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German Shepherd Howling – 9 Causes And How To Prevent It

German Shepherd Howling – 9 Causes And How To Prevent It

What does German Shepherd howling mean? This is a question that many dog owners wonder about. Most people have heard their dogs howl at least once in their lifetime.

This is usually a reaction to something in a pup’s environment, but sometimes, the reason isn’t as obvious.

While, in most cases, dog howling isn’t a bad sign, you should still be able to determine the causes behind it.

This is also important if you want to prevent unwanted howling. You cannot do so if you don’t know the reason for it!

If you want to learn the truth behind German Shepherd howling, then this article is for you.

German Shepherds have descended from wild wolves. Because of this, there is an area in their brains that instinctively reacts to certain stimuli, partially returning them to the primitive behavior of their ancestors.

Howling is just one of the ways that GSDs show just how close they are to their distinctive, wild relatives. We’ll take a closer look at this.

Can German Shepherds Howl?

german shepherd barking or howling on blind hide

Most people have heard a German Shepherd bark. But, not many know that this breed is also known for its long, wolf-like howl.

All German Shepherds can howl. However, not all of them want to. This is entirely up to the dog and his personality.

Some people love teaching their dogs to howl as they want to experience the sound. Most German Shepherd owners, however, just want them to stop.

A German Shepherd howling sounds a lot like a wolf howling. This sound sends chills down most people’s spine.

Despite this, howling is pretty normal for this breed and it shouldn’t upset you. Your dog isn’t suddenly becoming wild, and most of the time, he isn’t in pain.

This is just the primitive part of his brain expressing himself by doing something instinctive, such as howling.

German Shepherds aren’t the only dogs known to produce this high pitch sound.

Northern breeds, such as Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, are also known howlers. The same goes for hound breeds, such as Dachshunds and Beagles.

Read Next: Do German Shepherds And Huskies Get Along? The Honest Answer

Why Does My German Shepherd Howl?

If your GSD is a howler, try thinking back to all the times he made this loud sound. You may notice some consistencies.

Maybe, there was a police car siren outside, or you were watching some wildlife-related posts and video clips.

Even if you aren’t sure why this happens, your dog always has his reasons behind this. It almost always comes down to these nine things:

1. Territory

german shepherd sniffing on the ground with dry grasses

One of the reasons behind a German Shepherd howling is that he is trying to define his territory. This is yet another remnant from his wolf days.

If you notice that your GSD howls only when other dogs are nearby, he’s most likely warning them to stay away from his area.

This is something that a wolf pack would do if they sense another wolf pack approaching them. Howling will let other animals know to stay away.

In some dogs, this is also a defense mechanism.

2. Communication

black and tan german shepherd with half shepherd standing in the snow outdoors

Dogs produce all sorts of sounds to communicate with other canines. Howling is one of them.

It is a way they let other animals know where they are.

A wolf pack would howl to help their lost member find its way home.

While chances are slim that your pet has lost a pack member, he might still be howling to reach others.

Howling is usually a better method of communication than barking, as the sound can get delivered much faster than any other sound a GSD might produce.

In fact, this is the main reason why you’ll almost never hear a wolf bark. Why would they, when they can simply howl?

3. Separation Anxiety

german shepherd standing at the porch of the house

Maybe, you’ve never heard your German Shepherd howling, but your neighbors have told you this happens.

If your GSD only howls when you are at work, then chances are he is experiencing separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety causes dogs to develop some problematic behaviors. This includes digging, chewing on things, and excessive howling.

Don’t be mad if your GSD does this. He is just howling to let you know to return home.

However, this behavior should be stopped. Fortunately, there is a way to do just that, but it’ll take a lot of time and effort.

4. He Wants Attention

german shepherd mixed dog giving a paw to the owner

Some German Shepherd dogs howl because they want attention. They are trying to communicate with you about something.

This might be a certain physical need they want help with, such as hunger or thirst, but most of the time, they just want you to pay attention to them.

This can be a double-edged sword. If you regularly give your pup attention after he has been howling for a while, he might stop howling as his need for attention will be satisfied.

Some dogs, however, might understand this as getting what they want once they howl; therefore, this will only make them howl more.

Because of this, it’s important to know your dog and his way of thinking before you decide to deal with this problem.

5. He Is Lonely

lonely german shepherd standing at the edge of a swimming pool in retro color

Dogs are pack animals. This is especially true for German Shepherd dogs, as they are very close to their wolf relatives.

If they are lonely, this can make them exhibit all sorts of behavior. Once again, howling is one of them.

A dog that is left isolated in the back yard or in a crate might howl to let you know that he is feeling terrible. Chained or neglected dogs will also commonly howl.

Many people who have witnessed a German Shepherd howling, for this reason, have stated the sound itself is much sadder than a regular dog howl.

6. He Is In Pain

sad sick dog german shepherd lying down in the hay looking at the camera

Sometimes, a German Shepherd might howl because he is in pain or feeling unwell.

Sickness or an injury can cause him to want to communicate with you about it, so he’ll howl. This is similar to babies crying when they are in discomfort.

Look closely for signs of distress in your pup. Maybe, he’s standing in some unusual way, or he is hunched over or limping.

If you hear your German Shepherd howling, but you aren’t certain what the reason behind it is, make sure to look at him closely to ensure that he’s not in pain.

If you suspect he is, take him to the vet immediately.

7. Noise Triggers

police dog sitting on top of a patrol car during his shift

Some GSDs howl in response to certain noise triggers. The most common ones are police or fire truck sirens.

These sounds likely remind them of dogs howling, so they’ll howl right back.

Other sounds can trigger your pet as well. You may have noticed that some dogs howl back if you howl at them.

This is a natural response, as they think you are trying to tell them something.

Some dogs will ‘sing along’ to certain music they like the best. Most of them will have a specific instrument they prefer.

A crying baby can also make your German Shepherd howl as well as many other common sounds, such as car horns, a squeaky chair, or doorbells.

Most of the sound triggers are high-pitched and ongoing. A dog will rarely react to short, sharp sounds.

Also, not every dog will react to the same sounds, so figuring out what might trigger your dog in advance can be challenging.

8. Excitement

excited german shepherd barking and looking at the camera

Not all common reasons behind a German Shepherd howling are bad or are a natural response to other sounds.

A dog can also howl because he’s excited or happy.

Sometimes, a GSD might howl because he succeeded in something and he wants to let you know that you need to acknowledge this.

Dogs see you as the pack leader and they want your approval and praise.

Take a careful look at your pup when he is howling. Does he look excited?

Hunting dogs, such as a GSD, might start to howl if they sense that prey is nearby, or when they have found the right trail.

This way, they’ll be letting everyone know that they’ve been successful.

This is also a reason why Northern dog breeds howl.

Sled dogs love being hitched to a sled, as this makes them feel useful and good at what they’re doing. This is why Huskies howl so much.

Even if you don’t take your German Shepherd hunting, there are plenty of other things that might excite him.

Maybe, he has located his favorite toy or he has climbed onto your favorite chair. Chances are he even stole a treat from the countertop and he’s feeling proud of himself!

Even if he knows that you won’t be as excited as he is, your German Shepherd will still like for you to acknowledge this.

9. Irritation

german shepherd at home in the kitchen

A dog might also howl because something is irritating him.

This is usually a sound, such as a certain musical instrument, an alarm clock, a microwave beeping, or kitchen pots falling on the floor.

Your GSD is using howling as a way of expressing his annoyance.

German Shepherd Puppy Howling

If you heard your German Shepherd puppy howl for the first time, then chances are you were quite surprised.

Young GSDs can howl for the same reasons as adult dogs howl. This is their way of communication. In fact, most will use whining and howling instead of barking until they are a few months old.

Some dogs will howl only when they are puppies, and they’ll simply grow out of it.

Others might learn to howl when they are adults. A few might never howl at all. This is entirely up to the individual dog.

