasons why your dog doesn’t like you touching his face

#3: Dementia

Your Dog Howls At 3 AM Due To Dementia

Does your senior dog wake you up every time they howl at dawn?

If yes, then they could be having their “senior” moments. 

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) affects a huge part of the old dog population. It’s a condition that causes behavioral changes. 

According to a study, the prevalence of this disorder is 18% in dogs that are 14 years and older.

It affects your senior dog’s brain. And this makes them have a hard time recognizing their environment. 

Pretty much a doggy counterpart of Alzheimer’s.

Since it’s a neurological issue, your dog may howl to hear themselves or because they’re scared.

WebMD declares that if a dog suffers from dementia, the symptoms may start at the age of 9. And that some of the medical causes include:

  • Arthritis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Skin disorder.
  • Loss of vision.
  • Loss of hearing.
  • Kidney disorder.
  • Cushing’s disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

Dr. Denise Petryk says that the DISHA acronym can help furry parents determine the signs of dementia.

“What does DISHA mean?”

It means Disorientation, Interactions with family members or other pets, Sleep-wake cycle changes, House soiling, and Activity level changes.


Disorientation is a recognizable sign that your dog has dementia. 

They’ll pace around in circles, confused. And they stare at the ceiling and walls without purpose. 

Sometimes they’ll have a hard time getting out when they walk into corners. 

You’ll also catch them barking at nothing.

But there’s more… 

Because even finding their food is a challenge. 

And the saddest part is that your dog may even fail to recognize you.

Interactions with family members or other pets

Did your dog use to snuggle with you and be hyper around other dogs? 

The changes when they have dementia become evident.

You’ll notice they’re becoming uninterested in playing and cuddling. They’ll also need to isolate themselves and refuse petting. 

Dementia will transform your once clingy dog into a withdrawn and fearful one. 

Don’t forget to also check out: Why is my dog so aloof? 13 unexpected reasons

Sleep-wake cycle changes

The sleep cycle of a dog with dementia will also change. At night they couldn’t sleep.

“What do they do during the sleeping hours?”

While you’re sleeping, they’re pacing around the house. It comes with vocalizing by barking and whining. Of course, howling too.

Not getting asleep at night to dawn will lead to them snoozing a lot more during the day.

Read next: Why your dog is suddenly restless at night (9 weird reasons)

House soiling

There will be a lot of times that they’ll pee and defecate inside the house. They can’t hold it like they used to. Even if you trained them before. 

If they have dementia, they’ll forget the commands you’ve taught that they should do. Such as peeing or defecating on the pee pad. 

You may also be interested in: 27 tips on what to do if your dog is suddenly peeing in the house

Activity level changes

Dementia will make your dog’s energy decrease. Not only will they show disinterest in you or other dog buddies. But also in exploring their environment.

They’re no longer as active as they used to. The playful dog that would get excited to play fetch now becomes less responsive. 

#4: It’s their breed

Some breeds howl more than others.

These breeds who would sing to their heart’s content may cause some neighbors to complain. Especially if you’re an apartment dweller. Or live in an area where homes are almost compressed. 

Your howler dog would disrupt not only your sleep. The howls may also become a headache-inducing nuisance to the neighbors. To the point that they would confront you!

Though you should take your neighbor’s complaint seriously, you can’t be mad at dogs for howling. 

First of all, they’re meant to produce a wide range of vocalizations. Even the quietest dogs would still do. Bulldogs and Greyhounds would bark if they felt threatened.

It’s an expected part of their behaviors.

But there are dog breeds that howl more. Any time of the day and even during sleeping hours. 

In this case, they may not be for apartments. Or in an area where homes are very close to one another.

And your dog might belong to this group of howlers and you didn’t know.

Ready to meet them?

Siberian Husky

Based on the analysis of the DNA of Huskies, it shows traces of an ancient Siberian wolf. So it’s no wonder that Huskies howl as they’ve inherited it from the wolves. 

We often associate “wolves” with “howls”. And for a good reason. They howl to communicate. So that other wolves would know their whereabouts. 

It’s the same for Huskies. They howl so that other Siberians would know where they are. Or, to call their parent’s attention.


Beagles are among those dog hunting breeds. According to history, their ancestors hunted rabbits together with Ancient Romans.

They’re able to sniff scents without having to stop. Because they’re known to have short legs that keep them low to the ground.

When they pick up a scent, they would allow fellow dogs or hunters by baying. 

Curious what sounds do Beagles make? Watch the variety of vocalizations here:

Fun fact: Beagle comes from the French word “beguele”. It means “open throat,” which is accurate because of their impressive vocal cords.


Oh, the Bloodhounds. They’re not only known for their droopy ears and mournful-looking face. They’re among the members of dogdom that perform distinctive howls.

They’re affectionate family pets and known for their gentleness. And they’re safe with children. 

But leaving them alone for a long period of time triggers them to howl. It could also test your neighbor’s patience.

Other breeds that howl more than others:

  • Akita.
  • Dachshund.
  • Bloodhound.
  • Pomeranian.
  • Cairn Terrier.
  • Finnish Spitz.
  • Basset Hound.
  • Japanese Spitz.
  • Great Pyrenees.
  • Alaskan Malamute.
  • Shetland Sheepdog.
  • Bluetick Coonhound.
  • Australian Shepherd.
  • American Eskimo Dog.

#5: Seeking your attention

Your dog will howl in hopes that you’ll give them what they want.

You should consider why they want more attention. If they’re in a crate, it might be that they need more desensitization training. So that they’ll feel more comfortable inside.

It might also be toys, cuddles, or playtime. If they haven’t been getting much of those, they’ll howl to express their needs.

And they’ll not choose what time they have to vocalize.

