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Why do dogs howl at sirens?

Updated on February 18, 2012

Superstitious beliefs often associate the howling of a dog to something ominous. The howling of a dog would actually stir up an eerie feeling to a nervous or a fainthearted person. Howling dogs are always featured in horror movies. The howling of your dog would already make your hair stand on end. The howling would be more frightening when the dog is joined in by other dogs in the neighborhood. Because the howling sound carries for miles, more and more dogs would howl. One would think that an evil supernatural being is passing by. This idea though like many other superstitious beliefs has not scientific bases. Dog experts attribute the dog’s howling at sirens to several reasons.

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The call of the wild

Dogs are genetically programmed to howl. Haven’t these animals descended from wolves? The sound of a howl would carry for miles. Wolves are pack oriented. When a lone wolf found a prey, it would howl to inform other wolves in the pack to come. Wolves howl for long distance communication, pretty much the same as using cell phones. Most modern day dogs are no longer heard howling (they are probably using the master’s mobile phone to communicate with each other). Some dogs though would howl when they hear the distant sirens of fire trucks and when a police car and ambulance with earsplitting sirens pass by. The dog will perceive the sound to be the howling of other dogs similar when wolves in the wild would howl to communicate with each other.

The call of a lonely dog

When dogs were domesticated and trained, most of the primitive behaviors were eliminated. Howling is one of them. Modern day dogs are seldom heard howling. However, the primitive habit would kick in from time to time especially when something acts as trigger for the trait to be done. Dogs are social animals. In the wild, dogs stay in the pack. Domesticated dogs are often left alone at home most of the time. As the siren is mistaken as the howling of other dogs, the lonely dog would answer the howl…asking the other dog to come and keep him company.

The call of the bored dog

Bored dogs turn into destructive dogs. The dog may develop into a destructive chewer or an incessant barker. This mostly happens when the dog is left alone all day without anyone or anything to play with. When a dog hears the siren of a passing ambulance or fire truck is it perceived as the howling of another dog. The answering howl is in fact an invitation for the other dog to come and play.

Boxer Dog Howling

Dog Howling with Siren

Dog howls at ambulance siren


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