I believe it triggers a primal instinct that reminds them of the Call of the Wild, they are replying to the pack gathering together for the hunt so to speak.
I have always heard that the pitch of the sirens hurt their ears. I tend to believe this explanation as the kind of howling they make at hearing sirens is a lot different than the baying sort they usually make when disturbed, concerned or out hunting.
Someone once told me, it is because it hurts their ears. My dog howls when she hears sirens all the time, I don't think it because she's is hurting though.
My mother always said she thought loud, high-pitched sounds hurt dogs' ears--since their hearing is much more acute and sensitive than ours--and howl because their ears hurt.
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