Like newborn babies that would cry late at night because of wet or dirty diapers. So you need to wake up to clean them up and change it for them.

But in your dog’s case, you need to teach them that it’s not the appropriate time. And that they’ll only get what they want when they’re quiet.

If you’re going to react to their howls, they’ll continue to howl each time they want attention. You won’t get rid of the behavior.

That’s why it’s important to provide mental and physical stimuli during the day. Feed them on time and let their chew toys be accessible all the time. In this way, they’d stay occupied.

#6: In response to other noises

Your dog might be howling because of some environmental triggers.

There might be a siren of an emergency vehicle that’s not so far in the neighborhood. Or car alarms and a crying baby in the house.  

These high-pitched sounds trigger your dog to vocalize by howling. 

Dogs have more sensitive hearing. They can hear both low and high-frequency levels. 

Dr. Laura Hungerford says that sounds that are not painful to us can be painful to dogs. Loud sounds could hurt their ears. And if a sound is painful to us, imagine what it’s like for canines.

Their howling is not a problem when the triggers stop. But if they frequently recur (which is not the case for sirens but for babies), it might cause anxiety and fear.

“But Petya. I’ve seen some dogs that don’t howl at sirens. Why’s that?”

It could be that they’re desensitized or everything in the house such as your windows and doors is closed. This prevents them from hearing the intensity of the sound.

#7: Separation anxiety 

You had to go to work. And one of your neighbors told you about the howls of your dog keeping them awake while you’re away.

This could happen when your pooch has separation anxiety. A dog with separation anxiety will be in distress with your absence. It’s the reason why they’d follow you from room to room.

While you’re away, they’d end up relieving their stress by chewing.

So you’d come home to a chewed-up couch or smelly carpet with their pee. 

It’s even more likely to happen if they weren’t trained to defecate in appropriate places. Or if you leave them with nothing to entertain themselves. If they lack chew toys, for example.

It’s how they cope up and relieve their stress from your absence. 

They make a big deal of your departures. When you’re about to leave, they might nibble on your clothes and bark as though they’re stopping you.

They’re centered on you so they tend to be destructive when you’re not with them. And as hours go by that you’re not around, they’ll vocalize their stress by howling.

Also read: 13 Odd Reasons Why Your Dog Howls When You Leave + 7 Tips

#8: Defense mechanism

Intruders target homes, usually at night or dawn when everyone’s asleep. 

But not when you have a howler dog that guards your property. Or when your dog catches them invading your neighbor’s house.

They’ll howl for a defense mechanism to ward off intruders and ensure your safety.

They not only do this to make potential predators retreat. Dogs also howl to announce to incoming dogs that a certain area is already occupied. And to signal that they’re not welcome.

#9: In response to another dog

Dog Responding To Another Dog

If another dog is howling nearby, then your dog will join and they’ll howl in unison!

Vocalization is a means of communication for dogs. 

When they bark at strangers, they’re telling them to go away. And when they whimper, they’re letting you know that they’re in pain.

Dogs in the neighborhood howl along in solidarity to chase away dogs that don’t belong in the area. 

It can also be that when one wants to let others know in the pack of what they’ve found. Food, most of the time.

It’s particularly a situation for hunting dogs. When the prey is found, they’ll howl to alert their parents.

But how can you distinguish a warning bark from a friendly bark?

Friendly Bark

According to AKC, a higher-pitched bark means that your dog is happy and friendly. So when they play with other dogs in the playground, you’ll notice how their barks are higher in tone.


Warning Bark

It’s simply the opposite. Your dog’s serious when the bark is lower. It’s the sound they make when they’re alerting you from intruders. Or, when they see strangers approaching to ward them off.

#10: Responding to dreams

Did you know that dogs dream?

When they’re howling while in the middle of deep slumber, then most likely that they’re having a dream. 

Scientists believe that canines dream similarly to us.

According to Dr. Ryan Llera, a dreaming dog’s breathing may become irregular. Their muscles may twitch. Their eyes will also move behind their eyelids.

Stanley Coren also says that small dogs dream a lot more than large ones. It’s also common for them to vocalize. 

Dogs would not only howl. If their dreams are intense, some may also whimper or bark. Though, it’s a rare scenario of a sleeping dog.

A safe way to wake up dogs is to gently rouse them. Also, call their name softly.

Don’t shake them. Otherwise, your pooch would be startled that they may bite unintentionally.

Warning: Do not teach children to wake up dogs when they’re sleeping. Approximately 60% of canine bites in kids occur when the child wakes a sleeping dog.

#11: Hearing noises you may not hear

Did you know that sense of hearing is a dog’s superpower?

Yup! They’re sensitive to specific kinds of sounds. They’ll hear them better at night and dawn when things are quieter. They may howl due to noises that we may not hear. It could be crickets or rustling sounds.

“Is it ghosts?”

Oh, no. Nothing supernatural. 

I’m saying they could hear noises near and far that we can’t pick up on.

Imagine you’re in the living room with your windows open. Suddenly your pooch goes running for the front door, barking or howling at nothing.

It seems totally out of the blue because nobody rang the doorbell. 

You can’t help but feel like there’s something supernatural at work. Especially when goosebumps cover your body. And the hair on the back of your neck stands up.

A moment later, you hear a group of friends laughing and singing as they pass your house on the sidewalk. 

You couldn’t hear the kids until they were right in front of the window. But your pooch heard the voices and laughter before you did.

Dogs can perceive frequencies better than us. And they can hear sounds four times farther away. What you hear at 10 feet, your dog can hear from 40 feet away. 

Their amazing sense of hearing makes them well-suited to warn you when something’s going on. 

So when they howl at 3 AM, they must’ve heard something that made their ears prick up.