Australian Shepherds are an old herding breed that was first established in the US and said to have been bred from sheep dogs imported from Australia (hence their name). These loyal dogs are now one of America’s most popular pets, and they have a lot of quirky behaviors that can be attributed to their history.
But why do they howl? Whether it’s a short, authoritative howl or a long and soulful one, we delve into the 10 typical reasons why an Australian Shepherd might howl so you can see into the mind of this intriguing breed.
The 10 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Howl
1. Herding Instinct
Because Australian Shepherds are part of the herding dog class, they retain a herding instinct as domestic pets and have high amounts of it when they’re put to work. A herding dog’s job can vary depending on what they’re bred for, and the Australian Shepherd uses its strong howl to control the movement of the flock.
Driving the animals forward, backward, or side to side takes a long, loud howl, and the Aussie Shepherd knows how to use it! This residual urge to howl can be why a non-working Aussie likes to make noise now and then.
2. Seeking Attention
Some dogs need more attention than others, and the same is true for the Australian Shepherd. For example, if an Aussie wants something such as food, water, or a good game of fetch, they may howl to get their owner’s attention.
This howl often receives attention (even negative attention is enough sometimes, such as a “shh!”) and reinforces the behavior, meaning the Australian Shepherd is more likely to howl to get your attention next time.
3. Communication Across Distance
When tasked with locating a flock or communicating with other dogs or the shepherd over long distances, such as across land, the Australian Shepherd may need to howl clearly and loudly to communicate effectively.
Good communication is vital to effective herding; this instinct is ingrained so strongly in the Australian Shepherd that even family dogs will sometimes howl at their owners or other pets.
As with any dog, the Australian Shepherd will howl in pain if it is severe enough. While most dogs are stoic and try to “downplay” any injuries or pain they may be experiencing, some pain is too great to hide, resulting in howling. If your dog is howling in pain (or shows any signs of pain), you must take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
5. As A Greeting
Dogs are social creatures and will often make many sounds when greeting one another. These sounds include yips, barks, and howls, and Australian Shepherds are more vocal than some breeds, so an excited howl in greeting is not unusual for them. This is especially true if they are greeting a special person!
Similar to the previous point, Australian Shepherds are good at expressing strong emotions, including fear. Howling in fear can sometimes occur when a dog suffers separation anxiety or is faced with a traumatic event. Some dogs can’t take what they’re seeing and need to be comforted or to release emotional tension; howling is an outlet for this.
7. In Response to a Loud Noise
Yelping due to a sudden noise is one thing, but Australian Shepherds may take this a step further and howl when a high-pitched or loud noise is heard. This may be partly due to their herding origins, as they were bred to be receptive to sounds and signals from herded animals and shepherds. It may also be due to a dog’s prey drive. In addition, dogs are predators and may respond to a high-pitched sound with a call to action, such as a howl.
8. Separation Anxiety
If a dog isn’t socialized well as a puppy or goes through some traumatic event, it can become dependent on its owners. Anxiety, fear, and destructive behavior occur because of separation anxiety and can mean an Australian Shepherd howls for long periods if away from its owners.
9. Happy or Excited
Conversely to being afraid, Aussies have been known to sing to their owners when they’re very happy or excited about something, like a treat or a favorite toy. This higher-pitched howling is reported among Australian Shepherd owners to be one of their favorite things about the breed and is a very positive reason for howling.
10. Because They Want To!
Lastly, sometimes Aussies may howl simply just because they feel like it! Sometimes, an Aussie may like to express itself and be vocal. However, there usually is a reason for this behavior, even if it’s to give their opinion!
Are Australian Shepherds Smart Dogs?
Australian Shepherds are intelligent dogs (much like other herding or working breeds), and they excel at agility and other obedience classes and competitions. The Australian Shepherd is particularly skilled at fly ball and is ranked as the 42nd smartest dog when measuring obedience and working intelligence.
Australian Shepherds can howl for a variety of reasons. It is always possible that your Aussie is in pain and crying out for you because they need help, and if this is the case, discerning the underlying reason is essential. However, because they’re considered a vocal breed, much of the time, howling can be due to boredom, excitement, and happiness!
Featured Image Credit: Anna Pozzi – Zoophotos, Shutterstock