Why do dogs howl?

They are resonating with a wave.

An ambulance, fire truck or police car zips through a neighborhood and its wailing siren leaves all the dogs in its wake howling. Dogs hear sirens, or another dog crooning, or a person imitating a howling wolf and most can’t resist joining in the chorus. This brings us to an important precept of emotional physics. Emotion is a virtual current of energy that just like electricity moves according to a principle of conductivity.

In the natural scheme of things, some things conduct emotion and some things resist the movement of emotion. In this way, emotion is like a virtual current of electricity. A feeling on the other hand is a wave, and if a feeling can impose a wave on the external environment through the sheer force of desire, then many things that – under most circumstances – would resist the flow of emotion, can in this manner be made to conduct the flow of emotion. It’s not that the thing itself changed of course, rather, the way the dog feels causes these elements of the environment to be realigned in its perception of reality. And this restructuring of perception is quite akin to a metal becoming superconductive when placed in a strong magnetic field. The atomic lattice structure of the material realigns and becomes superconductive. Thus the dog feels energized rather than inhibited. In this way, a feeling is like a virtual magnetic field.

Back in the 1980’s I remember hiring some Portuguese masons to build a patio and in preparing the site, they had to move several large rocks out of the way. They synchronized their efforts by singing traditional songs and it was not only a moving experience to watch, but the boulders seemed to move as if by magic as well.

So we can think of a feeling as being a virtual magnetic field that causes elements of the environment to shift in the animals’ perception, and then all of a sudden, the animal feels empowered and the force of its will is imposed on its surroundings. Sure enough things yield to the underlying power of desire.

Dogs howl and things sound seductive to their ear because energy moves according to principles of conductivity, emotion being no exception, and becoming in sync with an external wave (howl, siren, song) amplifies the internal current. It can then become so strong that external action emerges. Not only that, but it allows an individual to link up with others that manifest a like-desire. In other words, because the default setting of consciousness is one of an internal conflict, this constitutional state of resistance is smoothed out when in an externally conductive medium. So by resonating with a wave, stress in the dog is converted to a feeling of flow. I believe this is also why music is so powerful and motivational for human beings. In fact, it’s but one more thing humans share with canines.

Despite the Darwinian/Malthusian premise that nature is a realm of limited resources locking organisms into a competition of the fittest, nothing could be farther from the truth. The story of evolution is that which doesn’t conduct energy can be made to conduct energy by virtue of cooperation. Synchronizing by virtue of a wave function is how cooperation takes place. Dogs are here to show us that nature is unlimited and when organisms synchronize emotionally, they can align physically and thus tap into new sources of energy unavailable through singular action. Nature conforms to the power of desire. This is why dogs howl.

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Published July 21, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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22 responses to “Why do dogs howl?”

  1. Actors refer to the combination of the physical body, the mind, and the emotions as their “instrument.” In acting workshops they’ll sometimes say they’re only there to “tune up” their instrument. (Actors can be very annoying with this stuff.)

    About 10 years ago I tested something with my Dalmatian Freddie: While he was lying comfortably on his bed, usually sound asleep, I would howl like a wolf, just to see what he did (if anything), and to try to determine why he did it (if I could).

    After my first howl Freddie would always open his eyes and look at me. After I gave 3 or 4 more, he always began howling too, though he seemed reluctant to join in, as if he didn’t want to howl along with me but couldn’t help himself. Then, after I’d stopped, the howls would keep coming from Fred’s throat, gradually getting softer and softer until they were like the last faint “hello… hello…..” you’d hear coming back to you from the walls of an echo canyon.

    Finally my little test subject (the poor dog) would lay his head back down and heave a low, throaty sigh, releasing the final tension from his vocal chords. Then he’d go back to sleep.

    I never had any sense that Fred was “communicating” anything except perhaps, “Why are you making me do this? Why can’t I just sleep in peace?” (That information wasn’t conveyed through his voice, by the way, but through his eyes.)

    What I learned was that my howling simply created tension in Fred’s instrument. And he released it involuntarily by howling along with me. The fact that he continued howling, softer and softer after I’d finished indicated that there was still some leftover tension still reverberating in his throat. The heavy sigh was the final release mechanism, like the last chord from John Lennon’s piano at the end of of “A Day in the Life” (on the Sergeant Pepper’s album).

    The musical analogy is particularly apt since all music is built on the principles of tension and release. So is drama, poetry, fiction, etc.

    Actors also talk about being “in tune” with the material (the scene, the play, the script) as well as with their fellow actors. This is an important factor because the reason Freddie was the perfect test subject was that he was very much in tune with me. But more importantly, thanks to the training techniques I learned by reading Natural Dog Training, I had learned how to be in tune with him and his energy. It’s extremely doubtful that I could have gotten the same results with most other dogs, except perhaps a beagle or basset hound, etc.


  2. James says:

    Howling has meaning, and whether that meaning is emotional communication is inconsequential to the fact that howling is done for more then a release of energy or as a mimicry. Sure, fellow dogs may mimic others (or similar sounds) for emotional resonance reasons (doesn’t matter to me, really) but they also initiate it to convey things. Wolves, for example, will use it to mark their territory.

