Your Questions: Why has our Labrador started howling?

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The Independent Online

Q. Our six-year-old Labrador (placid and lovable) has been howling nightly, often more than once, for the past four weeks for no apparent reason. The howling will last for about half a minute usually during the early hours of the morning. He will also do it occasionally during the day even when we are indoors. He is kept in the utility room during the day and gets regular exercise. In the evening he is allowed to stay with us until we go to bed. Patricia Liddle, Lincoln

A. There is always a cause for a sudden change of behaviour, usually due to an unpleasant stressful experience. As owners we must understand that our dogs are very sensitive. An incident that we would ignore can be stressful to our hounds – such as a confrontation with another dog in the park or having a party at our home. You may want to think about any event that may have caused the problem. He may stop doing it of his own accord because he has forgotten what was bothering him.

Bitches in season in the neighbourhood can often be a problem as the male dogs try to get to them and become frustrated when they cannot do so. Consequently, they will bark and howl, for instance. Make sure that at night you have all the windows covered up so no light gets in in the morning. If dogs see that it's light outside they will think it's time to get up and will alert us. Also I have a feeling that he may be lonely.

Keeping dogs in utility rooms at night is perfectly fine, depending on the owners' preference and circumstance, but dogs need company. You need to keep him out of the utility room during the day and keep him active. If he's locked up all day and has nothing to do he will probably spend his time sleeping, so at night he won't be as tired as he should be. We get dogs for company. Enjoy him because he won't be around for ever! Hopefully being more active, sociable and around you should make him more content and he should sleep like a baby!

Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended