Whining, barking, growling, and howling. Noise is how dogs communicate with other canines and with us. They want to tell us what they are feeling or thinking.
Of all the noises that dogs make, howling is one that not every dog does. A lack of howling doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with your dog. Each dog is different and has its unique reason for staying quiet. A wide range of causes can be behind your dog’s refusal to howl, including:
- Type of breed
- Home environment
- Previous surgeries
- Past training
- Emotional Problems
There can be many reasons why your dog doesn’t howl, and most are benign. Still, if your want to dig deeper, read on to find ten reasons why your dog isn’t howling.
Reason #1: Type of Breed
We all know that dogs are descendants of wolves, and wolves are known for their howling. So it’s true that all dogs theoretically can howl, even the barkless Basenji; however, certain breeds are more prone to howling than others.
Remember that humans have bred dogs to have certain characteristics. Some dogs are bred to be “talkative,” while others are bred to be quieter.
Some of the quietest dog breeds include the basenji, the Chinese shar-pei, the greyhound, the cavalier King Charles spaniel, and more.
Working, guarding, and sporting dogs need to be more communicative than companion and racing breeds. Howling would be an undesirable trait in the pursuit of those specific purposes.
So if you have one of these breeds, there’s a good chance that your dog’s silence is a trait instilled in them from birth.
Reason #2: Home Environment
Howling is just one vocalization in a dog’s toolkit. Because each dog is different, much in the same way that people are, you’ll have to pay close attention to your dog to figure out its primary mode of communication.
Where you live, and the environment of your home could play a huge role in the way your dog chooses to express itself. While many dogs’ first reaction to loud noises and commotion is to howl, some dogs’ first reaction to the same stimuli is to flee silently.
Of course, over time, a dog learns to adapt to its home environment the best way it can. Dogs are great students of their human companions, and they pick up on our wants and needs to please us.
Tension in their home environment may cause some dogs to be less vocal and, thus, howl less.
Likewise, if your home environment is mostly peaceful and quiet, or if you live in an area that doesn’t experience much outside commotion, your dog may not have much to howl at, which goes back to your dog’s personality. Perhaps your dog is just laid back, and nothing in your home environment ruffles its feathers enough to get it barking.
Like before, this is a simple reason that doesn’t indicate anything is wrong with your pup for its lack of howling.
Reason #3: Age
Age can be another factor in whether or not your dog howls. Both advanced age and youth can be factors, but let’s talk about puppies first.
Howling is a pack behavior that dogs have to develop. Like people, dogs need to be taught appropriate canine behaviors from older dogs.
We’ve all seen cute videos on the internet of adorable puppy howls, but the fact is that this behavior is innate but needs to be encouraged to develop.
Reason #4: Health
Older dogs can also experience a decline in howling or stop howling altogether as they advance in years. While this can signal several specific health problems, it can also be a more general sign that your dog is getting older and isn’t as energetic and spry as it used to be.
However, if you notice that your older dog stops howling suddenly, or if other strange behavior changes or symptoms accompany this behavior, there could be an underlying health condition behind the change.
The most obvious illnesses to blame for a loss of howling will most likely have something to do with the respiratory system and the throat. Dogs’ vocal cords can become injured or even paralyzed. If your dog has breathing problems and lethargy, it’s imperative to visit a vet to ensure that a diminished howl isn’t a symptom of something more life-threatening.
While some of the health issues potentially behind your dog’s silence can be serious, some are easily treatable. Sometimes a dog’s larynx can become overworked or stressed, making it uncomfortable to howl until they heal.
Reason #5: Previous Surgeries
In the same way that strained vocal cords can keep your dog from howling, surgeries can cause similar stress on that part of your dog’s throat and prohibit them from howling.
This is sometimes an accident resulting from an unrelated surgery affecting the throat or neck area. However, some dogs undergo specific procedures to soften their bark or prevent them from barking.
This “debarking” surgery is pretty controversial and involves resecting or cutting back some of the vocal cords, which results in a lot of pain. Depending on the quality and success of the surgery, the result can be a softened bark or even a completely silent dog.
It’s often the case that adopted dogs don’t come with much information about their past and may have had debarking surgery. Although this surgery is technically irreversible, over time, scar tissue will grow back on the vocal cords, so there is a chance your dog can bark again, albeit much more quietly.
Reasons #6: Muteness
If your dog seems incapable of making much noise, there’s always a chance that a congenital abnormality and not a surgery is the root cause. Dogs can be born mute because of issues affecting their vocal cords.
