It’s a full moon today. It’s so majestic, it’s hard to miss it.
Not to mention the strong light spreading over the neighborhood.
But what caught your attention was your dog.
They’re howling like there’s no tomorrow…
Creepy? Alarming? Or normal?
Read to discover:
- 11 weird reasons why dogs howl at the moon.
- Things your dog could be telling you when they howl.
- If dogs have a 6th sense that triggers them to howl at the moon (Supernatural?).
- And much, much more…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs howl at the moon?
- 13 reasons why dogs howl at the moon
- #1: Full moon? Better lighting
- #2: They hear better at night
- #3: It’s not the moon, it’s their friends
- #4: Responding to outside noises
- #5: Hunger
- #6: Breed-driven tendency
- #7: Announcing territory
- #8: Vocalization of pain
- #9: Attention-seeking
- #10: Dementia
- #11: Showing off
- #12: Pinning their location
- #13: From their nocturnal wolf ancestors
Why do dogs howl at the moon?
Dogs howl at the moon to communicate. It conveys territory, hunger, pain, a catch, or their location. Dogs are more reactive to visual and auditory stimuli at night, too. Other times, howling can be a sign of attention-seeking or dementia. Overall, it’s innate and sometimes breed-driven.
13 reasons why dogs howl at the moon
#1: Full moon? Better lighting
All the creepiness aside, a full moon emits better lighting. And with that, it’s easier to make out of what’s happening outside.
Now, your pooch takes advantage of that light.
They take their post in your window and play guard.
As the lighting’s better, Fido’s able to spot poor little critters.
Maybe a bug is crawling in the window. Or something flew by to say ‘hi’ to your dog.
“Was it a ghost that flew by?”
If it’s a moth or cockroach that hit the window and died afterward, then…perhaps.
Your canine might also see a squirrel from afar. The creature just minds their own business in that nearby tree…
With that, Fido howls with every being they see.
By every being, it includes other humans, too. There could be someone that walked by.
If you noticed that this is the case, here’s what you can do:
You should draw the curtains or close up the blinds.
That’ll prevent your canine from detecting other beings under the moonlight.
Note: It will further help to keep your pup away from the window. Some dogs know how to set the curtains or blinds aside.
Howling at night could be bothersome for you and your neighbors. That’s why you might need to distance Fido from the window.
You can also block the access with a drawer or small shelf.
#2: They hear better at night
Think of a reason why it’s more creepy at night…
Some people would say that it’s like that because the night is quieter.
With that, even the faintest creaks could be easily heard. And, even the tiniest steps could be counted…
However, for your dog, that’s not scary at all. It’s actually advantageous.
That’s because the quiet atmosphere lets them hear even better at night.
Note: Dogs already hear better than us during the day.
According to this research, dogs can hear up to 4 times farther away than humans.
So, take it from this AKC article, whose title alone tells us something immediately. The article is entitled: Dogs Don’t Have a Sixth Sense, They Just Have Incredible Hearing.
A dog’s hearing capability
Dogs can hear sounds with a higher frequency or pitch. Some we can’t even stand.
That’s because dogs can hear from a range of 47,000 to 65,000 Hz. Which are too high-pitched for our human ears.
Moreover, dogs can hear soft sounds more than us.
Apparently, canines are able to detect sounds with -5 decibels to -15 decibels. That range is too quiet for us to hear!
With that, your pup is more prone to howl at night due to noises.
It might be from quaint footsteps a little far from your house. Or there’s rustling on bushes nearby.
If this is the case, you would notice 1 thing before your dog howls. And it’s their ears standing erect.
#3: It’s not the moon, it’s their friends
At night, most people communicate through messaging applications.
Using those apps is helpful in human communication.
That even if you’re miles away from the person, you can still share how your day went.
Dogs, on the other hand, can’t make an account for such apps.
Oh, imagine how they would send messages full of typos because of their paws! Plus, how cute their profile pictures will be…
Regardless, dogs have another way…
And that’s howling.
By doing that, dogs can communicate with other canines within a radius.
Maybe after a minute of your dog’s howl, other canine replies.
It must have looked like they’re howling at the moon, but, no. They’re howling at their friends.
“What are they talking about?”
There’s no exact way to decipher their howling messages…yet.
However, this study suggests that howling keeps group cohesion. Which is the tendency for a group to remain whole and build unity.
Since dogs are pack animals, then howling is a method for them to stick together.
That and other intentions for vocalizations are clarified:
|Whining||This indicates arousal. It’s also a form of greeting and attention-seeking vocalization.|
|Groans and yelps||This is a signal of distress or pain.|
|Grunts||It’s analyzed as pleasure-related signals.|
Did you know? The study also says that dogs are able to extract what the other dog is feeling from their vocalization.