Why Do German Shepherds Howl At Sirens

german shepherd howls in focus photography outdoors

As we’ve already mentioned, many GSDs howl at the sound of police or fire truck sirens.

In fact, this is the most common reason why many dogs howl. The reason behind this is pure science.

Sirens are one of those high-pitched sounds that strongly attract this dog breed.

Since they are close relatives to wolves, they’ll respond to these sounds the same way as they would communicate with members of their wolf pack.

German Shepherds are better at recognizing sounds, even if they are far away. This is because their brain can catch higher sound frequencies.

This allows them to hear ambulance sirens from far away!

Also, in nature, such sounds only exist when animals are communicating with each other.

They don’t understand that sirens mean anything else but howling – and the only way to respond to a howl is to howl back at it.

And, no, just because a German Shepherd is howling at a siren doesn’t mean he’s being aggressive towards it. Quite the opposite, he’s simply trying to talk.

How To Get A Dog To Stop Howling

dog on chain howling guarding the house

While a German Shepherd howling might be cute the first time you hear it, it’ll stop being cute when you get all those complaints from your neighbors.

The first thing you should do is watch your pooch and determine the reason behind the howling.

Then, with just a bit of proper dog training, you should tackle this problem.

Here are a few things you can try:

Ignore Him

If you think your GSD is howling because he wants attention – and you giving it to him isn’t helping – then it might be good if you stopped giving him what he wants.

Even if you feel like scolding him, don’t do this. This can only be helpful short-term.

In essence, even bad attention is attention, so you’re still letting your pup know that you’ll talk to him if he howls for long enough.

The next time your German Shepherd howls, don’t pay any attention to him.

Don’t yell at him, don’t look at him, don’t even make eye contact with him! This might be enough to let him know that howling isn’t the way.

If ignoring doesn’t help, give him a time out. Tell him to leave the room as coldly as you can, and point your finger to where he should go.

Close the door and wait quietly until the howling stops.

Once he has been quiet for several minutes, allow him to come back. Give him a treat or cuddle with him.

This way, you’re showing him that howling means that he’ll be grounded, and that he will get attention when he stops it.

Spend Time With Him

German Shepherds are pack animals. They need to spend time with you, or they’ll develop some bad behaviors. This includes howling.

Spend a lot of time with your German Shepherd whenever you can. Give him lots of love and cuddles.

Sometimes, the reason behind a German Shepherd howling is that they want to spend more time with you, and they have every right to feel this way.

If you give them plenty of attention throughout the day, you might notice that the howling has stopped after a while.

German Shepherd on window

Photo from @gsd_universal


Counterconditioning is a great method when you have a German Shepherd howling out of fear.

This means that you should change its feelings about what’s making it scared.

For example, if it howls when someone walks too close to your house, try socializing it so that it knows that people aren’t a threat.

A good way to do this is to give it a treat whenever someone walks by. It’s important that you do this before it begins to howl.

If it starts howling, stop giving it treats until it is quiet.

Eventually, it will associate the new person with the treat, and it’ll forget that it was howling in the first place.

Teach Him To Stay Quiet

This is one of the best methods to stop a dog that has already developed a habit of howling for a certain reason.

First, make your German Shepherd howl. If you don’t know how, we’ll explain further on.

Once he does howl, say a command, such as: ‘quiet!’ Once he stops howling, give him a treat.

Repeat this, but increase the amount of time he has to wait in silence before you give him a treat. Once he remains quiet for about 20 seconds, he has probably thought the command well.

Take Him To An Obedience Course

Sometimes, we have to admit we’ve made a few mistakes while training our GSD. On such occasions, it’s perfectly fine to ask a professional for help.

An adequate obedience course can help you teach your dog many things. One of them is how to stop howling.

You might also want to contact a local professional trainer. Whatever your choice is, it’ll be worth every buck. A professional can even teach old dogs new tricks!

