Hounds, particularly bloodhounds and basset hounds, have a strong instinct to howl and bay. This is an instinctive relic from when they were used for hunting. They typically indulge in this behavior when bored, so night times can be tricky. You can break this behavior with kind correction reinforcement.
Figuring out the Cause
Keep a diary of your hound’s howling habits. Make notes of when the howling starts, when it stops and any environmental factors that trigger it, such as noise.
Determine the likely cause of the howling. Your hound is likely either suffering from separation anxiety, or he is bored. Separation anxiety is a common cause among dogs in general, but hounds do have a reputation for boredom-related howling. If the howling begins as soon as the dog is left alone, it is likely to be separation anxiety. If it begins some time into the night, boredom is more likely a cause.
Stand near his sleeping area at night to make sure no environmental factors, such as foxes in the yard or a banging gate, are spooking your dog and making him howl.
Curing Boredom-Based Howling
Walk your hound so he hasn’t got bundles of unused energy when it's bedtime. The amount of exercise required varies according to the breed; basset hounds require less exercise than bloodhounds, for example.
Use play activities that stimulate your hound’s natural instincts. Hounds are hunters, so games of hide and seek and find the treat will slake their desire for tracking down scent.
Provide a stimulating toy, such as a food puzzle or chew toy at bedtime. This will keep him occupied as he adapts to the change in activity level in the house.
Ignore the howling. If you rush to your hound every time he howls, you reinforce the behavior by showing him that howling results in him getting company.
Reward periods of silence. If your dog is howling intermittently, wait nearby. As soon as he stops, give him verbal praise. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that good things happen when he stops barking.
Curing Separation Anxiety-Based Howling
Expose your hound to short periods of isolation so he can learn that being alone is never permanent. Start off with five minutes. Dogs who are suffering from separation anxiety howl out of distress. It’s their way of saying, “Hey, you’ve left me behind. I’m over here!”
Ignore your dog for the first minute after you end the isolation period. If you make a big fuss of him, it teaches him that being reunited with you is a big deal. He’ll be excited and relieved to see you. Let him calm down before you give him any attention.
Give your dog verbal praise and a bit of fuss as soon as he becomes calm. This teaches him that calm, passive behavior has a positive outcome.
Repeat the isolation each day, gradually extending the period your dog is left alone. Leave an old T-shirt with your scent on it with him. This will comfort him and reduce the chances that he’ll howl.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.