    As for your statement of evolution, it does nothing but show your complete lack of understanding of evolutionary science. You take this scientific approach to explaining your training methods that may impress the ignorant, but to an educated person your statements are seen for the falsehoods they are.

    You have a gifted method to raising/training dogs, but the new-age/pseudo-science crap is diluting that.

  3. kbehan says:

    You’re quite right that there is a distinction between theory and practical application. I could be right about theory, wrong about application, or as you have indicated perhaps right about application and wrong about theory. That’s a legitimate question.
    And I also agree that howling has meaning, however I don’t find it logical that it has to be a human concept in order to have meaning. I see all behavior as an expression of energy and that energy is a form of information in its own right. Many species of animals are said to vocalize to for the meanings to which you have indicated, such as marking territory etc., but then the question remains and becomes all the more glaring, why do only dogs howl at sirens and songfests etc.? Why don’t cats meow, or birds chirp and apes beat their chest in resonance with sound waves that have an elongating wavelength? Why only the dog?
    In fact, I think the model I’m promulgating is wholly consistent with Darwin’s core principle of common descent. The assumption I’m making is a mere extension of this idea; that therefore if evolution is correct, then that which is formed must have evolved from that which is unformed, i.e. living beings must have evolved from energy. And if it can be shown that there is a universal energetic logic apparent in every species of animal, which in my view is easiest to see in the behavior of dogs and is the point of the why-dogs-do-what-they-do section, then the most scientific interpretation of the evidence is that energy is information. Are you saying that animals did not evolve from energy?

  4. My dogs appear to love when I play music. The first time I took out my guitar, Charlie (who had been feral until recently) rounded a corner and stared at me with his mouth completely open! Like, aghast! They are attracted to it, and I didn’t used to think they participated in it. till I got a camera and started recording some of my practice sessions, and there always seem to be some dogs galavanting in the background!

    Energy is information is clear. I always say that information is reinforcing.

    The exhibition of this energy is also about barking isn’t it.

    I’ve noticed how dogs also communicate so much through their patterns of breathing, from the peaceful happy little snorts and hums, to the anxious panting of a storm reactive dog. All that stuff, it’s all on that spectrum I think of sexual expression, I think I see what you mean by that, and why it is difficult for people to add into the behavior equations. Still to me, every single thing you are saying fits into my understanding of behavior science, it’s just a more expansive understanding of reinforcement vis a vis, “reinforcing energy…” or adding energy as reinforcing….

  5. kbehan says:

    Yes, all behavior is an expression of energy, and the music connection reveals that getting in sync with anothers’ energy amplifies “the signal” and this energizes the dog so that it can do things it otherwise would be inhibited about. The distinction between this and behavioral science is that ultimately, behaviorism for all its clinical detachment from what’s being studied, nonetheless boils down to a thought or a reason and I believe this obscures the principle of energy that is really in play.

  6. Patricia says:

    November 24, 2009 @ 9:45 a.m.

    Taught as a young child, ‘When you hear a dog’s howl, it’s a warning of imminent danger.’

    With four dogs and a range of bark tones dependent on breed, I was surprised this morning as I left the house. Before entering the car, through the closed kitcen window, the howls of two dogs sent a shiver down my spine.

    Thinking something had happened to one of them, I quickly return to the house. Everything appears normal. Dogs, now quiet, were in the fenced area of a 20×20 kitchen. Yet, I knew something was different.

    Death or Danger? No! Separation Anxiety? Hardly, as this daily routine never produced howls in the past.

    It was then I notice the room appears darker than normal for a daylight departure. Sure enough, the vertical blinds are still closed. They could not see the outside world nor the driveway where I would return. Once opened, I left with contented dogs offering no howls, alerting me to ….

    Communication, individualized by two different breeds, was made known. If you want a happy family, it pays to listen to your four-legged family members as well.

  7. Christine says:

    Hi Heather, I’ve posted a video clip of Duncan howling on my youtube channel. Check it out!
    http://www.youtube.com/user/mydogsdrule Just for grins n’ giggles you should check this one out also: http://www.youtube.com/user/gardea23#p/u/47/M5F5FmzVAGU This one is Mishka the talking Husky dog, play it for Happy and see if he sings with her!

  8. Heather says:

    Christine, That is fantastic, thank you! Duncan is gorgeous – I can’t recall if you mentioned his breed or mix? Is the cream colored dog joining in Bodie or Diva?

  9. Heather says:

    holy cow, Mishka the Husky can sing! (I feel the same way about the Thomas the Train song, it drove me batty after awhile).

  10. Christine says:

    Heather, Duncan is a GSD/Lab/husky or Akita mix (high, tightly-wound tail). His sable coat is most likely GSD but could also be Akit. Diva is the one joining him; she is an Alaskan Husky/GSD mix. Bodie, my yellow lab, didn’t make it into that video. When we are inside, they all act up and bark/howl. Diva is more apt to howl inside and she aligns with Duncan in that she will be standing parallel to him; similar to parallel-gaiting in the wolf world I imagine. Bodie has even howled with them, although only briefly.

