Why Do Huskies Howl? Find Out Here Now
Huskies are one of the famous dogs of the canine world. From pups to seniors, they always find something to bark, whine, howl, or cry about.
This isn’t something negative, however – it’s an expression of the social nature of Huskies and their “communication skills”.
As a pack working dog breed, Huskies are used to always being around people and other dogs, and frequently having to “talk” with them.
Have you ever asked yourself, why do Huskies howl?
Howling isn’t something a dog that was bred to pull a sled needs to do. Instead, it’s a behavior we associate with wolves, not domesticated dogs.
And while other breeds can also howl from time to time, none do so as frequently and obsessively as huskies.
Why Do Huskies Howl So Much?
The quick and simple answer to this question is very easy to spot – it’s because they are descendants of wolves! As you probably already know, wolves howl too.
This answer does lead to a very big follow-up question, however, and it’s why are Huskies the only domesticated breed that howl so much? There are several reasons for this.
1. Huskies Are Closer to Wolves Genetically Than Most Other Dog Breeds.
There have been many analyses of dog DNA and Husky DNA, and the husky has been shown to be incredibly close to that of ancient Siberian wolves.
More specifically, Siberian Huskies are closely related to the North Asian Taimyr wolf.
Today’s Siberian Huskies may have a slightly smaller and different body frame as well as very distinct and different coat colors, but that’s largely due to selective breeding.
Genetically, the deviation isn’t as major as you may think. Maybe that’s why Huskies and wolfdogs get along so well.
Regardless, a lot of simple behaviors have a genetic basis, be it in dogs, wolves, or even people.
2. Huskies Continue to Live in Their Ancestral Environment
When humans domesticated wolves, they didn’t just start using them for work tasks and selectively bred them – we also moved them to entirely new habitats.
And that plays a big role in the evolution of a species, even if most of it is secondary to the intentional selective breeding done by people.
So for example, a Chinese Shih Tzu doesn’t have many environmental stimuli to howl at, as it’s an almost strictly indoor breed.
A Husky, however, still lives in the same environment that necessitated wolves to start howling in the first place.
3. Long-distance Communication
The very purpose of the howl for wolves is to be able to communicate with other pack members and even other packs over great distances.
A howl is much better than a bark for that because it can travel over many kilometers, regardless of wind and other obstacles.
A short bark, on the other hand, can easily be missed by the intended recipient.
And while Huskies were domesticated, they still need to be able to communicate over long distances – both with other Huskies if they get separated when sledding, and with people.
For centuries, sledding was a major means for transportation, travel, trade, and communication in both North American and northern Asia.
In such an environment, the long and loud howls of the Siberian Huskies were invaluable, both for them and for the people with them.
8 Other Reasons Why Your Husky Howls
Now that we know the main reason for why huskies howl, let’s take a look at some other reasons why they might howl, especially nowadays.
After all, there’s no need for “long-distance communication across the tundra” at 3am in your living room. So, why do pet Huskies still howl on a daily basis?
Here are the 8 most common reasons.
1. When They Feel Happy
If you’re worried that howling is a bad sign for your dog, don’t be – as howling can just as well mean that your Husky is happy.
Think of it as you screaming out with joy when something unexpectedly great happens.
For Huskies, this can happen when they meet a canine friend in the dog park, when you come home from work, or another similar cause.
Happy howls do sound somewhat different from sad howls, however. It can’t really be described, as every Husky’s howling is very individual.
However, if you’ve heard your Husky howl often enough, you might be able to differentiate from a happy howl and a sad howl.
2. When They Are Anxious, Lonely, or Afraid
Speaking of sad howls, Huskies will often do so when they are lonely, afraid, anxious, or depressed.
As a breed that’s prone to separation anxiety, it’s very common for a Husky to howl when you are away at work during the day.
In that case, the howl is likely not just an expression of sadness, but also a literal attempt to call you back home.
Such howls are especially heartbreaking when the Husky has lost a friend or a family member.
However, these “sad howls” can also be exceptionally trivial, such as when you refuse to give your Husky a treat or you take away its toy.
3. When the Husky Isn’t Feeling Well
On a more serious note, a Husky’s howl can also indicate a physical problem.
