Does your dog howl at fire trucks and other sirens? Maybe you were cozied up on the couch relaxing, when a few blocks away, a fire truck sounds its alarm. Your dog’s ears perk up, and he suddenly starts howling like crazy along with the siren. 

If you have wondered why dogs howl at sirens, the team at Union Lake Pet Services is here to explain why.

Why Do Dogs Howl at Emergency Vehicles?

Sirens trigger some dogs to react by howling, but not all dogs react the same way–or at all. No two dogs are the same but the main reason seems to be related to breed and genetics. Animal behaviorists and researchers believe that the closer a dog is related in ancestry to wolves, the more likely they are to have the howl trigger. 

Wolves communicated with each other through howls. They were able to detect high-pitched sounds from great distances and find each other by way of those howls. We don’t know whether howling is built into their DNA, they join in with other howling dogs, or they interpret the high-pitched tones as a threat. If your dog is prone to barking or howling, the pitch of an emergency vehicle siren, music, fireworks, thunder, television, or other tones may set them off. 

Other Reasons Dogs Howl

There are other communication signals that can prompt any dog to howl. If your dog is howling at more than just sirens, or when you don’t hear any sirens, consider these possibilities:

  1. They want a response – If your dog howls whenever you are around and you give them attention, chances are they learn that they get their needs met through howling. Just like a kid throwing a tantrum, dogs learn to behave according to the desired result. If your dog howls to get attention, try to redirect their attention before they begin howling. If they begin howling, ignore them to help them learn that this method of getting your attention doesn’t work. This may take time. 
  2. They have separation anxiety – You may have heard dogs who howl all day. Dogs who are prone to anxiety will sometimes howl as a way to deal with stress and fear. Dogs who are home alone most of the time can develop separation anxiety, which triggers them to howl, bark excessively, destroy furniture, and so on.
  3. They are announcing their territory – Dogs bark and howl, in part, to signal their territory or boundary. This is an innate behavior or instinct that serves its place in the wild. It denotes boundaries between packs. Your pet may be simply announcing their territory to the world.
  4. They have an injury or illness – If a dog is in pain, they often howl. If your pet is howling more than usual and it doesn’t coincide with a siren, have them examined by your veterinarian.

Resolving the Mystery of the Howling Hound

There are some breeds that are prone to howling, such as basset hounds and beagles, as well as “singing”. No matter why your dog howls, it can be an endearing characteristic unless it becomes chronic or destructive. In that case, schedule with our hospital so that we can rule out any underlying anxiety or health issues. If it is a matter of training, our team of expert trainers can help your dog become more accustomed to sirens.

For more information on why dogs howl, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.