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5 Reasons Australian Shepherds Howl: (Why Not Bark)

Herder or howler? Which one is it… We receive many questions from Aussie owners asking why their furry friend is howling so much.

Infrequent howling episodes shouldn’t cause much concern, but what about if it’s happening several times a day, every day?

Don’t worry, this article addresses everything owners must know about their noisy Aussie.

Do Australian Shepherds Even Howl?

aussie shepherd howling

Absolutely, Australian shepherds can and do howl, even though most owners don’t really associate howling with this breed.

When you think of dogs howling, you likely think of huskies, malamutes, Eskimo dogs, or even wolves… Not Aussies!

Still, not all Aussies develop this kind of howling behavior, and many of them stick to barking and yapping.

5 Main Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Howl

There are a handful of great reasons behind a howling Aussie shepherd, so let’s explain them below.

1. Communication

First and foremost, howling is a method of communication. It’s the original vocal form of communication for dogs, not barking.

Howling would have been used by dogs in the wild long before barking happened. Howling travels much further and can be picked up by other dogs for several miles.

But what about now?

This still applies to domesticated Aussies too. Your Aussie might howl to gain your attention to things like:

  • Letting you know it’s their feeding time
  • Letting you know someone is at the door or on your property
  • Letting you know they need to go outside to pee or poop
  • Letting you know they’re bored or frustrated

So why howl and not bark? It’s hard to know for sure, but with some dogs, they tend to howl when trying to convey more critical messages.

2. Responding to similar sounds

Another very common reason for howling is to respond to sounds that are of a similar frequency.

Have you ever seen dogs howl in response to a baby crying, or when hearing sirens in the distance?

Experts believe that dogs do this for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s a pacifying response (especially when howling in response to a babies cry). This signifies that the dog has heard the cries and is “responding” and trying to pacify the distressed animal (or baby).
  • It’s to let other dogs know where they are. One of the oldest reasons for howling is for lost dogs in the wild to locate other packs and find their way back. When dogs howl in response to distant sirens, they may actually think this is a lost dog calling for help.

3. Stress and anxiety

Aussies can react in many different ways to stress and anxiety. And howling is one of them.

It’s necessary to pay attention to your Aussie’s body language when howling, the time in which they howl, and what it’s in response to (if anything).

You may realize your Aussie isn’t particularly content or happy when the howling behavior happens, which could indicate that it is due to something stressful or painful.

4. Playful howling

In other situations, howling is a playful act.

It’s very common for Aussies to howl when excited.

I recently visited my friend for a dog walk, and their Aussie got so excited upon our arrival that they were uncontrollably howling!

Thankfully it stopped once we got going, but that initial feeling of excitement was clearly too much to handle for their Aussie. At least it was positive!

5. Health issues

In more unfortunate situations, your Aussie might howl due to a health issue.

The howling may be caused by the physical pain, or to let you know something isn’t right with them.

Observe Your Aussie When Howling:

To find out the cause that applies to your Aussie, it’s crucial to watch their body language and consider the recent events leading up to the howling.

Owners must pay close attention to this if they really want to find out why their Aussie howls.

Consider the following:

  • Does the howling happen at the same time every day? If it does, what typically happens at that time?
  • Does the howling happen when you leave home? This may indicate anxiety issues.
  • Does the howling happen in response to similar sounds? This is likely reactive howling and typically doesn’t indicate any real issues.
  • How often does the howling happen? Is it all the time? Perhaps the howling once started for a good reason but has now become a habit.
  • What does your Aussie look like when they howl? How is their body language? Do they look stressed, or are in they in a relaxed and playful mood.

By considering all of the above, it should quickly become clear as to why your Aussie is howling.

Solving Your Aussie’s Howling Problem

The best ways to handle a howling Australian shepherd include the following:

  • Rule out health issues with your veterinarian first. If the cause of the howling isn’t apparent then it’s advised to speak to your vet.
  • Consider whether your Aussie’s daily needs are truly met. Consider their exercise, mental stimulation, training, time spent alone, and the quality of their diet.
  • Think about how you react to their howling. Are you inadvertently reaffirming the howling? It’s important not to reward howling with praise, treats, or positive attention if you want to stop it.
  • Consider the cause once again. Some causes come with obvious resolutions. Others, like separation anxiety might be more complicated and hard to deal with.
  • Begin positive reinforcement training for when your Aussie is quiet. Start obviously rewarding your Aussie in times when they’re quiet and minding their own business. Show them more attention in these moments, not when they start howling for it.

Last thoughts

It’s important to be patient with your Aussie and only ever react to their howling in an appropriate way.

Avoid praising or giving positive attention, and certainly do not let your Aussie see your frustration. This will be picked up on, and it’ll only make matters worse.

If your Aussie’s howling is infrequent and for explainable reasons, then there’s no need to stop it.

Even howling on a daily basis is still considered normal. Excessive howling is when it becomes completely uncontrollable and for no apparent reason.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.