Those, as well as a simple physical injury, can very well cause your Husky to start howling.
Unlike cats and some less social dog breeds, Huskies rarely hesitate to let you know how they feel.
And that’s a good thing, as you don’t want your dog walking around with a health problem you don’t know about.
4. In Response to Another Howl
Nothing is more normal for a Husky than responding to a howl with a howl of its own. It’s all but impossible for a Husky to restrain itself when it hears a neighbor’s dog howling.
Most of the time you can get your Husky to howl by just playing a video on your phone of another dog’s howl. It’s just in their nature!
5. In Response to High-pitched Sounds
Almost any high-pitched noise can also get your Husky to start howling.
This isn’t necessarily because your Husky has mistaken a whistle with another dog’s howl – Huskies are smarter than that.
Besides, they know and understand howls much better than we do – it’s their language after all.
Nevertheless, most whistling sounds will prompt your Husky to let out at least a quick howl. It’s just an instinctive impulse.
6. When They Are Bored
Very often, a Husky’s howl is literally just a cry of boredom. It’s literally the “Gah, I’m bored!” cry we sometimes want to let out too.
Most of the time it’s funny but it’s admittedly frustrating when it happens in the middle of the night.
It can be even more problematic if you live in an apartment building as you can get in trouble with your neighbors or landlord.
7. When They Want to Warn You of Danger
A very core purpose of a dog’s or a wolf’s howl is to warn the pack of incoming danger.
So if you hear your Husky howling in the middle of the night, it might be because the dog is awake and bored, but it may also be because there’s an intruder at your door.
On the one hand, this is an annoying situation as you can never know why your Husky is howling in the middle of the night.
It literally becomes a “the boy who cried wolf” situation, only this time it’s a “dog who cried intruder”.
Nevertheless, it’s better to be warned that someone is breaking in, than to not be warned at all.
Of course, you ought to remember that Huskies really aren’t great guard dogs – they are way too social for that.
If someone tries to break into your home, your Husky will be more likely to just retreat and keep sounding the alarm, rather than to jump and attack.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you probably don’t want your dog hurt in an altercation.
Besides, the danger your Husky is warning you about can come in many shapes too – it may be an accidental stove fire, water spilling out of the sink, it may be your baby walking into traffic, or many other dangerous situations.
Huskies are one of the most intelligent dog breeds out there and they are very adaptive. This allows them to recognize a lot of situations you may not expect a dog to understand.
8. When They Want to Communicate Literally Anything Else
At the end of the day, a Husky can howl for almost anything. Howling is just a basic type of communication for them.
It’s like barking for most other dogs or meowing for cats – it can be done to communicate a vast array of issues.
And while for us it can be a little difficult to discern a happy howl from a sad howl, or from a warning howl from a bored howl, for the Husky the difference is very clear.
If you’ve owned a Husky, you know that these dogs do far more than just howl.
While they are not as fond of barking as other breeds, Huskies are exceptional screamers as well as whiners.
When scared, uncomfortable, or just unhappy with a broken toy or a missed treat, a Husky is very likely to start screaming its canine heart out.
If you want to hear a Husky scream, just try to bathe or groom it and you’re sure to get an earful, as this breed isn’t a big fan of water.
Take a look at this video of a Husky at a groomer, for example:
So why all that screaming? Unlike howling, which can be directly traced back to the Huskies’ wolf origins, the very human-like screaming is somewhat harder to explain.
We do know that it’s another way of communicating and isn’t directly related to the Huskies’ interactions with us.
That’s because we’ve observed Huskies scream at each other too for as long as people have used them as sled dogs.
The leading hypothesis is that the screaming is just a “close-range” variation of the howling.
Because Huskies are so used to howling as their go-to long-range communication method, they’ve developed their “screaming” as a short-range alternative to barking.
It’s essentially a type of whining which all dogs do, but Huskies seem to prefer screaming much more.
This preference may also be because the elongated sound of the scream travels better through strong winds and storms than a barking noise does.
Does All This Howling Make Huskies Not Suitable for Apartment Living?
Howling is one reason why Huskies aren’t recommended for apartment life, but it isn’t even the main reason. Huskies are very physically active and need a lot of playtime.