And if they’re face to face, they can associate emotions with facial expressions.
Furthermore, some intentions for howling will be explained further in the article…
You might also like: 7 Incredible Reasons Why Your Dog Howls At Music + 3 Tips
#4: Responding to outside noises
This time, your dog’s howling might be triggered by something around.
Not necessarily the moon…or a ghost.
It might be a siren a few blocks away or nearby. It could also be a crying baby two houses from yours.
Almost anything with a high-pitched or loud sound can trigger your dog to howl.
It might be done as a response. Sometimes, it can be their way to complain about the noise. Or to vocalize that the noise is hurting and irritating them.
Yes, loud noises can hurt your pup, too.
Like I said in reason #2, a dog’s hearing capability is way better than ours. That’s because they’re more sensitive to sounds.
And with that, they might feel pain due to blaring sounds.
That level of pain differs from ours. Some sounds humans find okay, but for dogs, such can be painful.
Plus, a sound that’s too loud for us…well, it feels more audible for the canines.
Just imagine that siren close to you and will leave your ear ringing. For your pooch, they might experience it more seriously than you did.
Warning: Repeated exposure to loud noises can cause fear to your dog. Even a single traumatic experience with sound can cause phobias.
Noise aversion in dogs
This is the fear of noises in dogs. It’s a common condition.
VCA Hospital states that 33% of the canine population experience it.
There are 2 cases of noise aversion in dogs:
|Mild (fear)||This case is normally occurring and adaptive. |
An example is being startled by a loud noise.
Signs of a mild noise aversion:
|Phobia (extreme fear)||In this case, the fear’s exaggerated. With that, the response to the stimulus is more excessive.|
An example to note is staying hidden in the corner hours after a loud stimulus. There, the dog is still obviously shaken.
Signs of phobia:
– Extreme agitation.
– Destructive behaviors.
– Attempting to escape.
What you can do
You have to start early with this one.
Make sure that your dog experiences frequent socialization since they’re a puppy. Preferably 1 to 4 months of their age.
Once your dog vocalizes due to fear, avoid punishing them.
If you punish your dog, they’ll then be scared of 2 things now: you and the stimulus.
Lastly, don’t add to the drama.
You shouldn’t overcoddle your dog once they get scared. Your addition will justify the scary situation for your dog.
You can modify their behaviors by using desensitization or counter conditioning.
If Fido’s fear persists, take them to the vet.
Once assessed, they might be prescribed medications that reduce fear responses.
Oops…someone’s craving. And that someone is your fur baby.
Your dog howls at night to tell you they’re feeling hungry.
As for the moon, it just happened to be that your pup is craving a midnight snack.
“So, shall I give Howler a midnight snack?”
The answer is a big ‘no.’
Feeding your dog late at night could lead to many issues. And that will result in disruptions to you and your dog’s life.
I’m talking about:
- Your dog might gain weight. Research tells us that the timing of food intake might cause an animal’s weight to increase.
- Additional toilet breaks are in line. An input means that there’ll be an output. With that, your pooch will tend to poop or pee after feeding.
- By feeding your dog at night, they’ll regain their energy. During the night, it will be hard to burn off their stamina. Therefore, you just made a high-energy pup that won’t be able to sleep.
Instead, what you can do is:
- Don’t grant them when they beg for food.
- Feed them twice a day, as experts suggest.
- Start feeding them the proper amount of food that they need.
“Then, how much food shall I feed my dog?”
The nutrients that a dog needs depend on their:
- Activity level.
- Physical health.
In your next vet visit, ask the professional to compute the needed calories for your dog.
After that, divide the total in half. Now, that’s how many calories you should feed your dog per meal.
And if your pup is a treat muncher, make sure to add that to the equation.
You might also want to check out: 9 Unusual Reasons Why Your Dog Is Crazy At Night + 5 Tips
#6: Breed-driven tendency
That’s why it might be ingrained in your dog to let out a howl frequently.
Particularly, hounds howl more than other dog breeds do.
However, the list still varies.
Here are 11 dog breeds that vocalize more through howling:
- Basset Hounds.
- American Eskimos.
- Shetland Sheepdog.
- Alaskan Malamutes.
- Bluetick Coonhounds.
- Redbone Coonhounds.
- Siberian huskies, who might’ve inherited it from their ancestor: Siberian wolf.
Note: This is why it’s crucial to pick the right dog breed for you and your lifestyle.
If you live in a house with thin walls, the dogs mentioned might not work for you or your neighbors.
It should also depend on the state or area that you’re living in.
Laws for such noises due to dog vocalization vary from one state to another.
Some may lead to debarking – the process of restricting a dog’s bark. Others might even lead to euthanasia.
