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Do Chihuahuas Howl?

Do Chihuahuas howl? Are they loud, noisy dogs?

This may seem like a silly question on its face, but if you plan on adopting one of these super active and exceedingly adorable dogs, it’s an important question to answer before you ultimately pull the trigger.

To dig deeper into this conundrum of an enquiry, below we will answer that question in some detail, and—spoiler alert—outline some of the reasons why they engage in this vocal behavior.

Do Chihuahuas Howl?  The Answer and More

If you are still on the edge of your seat as to the question of whether chihuahuas howl or not, we can tell you without equivocation that the answer is a resounding YES.

Chihuahuas do indeed howl at times, and there are a number of reasons that may explain the conduct.

All dogs, according to experts, are descendants of wild canines, including the many species of wolves that populate different parts of our planet.

And one of the more noteworthy traits we associate with wolves—a trait that is highlighted in documentaries about the animal as well as in fictional books and movies—is their tendency to howl.  Chihuahuas, like many (but not all) dog breeds, also have the howling trait in their genetic makeup.

It is part of their pack behavior and mentality, a way for the dog to communicate—to other dogs and their human owners—certain wants, needs or even messages.

But why exactly do they do it?

In addition to being an inherited trait, howling in chihuahuas is done for a variety of reasons, some of which we have highlighted in the sections that follow.

Chihuahuas May Howl at Strangers

Often, howling in chihuahuas is an outcropping of anxiety, an emotional disorder to which the breed is especially susceptible.

This anxiety typically causes them to be very wary of strangers—people outside their comfort space (your home and yard) that they feel might get in and disrupt that safety.

Chihuahuas do not always howl at strangers, but they are much more likely to engage in this behavior after dark.

Usually, the stranger must come within what they feel is “their territory,” and it can become worse when they actually see and hear the stranger within those borders.

Generally, howling at strangers is not a huge cause for concern.

In fact, their tendency to do this makes them a great watchdog for those who worry about after-hours theft and shenanigans around their property.

People who live in rural and suburban areas will not typically see this howling as a huge issue, largely because the behavior is infrequent and even helpful at times.

However, if you live in a large urban area, a place in which strangers tend to come and go throughout the night, living with the constantly howling of an anxious chihuahua can ultimately rob you of your precious beauty sleep for nights on end.

If the nightly howling at strangers is becoming a major disruptive force in the life of you and your family, treating the anxiety behind this howling is a good first step.

Behavior modification, in which you expose your chihuahua to strangers on a regular basis as a way to diffuse their fear and trepidation, is a good first step.

You can also limit your dog’s access to windows, therefore crippling his ability to see the type of people he regularly howls at, and close off gaps in your outdoor fencing for the same reason.

To Communicate with Other Dogs

One of the major reasons for howling in chihuahuas is communication.

Although the breed is not known for initiating these often high-pitched howling sessions, they are typically quick to join in with other dogs around the neighborhood.

Even if you do everything you can to limit your dog’s exposure to outside sights and sounds, the call of another dog—maybe up to 500 yards away—is enough to get your chihuahua to respond in kind.

This type of howling is especially true for dogs that are made to sleep outside during the night.

There they are privy to every pet sound that echoes throughout the neighborhood, and their pack mentality urges them to join these “discussions.”

Remember, a dog’s hearing is roughly 12 times greater than our own.

What potential implications does this have?

It means that even if you cannot hear the howls of other dogs on the next block, or if you hear them only faintly, those howls are coming in loud and clear to your chihuahua.

Howling to the tune of other dogs can be limited by allowing your pet to sleep inside the home, ideally very close to you where he feels safe from the temptations of the outdoors.

Through steps of reward and discipline, you must address this howling as it happens, and continue to do so until the behavior gradually fades.

Separation Anxiety

Being the social breed they are, most chihuahuas can become very anxious when you are not present.

They may feel abandoned or alone, and one of the ways they demonstrate this separation anxiety is through howling.

This fear-based behavior is especially prevalent in rescue dogs that have previously been abandoned or abused.

Although the howling, in this case, may not be particularly disruptive to you, it can be very troublesome for your neighbors, especially when the chihuahua is left alone overnight.

Separation anxiety is a serious issue that must be addressed through behavior modification, medication or both.

It’s important that you discuss this type of howling, along with any other accompanying anxiety symptoms, the next time you see your vet.

To Get Your Attention

This last category outlining why chihuahuas may howl encompasses several smaller potential reasons.

In order to get your attention, perhaps regarding a given injury or trauma, a chihuahua may howl to signify both pain and frustration.

Chihuahuas can also howl when they feel alone or lonely, and some chihuahuas are even known to howl when they have an itch they can’t scratch.

In cases such as these, the howling is a communication tool designed to quickly get your attention, one usually employed only when other methods have failed.

Fortunately, most chihuahuas in the U.S. are very well loved and cared for.

But if you notice an increase in the frequency and/or duration of your chihuahua’s howling, be sure to pay special attention to any injuries, fears or anxieties with which he may be coping.  Sometimes a little attention can go a long way.

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National Canine Research Association of America