This is something most owners can’t provide with just two daily walks, which is why having a yard is recommended when owning a Husky.
Getting some indoor playtime is also an option, but you’ll need to have a fairly large and open apartment for that.
Not to mention that a 60 lbs (27 kg) Husky running and jumping on an apartment’s floor can also bother your neighbors quite a bit, even if you have carpets.
Add the possibility of midnight howling sessions or howling during the day when you’re away for work and Huskies become pretty unsuitable for apartment life.
Do Husky Puppies Howl?
Why do huskies howl is one question, but many people also ask if husky puppies howl too. A young Husky pup’s vocal cords takes some time to fully develop.
So while you will see your little Husky trying to howl, it will take a few months before it can produce an actual howl. In the meantime, you can expect a lot of cute barking and whining.
That being said, if you have an older Husky in the household, you can expect the young pup to learn to howl a bit quicker.
In fact, the opposite is often true as well – Husky pups who have grown with no adult Huskies around them don’t howl as much.
So if you want a Husky that will howl as little as possible even as an adult, you should get as young of a pup as possible.
If you have an adult non-Husky dog at home, this can further help to teach your Husky pup to bark and whine, rather than howl.
Still, even then you can expect your Husky’s instinct to prevail from time to time, there’s no getting around that.
Do Husky Mixes Howl as Much as a Purebred Siberian Husky?
As a mid-sized breed, Huskies can be bred with most other dog breeds on the planet. The resulting crossbreeds will inherit a lot of characteristics from both parents at random.
So while Husky crosses will also be more vocal than a “normal” dog, they will be less vocal than a purebred Husky, at least on average.
Mix them often enough and the habit of howling will be replaced by barking almost entirely.
Other Dog Breeds Who Howl a Lot
There are quite a few breeds that like to howl, although only a couple of them (the first two below) come somewhat close to Huskies. Such howlers include:
- Alaskan Malamute
- Alaskan Klee Kai
- Coton de Tulear
- Bluetick Coonhound
- Redbone Coonhound
- Basset Hound
Why Doesn’t My Husky Howl?
Every rule has its exceptions and that goes for Huskies as well. While chances are that your Husky will be extremely vocal, not all Huskies fall into this stereotype.
If you’re wondering why your Husky doesn’t howl, here are a few common possibilities:
- It’s still young
- It has a quiet personality
- Boredom and depression can make a Husky less vocal
- The Husky has had bad experiences related to howling (for example, beatings from a previous owner)
- It doesn’t feel comfortable in its environment
- Illness and injury can also make your dog less vocal
- The Husky has been trained not to howl (more on that below)
- A senior Husky can have weakened hearing and therefore have fewer stimuli to howl at
When a Husky Is Howling Too Much
If your Husky starts howling unusually often, this is likely a sign that something is not right. As vocal as these dogs are, even they aren’t supposed to howl non-stop.
The most likely explanation in such a situation is going to be a physical problem. However, depression might also be an issue.
In some rare and frankly fascinating cases, a Husky may howl as a warning of some unseen problem, such as termites or pests in your walls.
However, such howls will usually be accompanied by the dog’s attempts to dig at the walls or floor.
If we’re talking simply about increased howling, it’d be wise to consult with your vet to get to the bottom of the problem.
How to Get Your Husky to Stop Howling So Much
As fun and cute as Husky howls can often be, there are some times when you really want to get your dog to stop howling. Fortunately, there are quite a few methods and additional tips for that.
1. Stop Howling Through Operant Conditioning
Explained simply, operant conditioning is a type of training that teaches dogs to associate their behavior with its consequences.
This doesn’t mean negative reinforcement, it simply means that you:
- Teach your dog that if it stops howling when you say “stop” it will get a treat
- If it starts howling again, you won’t say “stop” again and give another treat but you’d get up and leave the dog alone instead
This is both a simple and effective non-punishing way to teach your dog to listen to you.
2. Ignoring a Problem Does Make It Go Away
This isn’t always true but if your Husky is howling in an attempt to get your attention, ignoring it can be effective.
You should be aware of why your dog wants attention, however – if it’s a serious issue, you should address it. If it’s just attention seeking – ignore it.
