Some dogs start howling when an ambulance or fire truck with a siren goes by. This is an interesting reaction in dogs that probably almost every dog lover knows. But why do some dogs howl at sirens in the first place?
Dogs howl at sirens for several reasons. For one, the siren triggers instinctive communication behavior from their ancestors, the wolves. Secondly, the howling serves as a warning to their caregivers while deterring the potential danger behind the siren from their territory. However, some dogs also howl at sirens because they are afraid.
If your dog is prone to howling, you know a siren in the distance can easily upset him.
A passing ambulance or police car can cause your dog to jump to the window with a loud howl. However, not every dog owner knows the reasons for this.
In this article, we explain in detail why dogs howl at sirens. This should help you better understand your dog’s behavior.
Why Dogs Howl at Sirens
Before discussing in detail the reasons for a dog’s reaction to sirens, we should first understand howling in dogs.
Howling is a profoundly ingrained method of communication that dogs have inherited from their ancestors, the wolves. While dogs communicate in many ways, some are more primal and primitive than others.
Our dogs’ ancestors used howling to let the rest of the pack know where they were. But it’s also a way of communicating to drive away foreign intruders.
And even though dogs no longer need to communicate with their pack, this behavior can still be seen in many dogs today.
Dogs may not belong to a wolf pack but are family members. With a relationship with a family comes a great responsibility in the eyes of dogs.
Dogs still feel the need to communicate with their family about their surroundings. Every howl contains an important message, and it is up to the human to decode it correctly.
Dogs howl for many reasons when sirens and other loud noises are heard. Of these many reasons, five are the most common; we discuss these in detail below.
Dogs Feel Their Inner Wolf
Even the most miniature dogs are descended from wild ancestors. All dogs are descendants of wolves, and their wild roots can shine through from time to time.
When a wolf gets separated from its pack, it emits a high-pitched howl to alert the rest of its pack and let them know where it is.
A passing siren doesn’t quite sound like a wolf in distress, but it certainly comes close to howling.
So when dogs howl at the sound of a siren, it may be that their inner wolf is responding to the sound of a high-pitched howl in the distance.
Dogs Want to Warn Their Humans
Dogs feel the need to protect their caregivers and alert them to their surroundings.
When dogs hear a siren approaching their home, they may perceive this as a possible threat to watch out for.
Sirens can be loud and frightening; dogs often hear them long before their human companions because of their fantastic hearing.
Because of this, they may feel the need to alert their family to the siren. Just in case it represents a danger.
When your dog howls to warn you, you may notice that he runs to you or barks at you to get attention.
You will notice that your dog howls with a sense of urgency, with the howling quickly ending as soon as the siren fades.
Even if the siren poses no real danger to anyone in the house, dogs are on alert and will warn if they sense something.
Dogs Guard Their Home
When you bring a dog into your home, the home becomes a territory he wants to protect and guard. However, dogs not only protect their territory, but also the family members who are in it.
If your dog thinks a siren is a potential threat, he may want to warn the potential intruder not to invade his territory strongly.
A loud howl can ward off potential predators and show that the area is occupied.
Also, if your dog howls at people entering your home, he may be howling to protect his property.
Dogs Indicate Their Presence
Wild wolves often howl into the distance to signal their presence to other nearby wolves in the area.
This does not always mean that they are threatening a potential intruder but rather that they are generally making their presence known.
Wolves also howl for their pack once they are separated from their pack so that the other wolves can find them again if needed.
Since a siren at least resembles a howl, your dog may think it is coming from a dog in distress. So its loud howl may indicate to your dog that it is there and may represent offers of help.
Howling may also be your dog’s way of alerting other dogs to a new dog nearby.
Dogs Are Afraid of Sirens
Some dogs have difficulty with loud noises, such as sirens or fireworks. A passing siren can startle a nervous dog and cause him to howl until the siren fades.
Dogs show their anxiety in various ways, from constant barking to destructive behavior.
If your dog begins to howl in stressful situations, he may be howling at the sirens out of fear. He may also react by tilting his head, running around wildly, or other stress-related behaviors.
Why Do Some Dogs Ignore Sirens?
While some dogs respond to any siren that passes by, other dogs ignore the sound completely.
Just as every human reacts differently to specific situations, it is no different for dogs. Every dog has another way of coping or problem-solving, which is also valid for their reaction to sirens.
If your dog doesn’t howl when sirens pass by, there are several possible reasons.
- Some dogs feel safe in their homes and don’t feel the need to howl.
- Some dogs, especially older ones, are hard of hearing.
- Some dogs are used to the sound and know it means no danger.
Whatever the reason for your dog’s disinterest in sirens, all are perfectly fine. Every dog is different, and not every dog needs to howl at passing sounds.
Can Sirens Hurt a Dog’s Ears?
Based on many dogs’ reactions to sirens, some dog owners wonder if sirens can harm a dog’s ears.
A loud noise can cause us to cover our ears to protect ourselves. Can sirens do the same thing to dogs?
The good news is that while sirens can certainly be frightening, they are unlikely to harm a dog’s ears.
According to experts, it is doubtful that a regular siren can cause pain to a dog.
It is much more likely that a dog howls at sirens for the above reasons and not because it is uncomfortable for their ears. This is evident in dogs that run toward the sound of sirens.
While typical sirens do not hurt a dog’s ears, some high-pitched sounds can harm them. It has been proven that frequencies above 25,000 Hz can be highly uncomfortable for dogs.
The higher and louder these tones get, the more painful it is. However, as long as the siren does not have a high pitch, it cannot hurt dogs like high-pitched tones.
If a dog’s ears hurt anyway because of the noise, you may notice some changes in his behavior.
An uncomfortable dog may run away and hide, tremble, run wild, be prone to destructive behavior, or show other signs of stress.
Can You Stop a Dog from Howling?
Although many dogs stop howling after the sirens are over, this habit can still be stressful.
Sudden howling can startle everyone in the house and become a nuisance, especially during late night hours.
The good news is that a few ways exist to stop this behavior.
- Ignore the dog or leave the room when he starts howling. This will show him that he will not be rewarded for this behavior.
- Reward your dog every time a siren goes by if he is quiet. You can do this simply by praising him. You can also give him his favorite treat or scratch his belly.
If these approaches don’t help in the long run, you should consult a dog trainer. Some dogs need extra help to get used to the sound of sirens.
Howling is a normal behavior in dogs, so it may take some time for the behavior to disappear for good.
Be patient with your dog, and it is best to consult a dog trainer if you feel overwhelmed with this task or are not succeeding.
Summary: Why Do Dogs Howl at Sirens?
There are many possible reasons why dogs howl at sirens. It is a very natural and intuitive behavior when a dog howls.
There are also ways to break him of the howling habit if it is too distracting or gets out of hand. And if all else fails, consult a dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques.