Superstitions about Howling Dogs

May 15, 2014

By Langley Cornwell

Admit it, the melancholy sound of a howling dog sends chills up your spine, doesn’t it? If you’re not the superstitious type, then you may blame Hollywood for this association. We’ve all seen movies where the howling of a dog foreshadows something ominous, but do you know where the roots of this concept come from?

The idea that dogs are in tune with the supernatural has been around a long time, and is believed by many cultures. One of the most common superstitions is that a howling dog is an omen of death or extreme misfortune. It’s impossible to trace this concept back to a single source, but here are a few of the more widely accepted origins:

Nordic Countries

Norse legend links this belief to Freyja, the goddess of magic, love, fertility, war and death. The story goes like this – when Freyja is playing the part of the goddess of death, she rides her chariot on the crest of a storm. This fanciful chariot is pulled by two enormous cats. And since felines are considered canines’ accepted enemies, the belief is that when dogs sense the approach of Freyja they begin to howl at the goddess and her magical oversized cats.


Another superstition about howling dogs and death traces back to ancient Egypt. It is believed that the god that tended to the dead was named Anubis. According to ancient Egyptian religion, this god was also associated with mummification and the afterlife. One of his most important roles was serving as protector of the dead and their tombs. Because Anubis had the head of a jackal, when dogs howl it stands to reason that they are calling souls to Anubis.


The Irish have a much simpler concept. In Ireland, folklore claims that dogs howl when they hear the universal phantom pack of hounds. These mystical hounds are said to lead their riders on a wild, barren hunt through the sky gathering the souls of the dead.


In Wales, tradition has it that God gave the king of Annwn control over demons so he could protect the world. As such, he would ride on his supernatural rounds on a hunt for mortal souls. Only dogs could see the death-bringing “Hounds of Annwn,” and howled their acknowledgement.

Ancient Greece

The goddess Hecate played a prominent role in Athenian households, where she was worshiped for her protective abilities. Hecate was also associated with crossroads and entryways. According to ancient Greek legend, dogs howled when Hecate was at a crossroads foretelling an imminent death.

Southern U.S. States

Here in the south where I live, superstitions run deep. Regarding death and dogs, some of the old-timers believe that dogs will tell them when their time is coming. They say if a dog howls twice, close together, death is coming for a male. Three howls close together means it’s a woman Mr. Death is after. You can tell the specific man or woman that death is coming for by the direction the dog is looking. If he’s looking at you when he howls, you’re next. Following that same logic, some folks say it is good luck when a dog howls with his back side towards you.

Other superstitions include: a dog howl means the wind god has summoned death, and the spirits of the dead are being released; a howling dog in an otherwise silent night is the first warning of supernatural events; when you hear a dog howling it means bad luck for you or that someone you love will get sick or worse; a howling dog outside the house of a sick person means the person is going to die—especially if the dog was sent away and comes back to howl again.

It goes on and on.

It’s no wonder the plaintive sounds of a dog’s howl has inspired legend and folklore in a variety of cultures. It’s a spooky sound. I’ve covered a lot of ground here, but I know I didn’t get it all. Tell us about some of the superstitions you’ve heard.

Top photo by Phoenix Wolf-Ray
Middle photo by Matt Elsberry
Bottom photo by Nazreth

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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  1. Emerald says:

    Dogs can howl to communicate or when someone is dying, is what we’ve most read. My dog howls almost every other day and the reason is her husband died. My baby handsome (dog) he was a poodle they had 3 liters 1st one made it 2nd one died 3 one made it. After 12 years handsome died. A week after his death someone stole our puppy only 2 months(barely) and she is devastated sad depressed and that’s how she expresses that. We don’t exactly know what type of dog she is like an Australian huskee mix, she is 2 years old.

  2. Kuubzo says:

    This is weird to be reading , I remember one time I was walking home from being out with some friends and it was night time and I started hearing howling , I stopped for a second . Then the howling grew bigger and bigger coming from all angles , sounded like a harmony . I grew chills hearing that. Sounded like at least 50 dogs

  3. alchemist says:

    A dog is like a crow That howls at night fore telling or directing the super Natural

  4. Jade says:

    I just heard a bunch of dogs howling and it was exactly 3:33 is that bad?

  5. It was on a Sunday around 8 or 9 at night on march 5 2017, my two adult kids son an daughter an staying temporary at my husband house, we have been separated for about 11 years . Anyways he wasn’t home since every weekend he stays at our other two kids place, so my kids had fallen asleep I was the only one awake I have 5 dogs 1 cat my ex has one dog out of no where his dog starts howling with like a cry almost. None of my dogs howls , it was creepy, next morning my ex comes with an evil look aruging with me saying I want you out.. it felt as if he was possesd , I just ignored him an went to my room .. he soon left for work.. I think his dog felt it.. his evilness.

  6. brat intruder says:

    Well I know this to be TRUE. Or VERY VERY close.. My dog and my mothers dog howls at night, we live in seperate towns. I found out that I have cancers cells in my cervix today. Now I have no idea if Im going to die, but dogs CAN APPSOLUTLY scense things like death, paranormal, and sickness.

  7. Rick says:

    I used to have a springer spaniel, and he would howl now and then. My mom told me one night that when a dog howls, death is near. Nobody in our house had died until years later. Maybe it was an early indication. He passed away in 2002. 🙁 I have two shih-tzu seniors. One male, and one female. Sometimes, the female barks when i am bot home. I know this because i had a network camera set up and checked up on my home with my smart phone. She was barking a lot. She NEVER barks at anything except when i have food in my hand. She never barks when someone knocks at my door, or for any other reaaon. My male barks at anything and everything!

