Why does my German Shepherd howl? (Causes, Solutions, And Interesting Facts)

There are ways for every dog to communicate, whether with us or with other pets. As it happens, howling is one of those.

When dogs were still pack animals and lived in the wild, they must have had a way to find each other in vast forests or wide open spaces. Undoubtedly, you’ve had the opportunity to see that the sound of a dog’s howl carries and doesn’t need wind or sound amplifiers to do so.

German shepherds are most likely to howl because of a desire to communicate, possible injury, illness, or even loneliness. Howling comes naturally to them. Shepherds can also howl while defining territory or seeking attention. The sounds of sirens or instruments can also trigger his howling.

In addition, their heightened sense of hearing can focus on the location from which the howling is coming and track it down if necessary. If they were separated from each other, this was one of the pack’s ways of keeping in touch and reuniting.

Causes of Howling in German Shepherds

Wolf Roots of German Shepherds

The German shepherds are descendants of wolves. When studying the characteristics of wolves, you will notice that one of their most common behaviors is howling. With the help of a howl, wolves recognize one another within the wild. When one becomes separated from the pack or a wolf stays behind to care for its young, it howls. This is a clear signal to the rest of the pack to come to them.

If your German shepherd howls, it may not necessarily have a specific reason for doing so. It could just as well mean that it instinctively wants to. Therefore, if you are wondering whether howling is a sign of bad behavior, please reconsider.

Howling Caused by Pain

In some cases, our pets’ injuries are not clearly visible to us. If your dog’s howling seems unnatural or suspicious to you, you should take a closer look, and consider whether there was any injury at all. Examine your dog’s body carefully. Make sure your doggie is not injured in any way. Run your fingers over his paws and body, looking for a sign of any open wound.

Even if you don’t find any injury, you shouldn’t assume in advance that nothing has happened to him. At this stage, you need to consult a veterinarian for a more thorough examination. A trained veterinarian can determine the cause of the pain and take the necessary action to stop the howling.

Pain may not necessarily be the cause of the howling. Below I describe a few other possible causes that trigger possible causes of howling in German shepherds.

Separation anxiety

Wolves, as I mentioned earlier, howl when they are separated from the pack. In modern times, the owner is the entire pack for the dog. So there is a possibility that when you move away, your German shepherd will howl for you to come back to him.

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Their howling is a sign indicating that they want you to come home to them. Simply put, your dog loves you and misses you very much, and your absence can cause anxiety.

Plus, when you come home in the afternoon or evening, your dog thinks its howling has been successful. This understanding reinforces the howling.

One of the easiest ways to find out if a dog is howling because of anxiety is to inspect the conditions in the house. Most often, separation anxiety in dogs is associated with other destructive behaviors. The dog needs to give vent to its anxiety in some way – this could be biting objects within its reach.

Tip: One way to bolster your relationship together is to comb his coat and do general grooming. Comb your shepherd regularly and you will not only strengthen your relationship but additionally take care of his coat and healthy well-being.

A whine caused by loneliness…

Have you ever had a situation where you saw a chained dog howling desperately? You might think that the dog is trying to strike fear into a stranger in this way and chase him away. But equally, the real reason may be quite different. The dog may be feeling isolated or lonely and therefore howling.

Unfortunate as it may seem, some people do not provide their German shepherds with the love and attention they desperately seek. Instead of giving him a home where he will receive attention and love, they keep the dog on a chain outside the house or property to scare off unwanted visitors.

Some dog owners do not realize at all that dogs are more than just a defensive barrier against intruders. For this reason, they neglect to give their dogs the attention they need. In such situations, German shepherds howl all the time because they feel very lonely. And this is distressing.

Marking out their territory

German Shepherds, like wolves, are very protective of their territory. Thus, if they suppose that someone is violating their territory, they may howl. By doing so, they give a clear signal to other animals that they are ready to clash with them if they approach the place where they howl.

Howling When demanding attention

This is a different kind of howling. One might be tempted to compare it to the cry of infants who demand their parent’s undivided attention.

The howling may not necessarily indicate that the dog is injured or needs food. Some argue that since a dog’s survival depends on the attention of its owner, it instinctively howls to get attention. However, there are some doubts about this theory.

Whatever the reasons, such whining only indicates that the dog is demanding your attention. You should then wonder if you are giving him enough attention, or if he is seeking your attention for no reason because he has learned to do so. Try to give him more attention or get him some new toy. Perhaps making his day more interesting will solve the problem.