#7: Announcing territory
Howling is one innate defense mechanism for dogs.
This time, they do it to ward off potential threats or unwelcome guests.
It works as a warning to prevent intruders.
This vocalization is a dog’s way to signal to another that the territory has been marked. And the place is claimed by none other than your Howler.
“It’s night…no one’s coming over…”
Then, it might be a warning for rodents around.
Maybe a raccoon decided to feast on the neighborhood trash.
Or maybe someone from your block expected visitors.
Whichever it is, it’s just your dog’s nature to protect their territory. And of course, you’re counted. With that, your pup wants to ensure your safety as well.
#8: Vocalization of pain
When you’re a kid, you probably cried when you experienced pain. That crying is a signal for an adult to check you and ask, “Are you okay?”
For dogs, howling is their signal for such.
They might be suffering from pain due to illness. That’s why they’re vocalizing.
Some howling might be prolonged due to extended pain.
Check if your dogs show these other signs of illness:
- Arched back.
- Eating slowly.
- Loss of appetite.
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
- Unusual urine and stool.
- Refusal to use the stairs.
- Sudden excessive urination.
- Unable to get up or lie down.
- Walking slower than usual or total inability to walk.
Moreover, here are behavioral signs of illness:
If you notice any of these signs, you need to assess your pup.
Do a thorough home checkup
|Check your dog’s||Watch of for these signs|
|Eyes||– Dull or darkened cornea.|
– Redness in the sclera (white
area of eyes).
– Excretion of gunk or discharge near the eyes.
– Runny nose.
– Dry and cracking nostrils.
– Bad smell.Abrasions.
– Waxy debris.
– Excretion of discharge.
– Redness due to swelling.
– Drainage in the ear canals.
|Mouth, teeth, and gums||– Bad breath.|
– Excessive tartar.
– Bumps and ulcers.
– Pale or white gums.
– Loose or broken teeth.
– Swollen or darkened gums.
– Yellowing or browning of the
|Fur and skin||– Lesions.|
– Bald spots.
– Reddened skin.
– Presence of dandruff.Bumpy
and flaky skin.
|Heartbeat and respiration||– Not breathing smoothly and |
there’s signs of struggle in
– Unusual heart rate – not inside
the range of 70 to 120 beats
|Body||– Fleas and ticks.|
– Musty odor in their feet.
– Cracked and dry paw pads.
– Unusual discharge in their
You might also want to check: 15 Reasons Why Your Dog Growls At Night + 7 Tips To Stop It
Wow, that’s a long one. But, let me translate it for you:
“Pay attention to me, hooooooman!” That might be the very thing Fido’s trying to tell you.
Dogs are highly social beings (and have the flare to always be the star).
With that, canines tend to beg for attention if they’re not given any. Sometimes, if they’re also not given enough.
Experts say that dogs show such behaviors to get their humans to interact with them.
Here’s a list of attention-seeking behaviors in dogs:
- Jumping on you.
- Handing their toys to you.
- Nudging you using their nose.
- Pulling you by biting your clothes.
- Barking and whining directly at you.
- Taking things from you (such as socks) to make you chase them.
These behaviors might be annoying sometimes. That’s why you might tend to scold them or nudge them away.
Fido received the wrong message.
“What wrong message?” you ask.
Your reiteration to attention-seeking behaviors is misunderstood. For your pup, it’s a reward.
Repetitive occurrence of this case conditions your dog. It makes them think that the behavior’s acceptable.
With that, you can see more of the behavior in the future.
Don’t worry. Help is here:
How to deal with a dog who’s constantly seeking attention
- Remain consistent in interacting with your dog.
- You should have unchanging rules regarding wanted and unwanted behaviors.
- Only reinforce good behaviors. Reward your dog if you see them sitting quietly or calmly playing with their toys. Doing so will keep your dog behaved and quiet.
- Ignore them when they seek attention. Don’t say or do anything while they show the behavior. Ignore them completely throughout the display of behavior. Once they’re done, that’s where you pet and praise them.
- Your attention should be scheduled. This is important for you and your dog’s relationship. By doing so, you will condition your dog to expect interaction at a specific time. You have to interact with your dog at least twice a day.
Warning: Reacting negatively (pushing or yelling) at your dog can damage your relationship.
Sadly, our fur babies can’t stay a baby forever.
As a dog ages, their cognitive functions begin to decline. This affects their:
- Ability to learn.
Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS) is the medical term for a dog’s dementia.
Your dog’s old age might be the culprit for the howling behavior. They might be communicating their confusion or anxiety. (See ‘Recognizing CCDS’ section)
This research states that 60% of dogs older than 11 years old have CCDS.
Moreover, it also tells us that CCDS doesn’t manifest differently from one breed to another.
