Why Do Dogs Howl at a Siren?

Some dogs howl as a way of saying “I’m lonely” to other dogs; other dogs howl on instinct. Read my take on curbing your dog’s excessive howling.

By howling, modern dogs may be acting on an instinct passed down from wolves, their evolutionary ancestors. By: matt_elsberry

The American Kennel Club organization points to a good reason some dogs howl at sirens: it’s simply a throwback to their days (long ago) as wolves. Howling is not exclusive to pet dogs; wolves, as well as other pack animals, use howling as a form of communication and to specify their location.

Modern Dog Howling

Modern dogs, then, may be expressing this instinctual behavior of their evolutionary ancestors.

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To them, sirens might sound like the faraway howl of another dog. A single howl leads to another, and before long you’ll hear a whole chorus of dogs responding to each other.

The right noise will get a dog lifting his nose and woo-woo-wooing to naturally return the call of the wild. (Beagles, Basset Hounds and the northern wolf-like breeds, by the way, are more prone to this sort of howling.)

The video below shows a perfect example of a dog howling at a siren. Watch this:

Loneliness, Boredom May Be to Blame for Excessive Howling

Some dogs howl as a way of saying to other dogs, “I’m lonely.” Since canines are used to living in packs, their humans are their pack these days.

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If the noise is excessive, it is probably from boredom and loneliness. Lavishing your dog with some extra pet treats, exercise and a little extra attention should reduce his urge to howl.

Preventing Your Dog From Howling at Sirens

For starters, stay relaxed when you and your pet hear the noise. Offer your pet a treat.

When your dog stays silent, give him a few pats on the head during this time. But if he does howl, don’t yell at him or punish him — these actions won’t help him quit. You can even “practice” this new training by using a recorded siren noise to speed up the counter-conditioning.

Living out in the country now, I rarely hear a siren. However, in a town just a few miles away, police, fire and ambulance sirens are heard quite often. When a siren sounds there, you can be sure that all the dogs along Main Street start howling.

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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