Why Do Huskies Scream, Howl, and Even Give You Sassy Back Talk?
Few things are as entertaining to watch online as Siberian huskies being, well, themselves! Consider the husky who won't leave the bathtub or the dog park, and maybe even sport a little parental mockery. They each make us wonder: Why do huskies scream, howl, woo, whimper, gruff, and maybe even sass you a little?
Although they might throw some shade, these high-energy and lovable dogs are endlessly devoted to all members of their pack, including humans, and are eager to relate to them. So all those sounds do serve a purpose—as instinctive forms of communication.
Rebecca Meares-Jones is a Texas Husky Rescue board member. While huskies aren't wolves (dogs share about 98.8 percent of their DNA with them), she says many pack instincts are deeply ingrained, which helps explain the electric keyboard's worth of sounds that come out of your pooch.
When it comes to huskies screaming, short, high-pitched bursts are common and nothing to worry about. Conversely, longer episodes might indicate bigger problems that require professional intervention.
Why Do Huskies Scream?
After 10,000 years alongside humans, huskies have become "extremely social" pups who prefer spending time with us and their fellow dogs, Meares-Jones says. We've shaped that chatty behavior through reinforcement and breeding.
"They know how to play to an audience! If rewarded by owners when they talk, they tend to talk more," she says. "They seem to have strong opinions on many topics and are willing to share their viewpoints with others!"
The difference between a scream and a howl is primarily in tone. Meares-Jones says both are "normal" methods of communication, but the root cause is an important distinction. Here's what she says the high-pitched screams can mean:
- Anxiety (including separation anxiety, which sometimes manifests as sustained howling)
"An excited husky greeting his owner after an absence with a high-pitched scream or wooing is normal," she says. "Long periods of noise due to separation anxiety is not."
When Husky Screaming Is a Concern
Separation anxiety is the primary cause of excessive husky screaming, especially if he's a solo pet and doesn't have frequent opportunities to interact with humans or other dogs. Every creature in a husky's pack is a social and supportive connection, so not having this causes a great deal of stress.
(That's why a post-pandemic change in routine caused canine separation anxiety across the country. Dogs, many newly adopted, became accustomed to having their people around that it was difficult to adjust when many of us were no longer spending all day at home.)
A distressed husky screams, howls, or whines a lot while displaying destructive behavior or constantly pacing. Meares-Jones adds that some huskies get so anxious and stressed, they cause physical damage to their crates, homes, and themselves.
For many of these pups, positive reinforcement conditioning with a certified trainer or behavior expert can help them cope with their anxiety, but your veterinarian might also recommend calming supplements or even an anti-anxiety prescription medication such as fluoxetine.
How to Quiet a Screaming Husky
If your husky's screams aren't caused by separation anxiety, what methods help convince such an independent thinker to use his inside voice? Like this owner teaching his husky to whisper, you'll need plenty of treats, positive reinforcement training skills—and a double dose of consistency and patience.
You can use those skills and treats to teach your husky cues like "speak" and "quiet," but that may only minimize the noise, Meares-Jones says.
"Generally, once a husky gets wound up, they're going to finish their thought, at full level and in complete detail," she adds.
They might not be ear-splitting screams, but you're still likely to hear plenty of sounds from any husky. It's why she recommends honestly examining whether the extremely active working breed is right for you.
Understanding Huskies' Plethora of Sounds
Huskies' vocalizing is mostly instinctual. Puppies start making grunting and whining sounds around when they're 2 or 3 weeks old. By 7–8 weeks, they're starting to bark and trying to howl.
"Howls can carry 10 miles in the wild, and the sustained sound makes it easier for their pack members to find them, so this behavior is essential to their survival," Meares-Jones says. "This is a less desirable ability in suburban neighborhoods, but [it's] still an instinct."
She explains that huskies raised with others of their kind will learn pack behavior and mimic their packmates. Later in life, they frequently react to what's happening around them, such as:
- Responding to other howls, whether in your neighborhood or, adorably, on television.
- When they hear high-pitched noises, such as a crying baby, a siren, or even a pesky squirrel. "These can be cues of a call for help in the first two cases, or a fun game of 'show me your prey drive' in the last case," Meares-Jones explains.
- When they're happy or want to play, the level of excitement includes frisky tail wagging, play bows, zoomies, and many elated woos and howls.
- There's important news to report, like the arrival of a delivery driver, someone walking their dog by the house, or even a random thought, Meares-Jones adds. "These can be sudden, abrupt short howls with an occasional bark mixed in."
- "Sound of my pack" howls. In this video, huskies woo, sing, and howl in increasing energy, decibels, and length of time, just because they all want to get in on the conversation.
- If they're bored or want attention, they'll whine or howl. "Depending on the husky, that 'lack of attention' can be five seconds, five minutes, or five hours!" Meares-Jones says.
- When the husky is ill or injured, the dog will make a "distinctive sound" to signal he's in pain. Conversely, if a typically vocal husky has gone quiet, you should head to the veterinarian.
So yeah, you're likely to receive the occasional earful from your husky. But if you're an active pet parent with a yard who desires a canine buddy for hiking, camping, running, and dog sports such as skijoring, then a rambunctious husky and all his animated conversation will be a tremendous addition to your family.