However, smaller dogs have shorter lifespans and they tend to have more obvious signs of CCDS. That compared to large dog breeds.
According to the MSD Vet Manual, there are a group of clinical signs of CCDS. That group of signs is often referred to as ‘DISHA.’
The shortcut DISHA is the acronym for the signs, and they are:
|Disorientation||– Pacing around.|
– Barking at you or unseen
– Looking up and gazing at the
– Staring at nothing with no
– Trouble looking for their food
– Failure to recognize you (their
– Always looking like they’re lost
– mainly in the weirdest place,
like behind the couch.
|[Changes in] interactions||– Isolation.|
– Easily irritated.
– Lack of affection.
– Random aggression.
– Lack of interest in playing.
– Not greeting visitors anymore.
– Can no longer stand physical
|Sleep-wake cycles||– Restlessness.|
– Disrupted circadian rhythms.
– Pacing at night instead of
– Sleeping during the daytime,
instead of at night.
– During the hours that they’re
awake, they’re likely to howl
and vocalize their discomfort.
|House-soiling||– Peeing at you.|
– Disregarding the pee pads.Pooping or peeing inside the house.Staring outside as a show of intent to poop or pee there. However, they go inside the house anyway.
|Activity changes||Lack of focus.Less desire to explore.They’re no longer playful.Change in their response to usual stimuli.|
Moreover, PetMD gives us 2 additional signs:
- Repetitive and unusual movements. Examples are shaking their legs or bobbing their heads.
- Difficulty eating and drinking. Like knocking off their food or dropping it from their mouth.
Continue reading: 13 Odd Reasons Why Dogs Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night
#11: Showing off
In this case, they found something in the middle of the night.
“Did they find ghosts?”
Unfortunately, Howler’s not a ghostbuster.
What they are is a predator. And your canine might have gotten something that they’re proud to share.
Maybe, Howler’s able to catch that little critter they’re chasing.
According to vets, a dog’s howling could be a cheer.
And that cheer is to show off that they caught something.
In the wild, this strategy is used as an announcement.
It’s to tell their canine companions that they finally cornered that prey. With that, they can finally have their dinner.
Yay, team effort.
Wait, pretty sure that your dog’s not a hunter?
Regardless, domesticated dogs mimic their ancestors, even in the littlest ways. That’s why it’s still applicable.
Whatever the discovery is, your dog is proud to announce and show it off.
Maybe your dog was able to (finally) reach that treat under the sofa.
And with that, here comes the celebratory Awoooooooo!
#12: Pinning their location
In the previous reason, howling’s used to communicate a catch.
For this one, howling’s done to signal their location.
Let’s (once again) go back to when dogs are in the wild:
There, canines howl to help their pack locate them.
Yep, dogs had their own version of Google maps way before it’s invented.
Kidding aside, howling can help their pack members find their way home.
If not their home, it’s their current location. And your dog aims to invite the other to them and approach them.
What could be the application for this on modern-day domesticated dogs?
Since your family is your dog’s pack, they tend to do this with you and other family members.
Maybe someone’s out at night and they’re on the way home.
Once that someone makes a turn in your block, your dog must have detected them.
After all, as I said in #2, dogs hear better at night. They might’ve heard the specific engine noise your family car has.
With that, they howl to signal your house’s location.
Who knew that you could use your dogs as GPS?
Additionally, once that person enters the house, your dog could continue howling.
This time, it’s a way of greeting. Plus, it’s a sign that your dog’s excited to see them.
For further reading: 11 Real Reasons Why Your Dog Howls When You Get Home + Tips
#13: From their nocturnal wolf ancestors
Dogs have wolves as their ancestors.
The dog’s scientific name is Canis familiaris. Wolves, on the other hand, are scientifically named Canis lupus.
Notice that they have the same genus (Canis). That’s because dogs are a direct descendant of wolves.
Dogs are basically domesticated versions of wolves. And our domesticated canines have shorter muzzles and smaller teeth.
But there’s a behavior they still inherited from their great great…great wolf grannies.
That behavior is howling, which they use to communicate.
And as you learned in this article:
- Fido uses howling to talk with their furry friends (reason #3).
- Dogs announce their territory and willingness to protect through howling (reason #7).
- Your fur baby is cheering through howling. They do so to show off a catch (reason #11).
- Canines use howling to signal others of their location. It translates to, “I’m over here!” (reason #12).
With that, there might still be a question burning in you:
“Why do they do it at night?”
It’s because their wolf ancestors are nocturnal. So, during the night, they’re bound to communicate even more.
“Okay…then why are they looking up at the moon?”
There is no solid scientific evidence for that yet.
However, it’s been theorized that looking up emits a larger voice. Which then can let the howling travel further within a larger radius.