How To Keep Your Dog From Howling When Left Alone

happy German Shepherd puppy playing with a toy outdoors

If your neighbor has told you your German Shepherd is howling when you are away, don’t scold him. There is a better way to tackle this issue.

Here are a few things you could do!

Set a daily routine. Give your new puppy at least a few weeks of consistent schedule.

Feed him at the same time, play with him at the same time, and crate him at the same time.

Give him regular daily exercise. Take your German Shepherd for a walk right before you leave the house. A tired dog will rarely have the energy to howl.

Leave a TV or a radio on while you are gone. The volume should be around the same volume as if you were talking.

Get him a puzzle toy. This way, he’ll be busy playing and trying to get the dog food out of the toy while you’re gone.

There are plenty of affordable puzzle toys on Amazon.

Don’t make a big deal about leaving. Don’t hug or kiss him before you leave. You might also want to ‘fake leave’ a couple of times. Go outside your front door, wait a couple of minutes, then come back.

Also, don’t make a big deal about returning home. Ignore his attention-seeking behavior and reward him when he calms down.

Finally, crate train your dog. If your dog has his safe space, then he isn’t likely to howl when left alone.

How To Stop Dogs Howling At Night

german shepherd at night sitting in sideview

A German Shepherd howling at night is usually a sign that he wants your attention. The reasons behind this might vary.

For example, he might be telling you that he needs to get out. He might have heard an intruder or a passerby walking too close to your property.

In a lot of cases, he simply might be bored.

If you have a problem with your GSD howling at night, any of the methods we’ve mentioned above might work.

It’s important to try to determine the true reason behind this behavior, so you can decide on the best tactic.

How To Make German Shepherd Howl

howling german shepherd in close up face photography

Whether for further training or just for fun, some dog owners want to teach their German Shepherd howling.

A GSD can be a very funny dog, especially when it howls to kids’ songs!

To begin training, you need to know what you want your dog to howl to. Then, you’ll need plenty of dog treats to reward him.

For example, if you want your GSD to howl at sirens, then play a siren recording and tell him, ‘Howl!’

Repeat this several times in a row, and try different types of sirens. Just try not to frighten him, as this will be counterproductive.

If your dog learns to howl this way, try simply telling him to howl without the sound recording. Don’t forget to give him treats when he does!

You can try doing this with the recordings of other dogs howling, or even play some children’s songs! Try finding out what he responds to.

Keep on saying ‘Howl!’ every single time. This way, he’ll associate your command with the action, and not the sound itself.

Just remember to teach him how to be quiet as well!

German Shepherd Howling At Zootopia

german shepherd listening to the sound raising his ear up sitting outdoors

In recent years, there has been a popular German Shepherd howling challenge to Walt Disney’s animated movie, Zootopia.

It has resulted in some of the funniest dog clips out there!

Many dog owners have noticed their German Shepherd howling to the wolves in a particular scene in this movie.

One viral clip led to another, and soon, the internet was flooded with funny dog compilations!

This is something that can be helpful during howling training. If nothing else works, play this clip for your dog. Who knows, he might respond to it.

How Can You Know Why Your German Shepherd Is Howling

young german shepherd dog howling outdoors

In all honesty, you can never be entirely sure why your GSD is howling. However, if you monitor him closely, you might notice a pattern.

Listen carefully to try to hear a sound that might be triggering him. Maybe, there are some sirens in the distance or a particular instrument in a song you’re playing.

A dog’s hearing is much better than yours, so just because you don’t think that there’s anything there doesn’t mean he can’t hear something.

If the howling stops when you give your German Shepherd attention, then you’ll know this was the cause. Keep on ignoring him until he stops.

Don’t be too worried if you cannot determine the exact cause.

The most important thing is that you’re not seeing any signs of injuries or distress in your dog. If you do, then the only option is to take him to the vet.

Read Next: Are German Shepherds Good With Cats? A Guide You Need To Read

German Shepherd Howling – 9 Causes And How To Prevent It

German Shepherd Howling – 9 Causes And How To Prevent It