One clue that your dog may be mute is silent barking. Many mute dogs who can’t make noise will still go through the motion of opening their mouth to bark, but no sound will come out. While this alone isn’t complete proof that your dog is mute, it may be a confirmation to dig a little deeper.
While many experts believe it’s rare for dogs to be born mute, it’s still a possible reason for your dog now howling.
Reason #7: Deafness
Deaf dogs may also refrain from howling, but not always for the reason you may think. While howling is a learned behavior that dogs pick up from their pack, all dogs with functioning vocal cords can still produce the noises.
If a deaf dog doesn’t bark or howl often, it may simply be that the lack of auditory stimuli keeps the dog from feeling like they have to react by howling.
Deaf dogs are often as vocal as their hearing counterparts, but the sounds may differ from those of their hearing peers. Since howling is a distinctive noise that dogs must practice and mimic from other dogs, your dog’s lack of howling could be due to deafness.
Reason #8: Past Training
If you adopted your furry friend, you likely don’t have all the details about their life before you. That may mean you’re not aware of previous debarking surgery, or it may just mean that they’ve been trained not to.
Dogs are highly motivated to please us, and they’re also incredibly intelligent animals. Howling can be an unwanted behavior that dogs learn to avoid in some environments.
Howling is often interpreted as bad behavior, namely, a sign of aggression or dominance. It’s among the most common behaviors people seek dog training to fix. Even though howling can get a bad rap, and it’s not always a negative behavior, it’s understandable to want to curtail it in certain situations and home environments.
So if your adopted pooch seems hesitant to howl, it could be a learned behavior.
Reason #9: Emotional Problems
Though you may not have considered your dog’s emotional wellbeing as a reason for howling, emotional issues like anxiety and depression can impact canines, too.
Any number of things can contribute to poor mental health in your dog. It’s necessary to remember the dog’s needs and routines to understand their emotional well-being.
Dogs have key survival needs, of course, like food and water. But they also need to understand their environment, which is why routine is a crucial factor in your dog’s life.
If you take your dog out for a walk at the same time every day and then miss a day, your dog will likely respond with confusion and perhaps by acting out. If you miss a few days in a row, your dog will probably show signs of depression.
Not only is he probably missing the physical activity of walking that he looks forward to, but you’ve diverted from his daily routine and what he’s come to expect from his environment. If you think about it, you’ll recognize that this is even hard for humans to handle, and it’s equally as frustrating for our furry friends.
So if you’ve introduced any significant or unexpected changes into your dog’s life lately, either intended or not, that could be an underlying cause in their lack of howling.
Reason #10: Decompressing
Another emotion-related reason that your dog may not howl is that they are still in a decompression phase. You’re likely familiar with this concept if you’ve ever adopted a dog or brought an adult dog home into a new environment.
Like humans, dogs ease into new environments in stages. Each dog is different, but it takes all dogs a while to become fully comfortable in a new home or around new people. Many adoption agencies and veterinarians advise waiting up to several months before expecting to see your dog’s real personality emerge.
While some dogs act out immediately, some will stay quiet, stay in one general space, and try not to make much commotion to prove that they aren’t a threat.
This may mean that some dogs curb a natural urge to howl to make sure they don’t upset you, their new housemate, who they don’t quite understand or know what to expect from yet.
If that sounds like your dog’s situation, continue to institute a regular and steady routine while also giving your dog space to warm up to their new life on their terms.
Is Howling Important for Dogs?
So, barring a serious health issue, is it bad if your dog doesn’t howl? The value of howling goes back to before the domestication of dogs as a means of communicating with other dogs.
Nowadays, a pet dog’s howling often comes down to getting your attention or responding to other dogs or noises in their environment. Although howling can sometimes accompany issues such as separation anxiety or aggression, it’s a perfectly natural and healthy behavior for dogs.
However, if your dog is physically and emotionally healthy and mentally stimulated, a lack of howling isn’t going to hurt them or you. Your quieter dog probably prefers other means of communicating with you that are just as effective and probably easier on your ears!
How Can I Get My Dog to Howl?
Of course, we can’t deny that it’s often fun to hear your dog embrace its inner wolf and howl. If you want to encourage this behavior in a healthy and well-adjusted way, you can train your dog to howl through positive reinforcement, like teaching them to sit, speak, or shake.
Although this way of howling is less about communication and more about fun, your dog will be excited to please you and won’t mind the treats and praise that come with learning a new trick.