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Howling in response to a distinctive sound

It is common for a German shepherd to howl in response to another sound. While this type of behavior may seem amusing, your dog is not howling for fun. As it happens, there are many different sounds to which dogs can respond by howling.

Reaction to the sound of an instrument

Not only do German shepherds howl more for particular instruments, but they also tend to behave differently depending on the type of music. If you have ever played a musical instrument in the company of your shepherd, you may have noticed that it could sometimes elicit certain reactions. So for example, brass instruments, as well as the dragging notes of a violin, often prompt dogs to howl.

A researcher at Queen’s University in Belfast found that dogs reacted differently to three different types of music. Pop music did not elicit much of a reaction in dogs, while heavy metal caused a veritable dog frenzy. Classical music, on the other hand, had a calming effect on the dogs.

Do Shepherds Howl to the Siren?

It is usually the case that when a dog hears something it interprets as a howl, even if it is an artificially generated sound (ambulance, fire, police, alarms, intercom, etc.), it feels compelled to react. Just like we do when the phone rings or we hear a notification sound.

I can guarantee that if your German shepherd started howling in response to the sound of a siren, he heard it long before you even knew an ambulance or fire department was approaching.

And since the dog didn’t howl before it heard the siren, this means that the dog is letting the siren know to move away. Since the rescue vehicles are moving away fairly quickly, the dog thinks its efforts were successful. This causes the dog to howl every time it hears the siren.

German shepherds, just like any other dog, regardless of the breed, will quickly recognize which of their behaviors attract your attention.

Moreover, if your dog howls when he hears the siren and you speak to him he will be more than happy. Your slightest reaction is enough. Even a short and trivial question „What did you hear there?” is enough stimulus for him. Therefore, you can be sure that he will let you know every other time he hears another siren, even if it is very far away.

Interesting fact: Many dog owners think that the loud sound of emergency sirens is painful to dogs’ ears. Since noisy sirens are quite painful to human ears, we assume that dogs have a much more acute sense of hearing than we do. This is one of the biggest myths.

Why Does a Shepherd Howl at Night?

It happens that dogs howl more often at night than at any other time of the day. German shepherds are very alert at that time, and if they howl, it is probably because they are trying to signal that something is going on. Even if it’s just a small hare sneaking nearby, they will howl to warn you.

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What To Do To Make A German Shepherd Stop Howling?

It is very easy to teach a dog bad habits. Hardly, we do it quite unconsciously. I think the main reason for this is the lack of proper knowledge on the subject. So, if you make sure that your dog is fully healthy (in the sense that it is not howling because it is suffering from an illness/wound), try these two methods:

  1. Ignore the howling of a dog that is demanding attention

To prevent accidentally rewarding your dog when he howls, you must ignore him as soon as he starts making noise. Don’t look at him. Don’t touch him. Don’t talk to him. Don’t scold him. Dogs, who think like children, often perceive any attention as a reward – even if it is negative attention. So scolding your dog can make his behavior worse! Pretend your dog is invisible. If this comes to you with difficulty, try folding your arms over your chest and turning away from him.

  1. Reward your dog for being quiet

It’s easy to forget to pay attention to a quiet dog. We often pay attention to our dogs when they are fussing or demanding attention. If you want your dog to unlearn howling and demanding attention, you need to reward quiet behavior.

Reward your dog with treats and give him attention when he doesn’t make noise. You should also set a new rule and stick to it: your dog will not get anything it wants (food, toys, access to the environment, treats, petting, etc.) until it is quiet for at least five seconds.

If your dog howls in an attempt to get your attention, ignore him until he quiets down, as described above. Then, after five seconds of silence, you can get his attention again.

A Few Words of Summary

Every pet owner should realize that animals have their own needs. There is always a reason why an animal, reptile, or fish behaves in a certain way.

If you understand the reason, you will have a better understanding of your pet and take steps to solve the underlying problems.

If you are still unsure why your German shepherd is howling, you may want to consult a dog behaviorist, trainer, or veterinarian.

A specialist will help you determine what the problem is and advise you on what steps you can take to solve it. Read more about your dog, take care of him, and lavish him with lots of tenderness and love, and it will pay you back at least several times over – having such a wonderful four-legged friend.