  8. Layla says:

    my dog shes old it was like 2:30 in the morning and I was watching a movie and out of nowhere she started to howl for like 4 seconds straight she never howled before she’s a shizu poddle also. It was just so weird. And when I looked it up it said death apon you or someone you love and that’s when I just jumped up and called my mom to see if she was okay.

  9. Jan says:

    okay this may sound strange but theres a belief in our country that dogs howl if there is something out of the ordinary happening. it happend first at around 10p.m at my friends house there was this stinky smell. it smelled like rancid feet. my friend then told me that there was an aswang (philippine for shafeshifters) somewhere in the property of the house. okay i was a bit skeptical at first but a few days later i came back to hang out at his house again. but we had a few extra visitors and one of them claimed that she was a phsycic (okay not sure of the spelling) anyway we hanged out until it was 2 a.m then i got out to buy more beers and a few minutes im back when i sat down one of the empty beer bottles suddenly fell from the table and broke to pieces on the floor. she asked me if i was followed. i said followed by who? she asked me again “were you followed?” i said “i was the only one walking on the street on my way back here” she then was acting all histeric and suddenly she said that something bad was going to happen and that she wanted to leave all here friends believed her because they said that she was always right about those kind of things. so all 4 of them left leaving just the two of us behind. we decided to continue drinking and after about 20mins after the others left. there was a chill running in my back and all the hairs of my body began to stand up. then there was it again. the strong rancid foot smell. i begin to ask questions to my self if this was real paranormal activity or is there some kind of scientific explenation to it. okay now to the part about the howling dogs. it was about 2 or 3 months after that strange experience at my friends house. it was around 11:30p.m i was at the bathroom doing a number one. when i heard this cat sound comming from our roof or the nieghbors roof a few steps away from our bathroom i could clearly hear it because the bathroom window was open. i just ignored it thinking it was just a cat when the sound slowly changes to this deep sound until it didnt sound like a cat anymore it was an unfamilliar sound and it really was scary it was like a cat that was laughing and then as things couldnt get any creepier the odor of rancid foot smell filled the air of our bathroom when i smelled it all our dogs outside the house started howling. i got out of the bathroom as fast as i could thinking that i might see something in the window that would haunt me all night. (i was the only one at home that night) i closed the bathroom door and went to my room and locked the door. our dogs just kept howling until i was a sleep. well thats my experience. thanks for listening.

    1. Veronica says:

      Okay so, one thing I know for sure is that sudden waves of rancid smells or rotten meat smells indicate something demonic. And if a psychic believes that something’s very wrong and the dogs were howling right after you heard that almost inhuman voice just proves that it could actually be something demonic. And if that’s the case then you need to get help asap. And I get that I’m posting this after like a year so I really hope you’re okay and got help

  10. Dont says:

    I heard many dogs howling at the same time for at least a minute last night. Initially, it sounded as if emergency vehicle was passing by. Than it was obvious, these were dogs. All in all, there is only one dog on my street, between 10 houses. that one dog is a Chiwawa. Second, there were many dogs howling at that time. Third, I backed to Highway, and it was pitch dark between the walls of highway. I could hear this howling few houses west of my houses. This howling stops all of a sudden after minute or so.

    can someone tell me what this means? It was scary. I normally don’t get scared that easy, and i am outdoor person. Yesterday, I myself chickned out to step out of my house during this howl.

  11. Darrick says:

    We have an American Foxhound, and she rarely barks, let alone howls. The only thing she does is whines when she hungry, thirsty, or needs to go out.

    Late one night, I’m in the living room watching tv, and I hear he emit this low, mournful howl from upstairs. She had never howled before or since, and that really disturbed me for some reason. I hadn’t heard of the superstition before, but I just knew something wasn’t right. A few days later, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. This was last spring, and I still get the chills thinking about it.

  12. Shanice says:

    Two nights ago my dog and a neighbors dog. Howled 2 different times throughout the night. The following day my dog goes to the dog park and comes back home lethargic. We take him to the animal hospital where he later passes of a heat stroke. Out of the blue. Very strange. And very heartbreaking.

  13. Pratismita says:

    Thanks for this post. Out here in India too there are loads of superstitions around howling dogs-most frequently with death

  14. luci james says:

    My dogs don’t howl often. I have four chiwawas. It’s been at certain peoe that were not very nice folks and I am from the south. I sure don’t need any more bad luck or death cause around here it comes in threes.

  15. Brian says:

    After i had reading this now i really really believed about why my dog howling all night..recently my favourite dog,(Hitam) was dead for about 4 days ago..first my great dane some kind alerting me to go outside the house and when i looked outside i barely saw my dog (hitam) second day when i slept i was dreaming about my dog (hitam) asking for forgiveness for he had a short time with me…he is 2 years old..his death remain mystery..

  16. mc says:

    I just read this post today. I had heard this howling sounds from different dogs last night. The next day, my family were informed that one of our neighbors died last night. It was so creepy. I believed now that it is not just a superstitious belief but this is real. That’s why I tried to search for reasons why this really happened for real. I wonder why my neighbors suddenly die one by one in our area here in Davao, Calinan, Philippines.