Dog Barking And Howling: Find Out Why and What It Means

It can be confusing to see your dog barking and howling at the same time. Barking and howling are common dog behaviors, however, when the behaviors occur alongside and also frequently, it is concerning and in some cases become problematic to the people around.

So what does dog barking and howling mean? And what can you do about it?

We’ll delve into the various reasons why dogs bark and howl and how to address this behavior.

Here’s why dog barking and howling happens

Dog barking and howling happen due to attention-seeking behavior, separation anxiety, frustration, boredom, fear, territorial behavior, and an underlying medical problem. The specific reason for barking and howling varies between individual dogs and their specific circumstances.

By understanding the meaning behind your dog’s barking and howling, a solution to this common behavior problem can be put in place to address it.

Dog Barking And Howling

Dog Barking and Howling

Dog barking and howling and are vocal forms of communication used to express a range of feelings, including excitement, distress, and warning, as well as in response to various stimuli.

Barking is a brief, abrupt vocalization that can be used for a number of things, including greeting people or other dogs, alerting the owner of an intruder, and expressing excitement while howling is a prolonged vocalization that is used for calling out to other dogs or for group communication.

Is it normal for dogs to bark and howl?

Yes, it is normal for dogs to bark and howl. Barking and howling are natural and common behaviors for dogs that serve various purposes, such as communication with other dogs, humans, and other animals.

However, barking and howling can be a sign problem for a sign of either a medical or behavioral problem which needs to be addressed.

Reasons for dog barking and howling

Attention seeking behavior

Barking and howling can be a way for dogs to get their owner’s attention, either for affection or to get something they want, such as food or a toy.

Dogs naturally crave attention from both their owners and when they don’t receive enough of it, they might turn to barking and howling to get it.

This can be especially true for dogs that are left alone for long periods of time and it occurs due to being anxious or lonely without their owner’s presence.

Additionally, attention-seeking behavior can be reinforced if a dog succeeds in getting their owner’s attention through barking or howling. For example, if a dog barks and howls, and their owner immediately comes to them and offers attention, the dog may learn that this behavior is an effective way to get what they want.

An attention-seeking dog will also cry, paw, jump up or follow you everywhere in order to get your attention.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common cause of barking and howling in dogs. It is a condition in which a dog becomes anxious or distressed when their owner leaves them alone, and they may also present a variety of behaviors as a result, including barking or howling.

Separation anxiety in dogs can stem from several triggers, like a change in their owner’s routine, a relocation, or the loss of a loved one.

 It’s also frequently seen in dogs with a history of trauma or instability, or those separated from their mother and littermates at an early age.

Some dog breeds are very susceptible to separation anxiety because they are people-oriented dogs that thrive on human companionship. This means that they love being close to their human owners and family.

When separated from their owners, they tend to suffer from separation anxiety by feeling insecure. 

This is accompanied by other behaviors that include pacing, whining, and destructive behavior such as digging, or defecation in the house.


Barking and howling by your dog can be brought on by frustration. A dog may bark or howl if they are prevented from doing something they enjoy, such as playing with other dogs or exploring their surroundings, or if they are unable to get something they want, such as a toy that is out of reach.

A dog may engage in a number of undesirable behaviors in times of frustration, including barking or howling as a coping mechanism.

It is important to recognize and address the root cause of the frustration in order to prevent or resolve this behavior.


When dogs bark and howl, boredom can be a common cause. Dogs need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy and if they don’t get enough of it, they might get bored and engage in negative behaviors like barking or howling to pass the time.

When dogs are left alone for extended periods of time without anything to do, boredom can be particularly common. 

Dogs who lack adequate room to roam and explore, or who lack access to toys or other forms of enrichment, may also experience boredom.

Underlying medical problem

In some cases, barking and howling may be a sign of an underlying medical problem that is causing discomfort, pain, or a medical problem affecting their behavior.

If your dog is barking and howling due to illness, you may also notice other signs of sickness such as loss of appetite, weakness, or signs of pain. 

Look out for these symptoms and more unusual behavior changes which can be indicative that your dog is unwell.