You can make a mental note that your dog is bored and needs more engagement, but you can give it that engagement later – if you do so immediately, the dog will conclude that the howling is working and will keep doing it in the future.
3. Get Your Husky Preoccupied With Plenty of Exercise, Playtime, and More Activities
An exhausted dog is a quiet dog. This applies to all dog breeds and Huskies are no exception.
The only difference is that it’s pretty hard to exhaust a Husky, but the rule is still valid.
If you don’t want your Husky to get bored, anxious, and/or to start looking for things to howl at – make sure you give your dog a lot of exercise.
Plenty of time in the dog park is a must anyway, but maybe you can start jogging too. A Husky can be a phenomenal jogging buddy!
4. Get Your Husky a Job
Huskies are work dogs, at the end of the day. They’ve been bred to work and pull sleds specifically for thousands of years.
This means not only that they have plenty of energy, but also that they want to perform tasks for you.
So an easy way to keep a Husky occupied is to give it stuff to do. For example, if you have to do laundry, instead of carrying the laundry basket yourself, you can train your Husky to do it.
Then, instead of carrying the washed clothes to the dryer, you can place the clean clothes washbasin on a little doggy wagon or a wheeled box and let your Husky get them to where they need to go.
Such small but simple tasks will not only keep your dog busy, they will also keep it engaged, entertained, and distracted enough to minimize howling.
A great toy for Huskies is a wheeled wagon that they can put toys in and drag around.
5. Maintain a Strict and Full Daily Schedule
An easy trick to minimize howling is to reduce your dog’s “downtime”.
If your Husky has a full daily schedule that’s consistent every day and that keeps the dog busy, the risk of boredom goes away.
A Husky who wakes up from an afternoon nap and knows that it will get to first play ball with your kid, then go for a walk, followed up by a training session and treats, then a jog back home, mealtime, a grooming session, then rest by the TV, some more ball time, and so on – that Husky will rarely feel the urge to howl.
However, if there’s a lot of downtime, if the schedule isn’t fixed and is different every time, if the Husky is left to entertain itself – then you can expect to hear it voice its concerns much more often.
6. Work to Understand Your Husky’s Howls
An important part of the process is learning when and what your dog is howling at. This will tell you not only how to address it but whether you even should.
The easiest example is if your Husky is howling because it’s unwell – if you don’t figure it out, not only will your dog keep howling, but its physical problem will likely keep progressing as well.
7. Minimize External Stimuli if Possible
A simple way to minimize the amount of howling you’ll listen to is to remove some of its causes. For example, if your doorbell or ringtone is too high-pitched, then you should change those.
Even if it’s a neighbor’s doorbell, you can also ask them to change them and cover the costs.
Unfortunately, some other stimuli can’t be dealt with as easily.
If the garbage truck or schoolbus’ horns get your dog to howl, you can’t really get those out of the environment.
Can You Teach a Husky to Never Ever Howl Again?
Teaching a Husky to stop howling at all can be challenging.
While the above methods can reduce the unwanted types of howling from your dog’s repertoire, they won’t stop your Husky from ever howling at all.
This is just a very typical behavior for the breed.
Huskies who have been beaten and tormented for howling will often stop doing so out of fear – that’s technically an “effective” method to stop howling.
However, it’s obviously very much frowned upon. Physical violence against a dog is not just immoral, it’s also illegal in many states and countries.
Even the practice of negative reinforcement training is widely frowned upon these days.
All in all, trying to stop a Husky from howling altogether is an attempt to force it to go against its nature.
It’s perfectly fine if you want to train your dog to stop howling at command or not to howl in certain situations.
But if a husky wants to let out a howl out of happiness from time to time, just let it.
So, why do Huskies howl? Simply put, they are descendants of wolves and that’s just how they communicate.
This is something you should fully expect before you even get a Husky, just as you’d expect a Chihuahua to shiver below 70F degrees, or a Bulldog that drools constantly.
Huskies just like to talk.
While it’d be wise to train and teach your Husky when howling is acceptable and when it isn’t, you can’t really expect your husky not to howl.
Instead, you might as well embrace your dog’s wolf-like side. As most Husky owners will tell you, that’s one of the signature charms of the breed!