One minute, your dog is snuggled up on his favorite couch cushion, eyeing your pizza crust. The next, he’s unleashing his inner wolf with a full-bodied howl. What makes your domesticated doggo take a walk on the wild side? Read on to discover why dogs howl.

Your dog may routinely cower from vacuums, but he’s still very much descended from wolves. A behavior like howling is a throwback to the ancient canine ancestor buried deep in his genetic code. Dogs, like wolves, are pack animals—and howling is their primary mode of communication. A howl can mean many things. Most are harmless, but some deserve a second look.

Reason 1: It’s just a thing to do.

Sometimes your dog will howl for literally no good reason. Maybe he heard a siren and wants to get to know it a little better. Maybe the moon was looking particularly good that night. A howl may just be your dog, being a dog.

Reason 2: He’s feeling separation anxiety.

Wolves howl in the wild to keep their pack together. If a wolf is lost or has noticed a member of his pack is missing, he’ll send out a howl to let the rest of his crew know where his is. If your dog howls when you leave the house, he may consider you a missing member of his pack.

Howling— paired with other destructive behavior like destroying things, pacing, or eliminating indoors— can be an indicator that your dog experiences separation anxiety. Here are some tips on dealing with this common pup problem.

Reason 3: He isn't feeling well.

Howling can be a sign that your dog isn't feeling well or is sick. If your pup is piping up more than usual, take him to the vet to rule out sickness or injury.

Reason 4: He needs some lovin’.

We all get a little needy sometimes—your dog is no exception. Your dog may howl to get your attention, especially if he’s feeling bored, nervous, or needs to get some energy out. Howling can be your dog’s way of saying “Hey, remember this guy?! I would really enjoy some quality belly rubs right about now.”

Try taking him for nice long walk or playing a round of fetch. If attention-seeking howling persists and becomes a behavioral problem, you may need to ignore it all together. Rewarding your dog with positive or negative attention can reinforce the behavior, so ignore the noise-making entirely by turning away from your dog and rewarding him only when he’s quiet.

Howling is a perfectly normal form of communication rooted in your dog’s wild past. Understanding the messages behind his howls can only help you grow closer together!