Fear and anxiety

Fear and anxiety also cause a dog to bark and howl. A dog may feel anxious due to several reasons including the fear of loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms, separation anxiety, or unfamiliar situations or environments.

Dog fear and anxiety can have many different root causes, including past trauma or abuse, a lack of socialization or training, and adjustments to their environment or routine. 

When a dog is fearful or anxious, they may bark and howl as a way to cope with their emotions.

To stop this behavior, it is important to identify the source of the fear in order to put in place an appropriate solution.

Other fearful and anxious behaviors include pacing, panting, shaking, and hiding which may also be present in addition to barking and howling. 

Territorial behavior

Territorial behavior is a common reason why dogs bark and howl. Dogs are naturally territorial, and they may bark or howl to protect their territory from perceived threats like other animals or strange people.

Territorial behavior can be particularly prevalent in dogs that have been raised to be watchdogs for their owners or trained to defend their homes. 

A stronger instinct to defend their territory may make some breeds, such as guard dogs or herding breeds, more prone to it.

A dog that is showing territorial behavior may bark, howl, wag its tail, and exhibit other actions meant to dissuade or repel the perceived threat, such as growling, lunging, or showing teeth.

What to do if you see your dog barking and howling

There are a number of actions you can take to manage and stop your dog from barking and howling if it is becoming a problem. This includes:

Identifying the underlying reason

Determining the reason for your dog’s barking and howling is essential to solving the problem. 

Examine various factors such as your dog’s breed, age, background, and environment as well as any changes or stressors that may be contributing to the behavior.

Provide mental and physical exercise

A well-rounded routine of physical and mental activities is important for the well-being of your dog. 

Ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise, playtime, and training, and consider incorporating interactive toys or games to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

Set clear boundaries through training

Establish strict rules and boundaries for your dog, and be unwavering in their enforcement. This could help your dog understand what behaviors are deemed appropriate especially when they use barking and howling to demand attention.

When to seek help 

Consult a veterinarian or a trained dog trainer if you are unsure of the cause of your dog’s barking and howling if you suspect that the behavior stems from an underlying medical issue, or if the behavior continues to be a problem despite your efforts. 

They will assist in identifying the underlying cause and offer advice on how to address the behavior.

It is particularly important to see a veterinarian for your dog’s barking or howling. This includes:

  • A sudden change of behavior: If barking and howling are sudden or unusual, it could be an indication of an underlying medical condition or psychological problem.  Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination of your dog, and perform necessary diagnostic tests to identify the reason for the behavior and provide a solution.
  • The behavior is accompanied by other symptoms: When barking and howling are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, or other behavior changes could indicate a medical problem that needs to be addressed.
  • The behavior becomes problematic: If your dog’s barking and howling become an issue for neighbors, other people, or even for you, it is important to seek assistance. A veterinarian or professional dog trainer will offer guidance on stopping or minimizing the behavior.

Related: Dog barking and wagging tail: What does it mean?

What not to do when your dog is barking and howling

Avoid the following when you see your dog barking and howling:

Yelling or punishing them: Avoid yelling or punishing your dog when they bark and howl. This form of discipline will only increase their stress and anxiety, leading to even more barking and howling. 

Instead, keep calm and use positive reinforcement methods for good behavior to encourage them to stop.

Ignoring the behavior: It might seem like an easy fix to ignore your dog’s barking and howling, but doing so only reinforces the behavior. 

One of the reasons dogs bark and howl is to get their owners’ attention and they are more likely to persist if they are not successful. It is important to address the behavior by implementing an appropriate solution.

Encouraging the behavior: Resist encouraging the behavior by not giving in to their demands by use of barking and howling to get attention. 

In the long run, this can reinforce the behavior and make it more challenging to stop. Instead, use or get training for your dog to better teach them the appropriate behavior.

Takeaway: Dog barking and howling 

Barking and howling are common dog behaviors, but they can become problematic if they are excessive or inappropriate.

A number of factors cause this behavior, therefore, to stop your dog from barking and howling, it is important to identify the root cause of the behavior and to implement a solution that addresses it.

Remember, if your dog’s barking and howling are causing concern, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for assistance on how to address the behavior.