Why do dogs howl at a full moon?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Dogs howl at a full moon for a variety of reasons, some of which are rooted in their instincts and natural behaviors. While the image of a lone wolf howling against the backdrop of a full moon is often romanticized, it does hold some truth in understanding why dogs engage in this behavior.

1. Communication: Howling is a form of long-distance communication for dogs. It allows them to convey their presence, location, and emotions to other dogs in the area. By howling, dogs can establish their territory, alert others of potential danger, and coordinate group activities. The sound of a howl can travel far, making it an effective way for dogs to communicate over long distances.

2. Pack Mentality: Dogs are social animals with a strong pack instinct. Howling can serve as a way for them to maintain contact with their pack members. It helps strengthen their social bonds, reassure each other, and coordinate their movements. Howling together can also be a sign of unity and solidarity within the pack.

3. Response to Stimuli: Dogs have highly acute senses, and the full moon’s brightness and unique appearance can be stimulating to them. The change in lighting conditions may trigger their natural instincts and prompt them to howl. Additionally, the moon’s effects on their surroundings, such as increased visibility or altered sounds, may contribute to their vocalization.

4. Emotional Expression: Dogs can howl as a means of expressing their emotions. They may howl when they are feeling anxious, lonely, or in pain. Howling can serve as an outlet for their pent-up energy and help them alleviate stress or frustration. It is their way of communicating their emotional state to their owners or other dogs.

5. Genetic Influence: Dogs are descendants of wolves, and while domestication has brought about significant changes in their behavior, some wolf-like traits still remain. Howling is deeply ingrained in the genetic makeup of dogs, as it was a vital form of communication for their wolf ancestors. The instinct to howl at certain stimuli, including the full moon, may have been passed down through generations.

Personal experience: I have witnessed my own dog howling at the full moon on several occasions. It always seemed like a mesmerizing moment, with my dog raising its head towards the moon, emitting a long, melodic howl. It was a powerful display of their primal instincts and a reminder of their connection to their wild counterparts.

Dogs howl at a full moon for a combination of reasons. It serves as a means of communication, helps maintain social bonds, and allows them to express their emotions. The genetic influence from their wolf ancestors and the stimulating effect of the moon’s brightness further contribute to this behavior. So, the next time you hear a dog howling at the moon, remember that it is a fascinating display of their instincts and natural behaviors.