Why Do Cocker Spaniels HOWL? [Separate Fact From Fiction]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Years ago, I had a Cocker Spaniel in my family. He was Charlie, a lovely boy that is mischievous yet very loving.

I remember the first time Charlie let out a long and mournful howl. I was taken aback, to say the least.

Never had I heard such a soulful sound come out of a dog that small, and I’ll be the first to tell you, it was a shock to my system.

Why do Cocker Spaniels howl?

The main reason why they do so is communication. Due to their hunting dog heritage, cocker spaniels howl in an effort to communicate with their pack or owner. Howling is simply their way of communicating with us, whether it’s to warn us of danger or just to get our attention.

There could be other reasons why you see such behavior, and in this post, I will set out to share all of them and how you can address what you’re facing.

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Is Howling A Common Behaviour In Cocker Spaniels?

Howling is not a common behavior in Cocker Spaniels. 

Cocker Spaniels are generally known for their friendly, energetic, and affectionate personalities but are not typically known for howling. 

However, every dog is unique and may exhibit different behaviors at different times. 

If your Cocker Spaniel is howling excessively, it may indicate that he needs more attention, exercise, or stimulation. 

What Is The Difference Between Howling And Barking In Cocker Spaniels?

Barking and howling are two forms of vocal communication used by dogs, including Cocker Spaniels. 

While both are used to express emotions and convey messages, there are some key differences between the two.

Barking is a short, sharp, explosive sound typically used to alert the dog’s owners or other dogs to the presence of a potential threat or when the dog wants attention. 

Barking can also be used to communicate, for example, to ask to go outside or indicate that the dog is excited or happy.

On the other hand, howling is a long, drawn-out vocalization often used by wild canines such as wolves to communicate over long distances. 

In domesticated dogs, howling can be a form of vocal play or a way to express loneliness or boredom.

Some dogs may also howl in response to certain sounds, such as sirens or music.

Barking is a more common form of communication for Cocker Spaniels and other domesticated dogs.

At the same time, howling is less common but still observed in some individuals. 

5 Reasons Why Cocker Spaniels Howl

reasons why cocker spaniels will howl

1. Territorial Howling

Howling is like a dog’s megaphone, shouting to the world that this area is taken! 

It’s a warning to any outsiders that this space belongs to a pack of protectors, and they better think twice before entering. 

This is how dogs keep their community safe, letting everyone know they’re on the lookout and ready to defend their territory at a moment’s notice.

And when it comes to the comforts of home, some dogs may not be content with just barking when a stranger comes to the door, or a new car pulls up in the driveway. 

Whether barking or howling, one thing’s for sure: these furry protectors always have their pack’s back.

2. Pack Instincts

Dogs love to howl, and it’s all about pack power! 

Howling helps wolves and feral dogs find each other after a hunt or when separated. And just like their wild cousins, pet dogs can also use howling to call their pack back home. 

Whether on a wild adventure or just a long day at work, a dog’s howl is a powerful beacon, guiding their loved ones back to their side. 

So, the next time you hear your pup’s howl, remember: it’s a musical call to action, bringing their pack back together!

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3. Separation Anxiety

Why do dogs howl? Howling is part of the DNA in some breeds, like the Alaskan Malamute or Siberian Husky. 

However, it may be less common for other breeds, like the Cocker Spaniel.

In these cases, a dog may howl for attention or out of separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s always important to pay attention to your dog’s vocal cues and provide them with the love and support they need.

4. Responding To Triggers

Your beloved pooch could be howling in response to environmental triggers like sirens from emergency vehicles. 

For some dogs, the sirens may activate a genetic memory and prompt them to join in the howling.

Other triggers could include music, TV theme songs, or musical instruments. 

In fact, some people even encourage their dogs to howl by joining in themselves. This suggests howling may be a way for dogs to bond and feel a sense of community. 

So, the next time you hear your dog howling, it could be a response to a sound in their environment or a desire to be part of the pack.

5. Lack Of Socialization 

Imagine being thrown into a foreign land without a word of the language or knowing a single soul.

That’s how a Cocker Spaniel feels without proper socialization. 

Their lack of exposure can result in fear, anxiety, and confusion in new environments – and howling can be their cry for help. 

Like us, they want to be understood and feel safe, so they may resort to excessive vocalization, including howling, to seek comfort and attention. 

