Why Do Dogs Howl At Sirens? Interpreting Their Behavior

Oluniyi Akande
Nov 07, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Oct 14, 2021
Samoyed dog howling on light background

A dog howling at sirens is a common and normal thing.

When your dog howls at the sirens passing by, it registers the sound as the threat of a predator. So, to let the predator know that its humans are protected, the dog howls back.

The sirens that dogs howl at mostly include those of fire engines, ambulances, and police vehicles. Your dog is howling because it wants to protect you. Also, dogs are descendants of wolves, so howling is natural to them.

A wolf pack often howls collectively or at each other. Dogs are capable of hearing sound over a more varied range than humans can and at greater distances. Their main form of communication is through vocalizations like howling.

Dogs may also interpret sirens as distant dogs or animals trying to communicate with your dog. Your dog howls back to let other dogs or a wolf know it's there. Sirens of ambulances and police cars may sound annoying to humans, but not to a dog.

It does not howl back out of annoyance. If a dog was stressed it would lick its lips, cower, or hide.

Dogs also howl at musical instruments that are high-pitched. If your canine friend seems to howl a lot for no reason, it may have a health problem. Separation anxiety or you leaving it alone for work may also cause the dog to howl.

A dog should never be punished for howling. It should be made to feel safe and secure inside its own home.

A dog may also be trying to get your attention because it is hurt or in pain when it seems to howl excessively. You should look for a physical injury or visit the veterinarian when your dog seems to be howling a lot for no reason.

Also, getting your dog to howl on command is a normal thing. You can show it videos of other dogs howling, howl yourself, or play a sound of a siren to get your dog to howl.

If you have two dogs, howling behavior is easier taught. The dog can also be given training to howl on command, much like sitting and lying down.

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Why do dogs howl at sirens?

The reasons that a dog howls at sirens are somewhat varied, but there may be a couple of possible reasons for this behavior like protection of their family.

The most common reason may be the dog's ancestry. Dogs are descendants of wolves and wolves used to communicate through various vocalizations and noises, mainly howling.

This ancestry is responsible for dog communication through howling. You should also remember that wolves and dogs have a better sense of hearing than humans. The sounds made by dogs are also at different frequencies.

The most simple explanation for a dog's howling at sirens is that it may believe that another dog is howling and trying to communicate with them over a distance. When dogs howl at sirens, they're acknowledging the presence of another dog.

Another commonly held belief for the howling behavior of dogs is that they want to be known as the protector of their family.

It may consider the sound of the siren from a police car, ambulance, or a fire truck to be a threat and howl back to let it be known that it is watching over its human family.

They are very loyal and faithful.

They may also be howling to let their humans know that a threat is present at a nearby location and that they should be prepared.

The second howls can get louder because they may think the howling worked as the sirens go away and it is reinforcing its protective howling. Once the sirens are at a location that is out of earshot, the dog tends to stop howling.

Do sirens hurt a dog's ears?

Most research believes that sirens do not hurt the ears of a dog. They are not howling back because they may be irritated.

For humans, sirens hurt their ears and you may think that this translates to our dogs as well. But the hitch-pitched squeal isn't that annoying to a dog and it isn't howling back at the sirens in annoyance.

When a dog is stressed, its body shows other signs instead. If dogs howl at sirens but do not show other behaviors like lip-licking, hiding, or cowering then they are not feeling stressed out by the siren's noise.

Contrary to popular belief, a siren does almost nothing to hurt the ears of a dog. In fact, they welcome it.

The more a siren from an emergency vehicle keeps going, the more a dog will respond kindly with its own howls. Howling dogs will continue until they can't hear the sirens any more.

Pug dog howling

What does it mean when a dog starts howling?

Howling is the primary way in which your dog communicates with the world. Dogs howl for attention and to let threats know of their presence. They may also be responding to other dogs.

Howling is often instinctual and is natural or sometimes triggered by some problem. Of course, dogs howl when they hear hitch-pitched and loud sounds like sirens or even musical instruments.

If a dog's howling seems excessive, it may indicate a health problem. If the howling comes after your dog hears a loud siren from an emergency vehicle, it howls thinking it a threat and letting its presence known.

It is not cruel at all to let your dog howling. First, you need to determine what noises your dog actually responds to.

Some dogs naturally reciprocate to high-pitched sounds of sirens and alarms. Another dog howling, or even a video of a dog howling, can get a dog to howl.

Some dogs howl at the sound of the whistle. Some ways you can get your dog to howl are singing or howling yourself, playing some kind of musical instrument such as the harmonica, playing sounds of loud sirens or alarms, and whistling at your dog. You can also show your dog videos of other dogs howling.

Dog howling is harmless and once you figure out what gets your dog howling, you can encourage the method more than once. You may also award them with a treat for further positive reinforcement.

This is similar to any other form of training with tricks. With enough encouragement and practice, your dog will howl at your command, just like you can command him to lie down or sit.

Is howling stressful for dogs?

A dog may sometimes be howling because it is feeling some manner of stress. Separation anxiety could be one of the reasons.

When you leave the house for work, your dog may feel your absence and howl. It's not uncommon for neighbors to complain of howling dogs in the absence of their owners. Dogs may also pace constantly, indulge in destructive behavior, become depressed, or soil the house.

When a dog howls because of separation anxiety, it should definitely not be punished. Instead, you should make arrangements for the dog to get some safety and security inside the home.

It's bad to leave a dog alone when it has separation anxiety. Too much time away from a favored member of the family could be bad for dogs.

Your dog's howling may also mean it has a medical issue. If a dog howls frequently, it might be to draw your attention to the fact that it is sick, in pain, or hurt.

You should look for signs of physical distress. If you don't discover anything then you should take the dog to the veterinarian to rule out injury or illness.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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