    I do love watching Mishka sing; she’s quite a girl! I’ve subscribe to their channel just because it’s so much fun to watch and I love it when huskies are vocal and sing and I love a hound with a good voice, too. My mother’s Siberian will sing for her supper when she’s at my house; I really love that! Glad you enjoyed the clips!

  11. Christine says:

    I love this post. Evolution=cooperation, yes, this I can agree with.
    Duncan is da bomb!♥ He is, in effect, teaching Diva how to howl (resonate). In the process, his howl is becoming more harmonic. Whenever I watch a wolf video, Duncan takes point in howling. Diva comes in second and Bodie third. Diva’s howl is gradually becoming more wolfish and smooth. I’m enjoying it’s unfolding tremendously. 🙂
    This is a beautiful thought: “Synchronizing by virtue of a wave function is how cooperation takes place. Dogs are here to show us that nature is unlimited and when organisms synchronize emotionally, they can align physically and thus tap into new sources of energy unavailable through singular action. Nature conforms to the power of desire.”

  12. abhilash says:

    my dog howls when the neighboring dog barks.

  13. kbehan says:

    The barking dogs trigger the physical memory of motion that isn’t happening, hence the yearning, hence the howl.

  14. Derik Gray says:

    I have a great video of my dog howling. I have kind of trained her to howl at certain vocalizations. Here is a video. http://youtu.be/nOI_GFFqNek

  15. […] o un vehículo similar pareciera hacerlos aullar, lo mismo que ocurre si nosotros imitamos el sonido del aullido o si reproducimos un aullido. Es como si ellos no resistieran no sumarse al unísono y según los […]

  16. Scott says:

    One of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had with a dog was this summer while apprenticing with you, Kevin. Trace, our Husky (a breed notorious for howling) never really howled before in the three years that he’s lived with us. I’ll never forget late in week one when we left him in the woods and he howled so yearningly – oh, how it echoed. It goes back to the pipe opening up, as evidence of the validity of your model as we worked him into a stronger connection. The howl in my opinion is often misunderstood.

  17. kbehan says:

    Yes, that was sweet music indeed.

  18. George Thomas says:

    I used to teach sixth grade woodshop. Whenever we would use the planer (a very loud piece of equipment), the kids would inevitably hold their hands over their ears or begin to howl in unison. They always harmonized with the pitch of the planer and nearly always each new group of kids experiencing the sound howled in the same pitch!

    I have no training, but it seems to me that like a dog, they did so to balance pressure on the ears. They showed pain at the first sound of the planer, but one starting to howl, the pain went away. Is it possible that the howling (in harmony) balances the pressure or vibrations on the ear drum?

  19. kbehan says:

    The idea of balancing ear pressure to reduce the pain makes a lot of sense. In my model, physical systems and processes are co opted to serve an emotional function. Pain is just another input that knocks the individual out of stasis, thus activating its balance circuitry as a tuning metric for the need to return to equilibrium, an equilibrium that can be physical as in maintaining physical balance, or emotional, as in (a) bringing to ground or (b) resonating with that which knocked the individual out of equilibrium. A cat on the other hand would be overloaded with that input and its balance circuitry would only be able to remove it from a noxious zone, but the dog has the emotional capacity to try to resonate with it. The cat isn’t moved to howl and stay put so as to resonate with the disturbance, it will just seek to avoid the pain. (We might also wonder if yawning is another means of equalizing air pressure in the ears and thus is able to serve as an emotional device to reduce the feeling of compression when emotionally overloaded.) But the dog has the emotional capacity to feel an attraction to the source. The dog feels a yearning from hearing a siren, there’s a degree of pain in yearning, the proverbial “bittersweet,” it’s a stimulus that can’t be physically brought to ground, but if the dog can achieve emotional grounding by way of resonance, the positive pull of attraction can be the predominant aspect of the experience. Pain that can be grounded changes the individual’s perception of it, pain can become stimulating and even arousing. When emotionally grounded pain is subsumed into the overall state of attraction, the balance system thus subordinated to the Temperament in order to serve as a tuning metric. Resonating with the sound to offset the pain in the ear drum is a wonderful example of nature as master programmer employing basic physical systems in order to execute complex social systems.


    (Russell drew my attention to the above video. I’m writing about it at length as it’s one more experiment that should shake modern behaviorism to its core. It shows that the complex is predicated on the laws of physics, not human psychology (survival/territorial/reproductive strategies) as modern behaviorism believes it to be and thus they search for high cognition to explain the subtleties of complexity before having even turned to the laws of physics. Such interpretative models are the exact opposite of parsimony.)

  20. cliff says:

    “When you hear those cuckoos hollerin’…” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epoMnWLeE68

  21. kbehan says:

    That’s an excellent point. All species are resonating in their own specific way to some range of frequencies to which they attune. Thus, the point of the bird is its song.

  22. […] o un vehículo similar pareciera hacerlos aullar, lo mismo que ocurre si nosotros imitamos el sonido del aullido o si reproducimos un […]

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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