Whether you’re enjoying a mid-afternoon snooze or a deep restful sleep at night, there’s nothing more jarring than your dog suddenly howling at a siren in the distance.
If you have a dog that’s prone to howling, you’ll be all too aware that any siren, no matter how far away, can set your furry friend off.
But, why do some dogs feel so compelled to vocalize their reaction to a siren, and others remain entirely unbothered by the noise?
This guide will take an in-depth look at some of the main reasons why dogs commonly howl at sirens, as well as what you can do as a dog owner to train them out of the behavior and a few of the frequently asked questions.
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Reasons Why Dogs Howl At Sirens
As is the case with the majority of dog behaviors, the true reason behind howling at sirens isn’t conclusive, but according to experts, there are two strong potential reasons for it.
Firstly, the fact that dogs are descendants of wolves.
While this isn’t always reflected in behavior and temperament, the connection is certainly evident when it comes to howling. Wolves and dogs have a sharper sense of hearing than humans, enabling them to hear high-pitched sounds from long-range distances.
As a result of this, wolves use howling as one of their main means of communication. For example, if a wolf gets separated from the pack, they’ll use howling to communicate with the rest of the wolves to find their way back.
Your pooch may not be part of a wolf pack, but these instinctive howling behaviors are still programmed into their DNA.
So, when they hear the high-pitched sound of a siren in the distance, they may think that it’s another dog trying to communicate with them. When your dog howls in response to the siren, they may simply be trying to let that supposed “dog” know where they are.
Secondly, your dog may also howl when they hear sirens as a means of protection. If they sense something unusual and potentially threatening in their environment, they may howl to alert you and other members of your family that there’s possible danger nearby.
This explains why dogs often howl at sirens more the second time they hear them. This is because as the siren travels further in the distance your dog may think that their howling has scared it away, which reinforces the behavior.
While howling at sirens is a common behavior amongst dogs, it’s by no means universal. There are some dogs that ignore them altogether, no matter how loud or jarring they may be.
There’s very little research on why some dogs are compelled to howl at every siren while others barely flinch at the sound.
The most likely explanation is that, just like humans, no two dogs are alike in their behavior. So, while some may feel the need to respond with a loud howl, others are much more comfortable in the safety of their home.
It’s certainly nothing to be concerned about if your dog doesn’t react as strongly to sirens as others. If anything, you can count yourself lucky as it’s undoubtedly easier on your ears!
What To Do
Howling is a natural behavior in dogs, so if your pooch howls at sirens every now and then it isn’t anything to worry about. If, however, their howling is excessive and becoming increasingly difficult to manage, you may want to work on correcting their behavior.
The best method of doing this is to discourage your dog from howling and encourage them to remain quiet. So, if your dog starts howling, ignore them completely, as this will teach your dog that howling isn’t going to get them any attention.
On the other hand, reward your dog with a treat, attention and some praise anytime they hear a siren and don’t respond with howling.
It may take some time and a fair amount of patience, but once your dog learns that staying silent when they hear a siren will lead to affection and treats, they’ll be sure to keep the howls at bay.
If, after this training, your dog still howls at every siren in the distance, it may be a good idea to consult with a dog trainer or expert. They can then do some specialist work with your pooch to help get them better accustomed to the sound of sirens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Sirens Hurt A Dog’s Ears?
Many dog owners believe that their canines howl at sirens because the sound hurts their ears. However, most experts don’t believe this is the case.
The body language of a dog relies on more than just one behavior, so a dog in distress will typically exhibit multiple body language cues.
Therefore, unless your pooch is showing other notable signs of stress such as hiding behind the furniture, cowering in the corner, or excessively licking their lips, it’s unlikely that the sound is bothering them.
What Dog Breeds Are More Likely To Howl At Sirens?
Many experts believe that dog breeds closely related to wolves such as Huskies and American Eskimos are more likely to howl at sirens than other breeds of dog.
In addition, hound dogs that typically hunt in packs can also tend to howl at sirens. These include popular breeds such as foxhounds and beagles.
Is It OK To Howl With Your Dog?
When your dog joins in with your howls, they’re responding to your request to unite your voices. These types of social interactions are important to dogs. You are seen as the leader of the group, so howling together will make your dog happy.