Why your Golden Retriever howls

If you have a Golden Retriever that has a habit of howling then you’re probably wondering why. This post will give you a number of reasons why your Golden Retriever might howl and what you can do about it.

So, why does my Golden Retriever howl? The main reasons are ancestry with wolves, communication, sickness or injury, separation anxiety and defense.

There actually are a number of different reasons why Golden Retrievers might howl and it may or may not be a cause for concern. If you want to get your Golden Retriever to reduce howl less then you should first figure out what the root cause is and then take measures to correct it after.

What Causes Golden Retrievers To Howl?

If your Golden Retriever is regularly howling then the first step is to figure out what might be causing the howling. There are a number of different reasons that your Golden Retriever could be howling that I will mention below.


Wolves are known to howl to identify each other in the wild and this is a trait that present day dogs could have kept from their ancestors. This means that if your Golden Retriever is howling it’s not necessarily a bad thing since Golden Retrievers are known to howl often.

Separation Anxiety

Even though it is in their nature to howl the reason for their howling could be for a number of reasons. The first of those being separation anxiety. This is where the Golden Retriever does not like being left without its owner, or other company, so it starts to howl in hopes for its owner to return. This type of howling will often be accompanied by other signs such as destruction, pacing or other signs of distress.

Injury Or Illness

The howling could be due to it having injury or illness. In the same way humans cry when they’re in pain dogs will howl. If your Golden Retriever is howling in a different way than normal or it is acting strangely it could be because it’s trying to alert you to an injury or illness that it has gotten. In this case, you should make sure to take it to a vet.


Wolves, in the wild, will howl to tell other members of the pack where it is or to scare of other predators that are enterring their territories. In the case of your Golden Retriever, the howling could be to alert others of its location such as when it hears sirens. It could also be to warn others not to enter its territory. 


The cause of the howling may be due to environmental triggers. It could be that hearing a high pitch noise is triggering it like the sound of sirens. The exact reason that sounds cause howling could be to alert others of its presence or it could be a more evolutionary trigger such as when wolves would howl as groups. It could also be that the Golden Retriever has found what it considers to be a danger and it is howling to alert you of its presence. 


It could be that the Golden Retriever is howling due to boredom. Golden Retrievers were bred to be a very active breed and it takes a lot to properly stimulate them.

If your Golden Retriever isn’t getting enough stimuli from its environment then it could be howling to get you to give it more attention and to give it something to do.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever From Howling

Once you have figured out the root cause of your Golden Retriever’s howling preventing it from continuing will become a lot easier. 

Rule Out Medical Causes

If you think that the Golden Retriever is howling to alert you to an injury or illness then your first step should be to take it to a vet where they will be able to diognose any illnesses or injuries that it might have.

Rule Out Separation Anxiety

Figuring out whether or not your Golden Retriever is howling due to separation anxiety can be a little bit more tricky since the howling will be taking place when you’re away and can’t hear it. 

If your Golden Retriever becomes overly anxious when you leave or at the sight of you preparing to leave then it could be a case of separation anxiety. Other signs could be that your Golden Retriever becomes destructive when you are away, it could be depressed or it might pace up and down when it thinks that you could be leaving.

To stop it some things that you can do are to reward it when it doesn’t misbehave when you’re not with it. Give it toys to play with when you’re away it’s not a cure but it does help to alleviate the issues. Give it lots of exercise. If you’re away for a while then consider dog daycare. 

Solve Howling Due To Hearing Sounds

Figuring out whether or not sounds are causing the howling should be a bit easier since the Golden Shepherd will begin to howl at the start of the sound and then stop howling when it stops.

If the sound doesn’t occur frequently then the howling shouldn’t be too much of an issue since it will likely not last long and not happen regularly enough to be a problem.

If the sound occurs frequently then getting it to stop could be a bit more tricky. The first thing that you could do is to try to stop the sound from happening in the first place if it’s possible.

If not then teaching your Golden Retriever a different behavior when the sound happens such as fetching a toy won’t necessarily help to reduce its distress.

Instead, you should consider a systematic desensitization and counterconditioning program which is designed to solve emotional related issues. Desensitization is where the Golden Retriever is guided to become less sensitive to the sounds and to reduce its physical and emotional response.

Counterconditioning is designed to make the Golden Shepherd change the way that it feels about the sound and to improve its feelings towards it. You can read more about these programs at pets.webmd here. If you’re considering doing the program then look for a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in your area.

Solve Howling For Attention

It’s common for owners to give their Golden Retrievers attention when they start howling which can teach the Golden Retriever that howling will get it attention. If your Golden Retriever starts howling when nothing else appears to be wrong but it starts getting excited in your presence then it’s probably howling for attention. 

In this case, to get the howling to stop, you need to teach your Golden Retriever that howling for attention won’t continue to work and that being well behaved will work. 

To do this the first thing that you should do is to stop giving your Golden Retriever any attention when it starts to howl. This also means that you should totally ignore your Golden Retriever when it howls since even negative attention can be considered as a reward for it. 

The second thing to do is to reward good behavior. This means that when your Golden Retriever has been well behaved and quiet for a while you should reward it with your attention and a treat.

It would also be beneficial to avoid giving your Golden Retriever treats and attention when its just been naughty. You can do this by doing things such as ensuring not to give it a treat until it has been well behaved for atleast 5 seconds. 

Reduce its Boredom

Since Golden Retrievers are designed to be very active dogs it is necessary to keep them very active. If your Golden Retriever hasn’t been getting lots of exercise then allowing it to do so would be a good idea and should do a lot in helping to improve its behavior. You can give the Golden Retriever more exercise by taking it out for walks daily or you could hire a dog walker to do it for you if you can’t.

Get Help From A Professional

If you’re still unsure of why your Golden Retriever keeps howling and you haven’t been able to get it to stop then you should consider getting help from a professional who will be better able to diagnose the problem. You can do this by contacting a local Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in your area.

Related Questions

Why does my Golden Retriever nibble me? Nibbling in Golden Retrievers isn’t something to be overly alarmed about. It can actually be a sign of affection in dogs. When Golden Retrievers are young they explore the world with their mouths a lot and so nibbling on you isn’t something to be surprised about. With that being said it is something that you should stop while it is young so that it doesn’t continue the habit into adulthood.

If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved Golden Retriever, take a look at this Golden Retriever ebook.

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