So please don’t let your furry friend suffer in silence; give them the gift of socialization to thrive.

Should I Let My Cocker Spaniel Howl?

If it is for injury or concern, yes.

However, howling behavior is not a good idea if it is attention-seeking. 

To prevent this from happening, it’s best to ignore your dog when it starts howling.

I suggest avoiding making eye contact, physical contact, or talking to him. 

Scolding him will not help either, as dogs, like children, find any attention rewarding, even negative attention. 

In such a case, scolding your dog may worsen his howling behavior. 

The best approach is to act as if your dog is not there.

If you find it challenging to ignore your dog, try crossing your arms and turning away from him altogether.

How To Address Cocker Spaniel Howling

How To Address Cocker Spaniel Howling

It is important to understand why your cocker spaniel is howling and how to approach it correctly.

Here are some tips to consider: 

Addressing Separation Anxiety

You can implement two strategies to help your dog feel more at ease when you’re not around. 

The first strategy is to leave items with your scent, such as clothes or personal items, with your dog. 

This can help calm and soothe your dog, as he can still smell you even when you’re not home.

Another effective way to address separation anxiety is by giving your dog enough exercise before leaving him alone. 

The goal is to tire your dog out so that he will spend most of his alone time resting or sleeping instead of howling at the door for your return. 

To achieve this, take your dog for a brisk walk, which will tire him out and make him more likely to rest when you’re not home.

Training Techniques

To deal with this attention-seeking howling behavior, you need to follow two steps. 

Firstly, ignore your dog the moment he starts howling. Don’t make eye contact, talk to or touch them, as dogs find any attention rewarding, even negative attention. 

So scolding him will only make the behavior worse.

You need to teach your dog that howling won’t work.

Secondly, when your dog finally stops howling and is quiet, reward him with treats, pets, toys, etc. 

This reinforces the behavior you want to encourage, which is quietness.

Pay attention to your dog only when he is being well-behaved. 

Doing this can help your Cocker Spaniel stop howling for attention.

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Minimizing Triggers

It’s essential to identify the triggers that cause the behavior. 

Triggers can include leaving the house, visitors coming over, or loud noises outside. 

Once you’ve identified the triggers, try to remove them where possible and provide positive reinforcement for quiet behavior by offering treats, affection, or toys. 

Another strategy is to offer your Cocker Spaniel a distraction, such as a puzzle toy, when they start to howl.

Consistency and patience are essential in stopping the howling behavior in Cocker Spaniels.

Positive Reinforcement 

Positive reinforcement can be used to reinforce quiet behavior and reduce howling in Cocker Spaniels. 

This means rewarding the dog when they are quiet and not howling with treats, affection, or toys. 

This reinforces the desired behavior and helps to replace the previous habit of howling with a new, positive demeanor. 

It’s essential to consistently reward the dog for being quiet and only reward the desired behavior.

This creates a clear message and enhances the effectiveness of the training process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Does It Mean When Cocker Spaniels Howl?

Due to separation anxiety, Cocker Spaniels often exhibit howling behavior, especially when their owners are away. Howling, instead of barking, is a way for the sound to travel further. This behavior can be addressed with proper training and management.

Why Is My Cocker Spaniel So Vocal?

Cocker Spaniels are known for being a vocal breed, but each dog is unique. They may vocalize when excited, so it’s crucial to reward quiet behavior and redirect when necessary to avoid excessive vocalization from becoming a habit. 

Are Cocker Spaniels Happy Or Sad When They Howl?

The emotion behind a Cocker Spaniel’s howling can vary, but it’s often a sign of separation anxiety or boredom. It can also be a form of communication or a way for them to express excitement or frustration.

In Conclusion: Why Do Cocker Spaniels Howl?

Your Cocker spaniel’s tendency to howl is probably a result of their long history as hunting dogs, or you can say it’s a natural instinct for these canines.

Understanding the causes and giving them the right amount of attention and stimulation will help you prevent excessive howling.

You know what, I bet your Cocker Spaniel can learn healthy and controllable ways to express themselves with a little instruction, understanding, and patience from you.

Check out other dog behavior articles such as why is my older dog stressed by new puppy, why does my dog go crazy in crate when I leave, do dogs have accidents when in heat, and many more!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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