Why Do Dogs Howl At Sirens? Dog Howling Explored

Why do dogs howl at sirens

Why do dogs howl at sirens?  Have you ever noticed your dog howling or barking at police sirens or train whistles?  It seems common across many dog breeds of all shapes and sizes.  Why do dogs howl at sirens though?

Hi my name is Mike and I’ve been training dogs for almost a decade now.  Decided to build this site and display some of the more commonly thought of but not necessarily asked questions from fellow dog lovers like myself. Today we will be discussing the topic of dog howling and answering the question, “Why do dogs howl at sirens?”  Lets find out shall we?

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Why Do Dogs Howl At Sirens

Dogs are creatures of instinct and habit.  Because of this, some of their traits and behaviors can actually be hereditary in nature.  Its the same with humans and a lot of other animals.  These traits or behaviors can come out during specific times.  You will usually notice them during some type of alertness or fight or flight response.

Why does my dog howl at sirens though?  As stated above, sometimes this can be an instinctual response to a sustained loud noise in the distance.  When dog’s were evolving many years ago a loud sustained noise like a siren could have meant a predator was nearby and marking their area.  The dogs would’ve probably been a part of a pack at the time and mimicked the activity to mark their area for others as well.

Dog howling or barking is also one of the many ways that dogs will communicate with each other over distances.   Howls could be used to signify danger or as a sort of echolocation to find their way back to the pack.

Other Reasons Your Dog Howls

Now that we have addressed the question, “Why do dogs howl at sirens?”, lets look at some of the other reasons your dog may howl in general.

Communication

This is one of the most common reasons your dog will howl.  Communication between other dogs and animals is very common.  Your dog has excellent hearing and they may be able to hear some chatter from other dogs or animals in the area that you can’t.  Sometimes this could set your dog off to howling back for seemingly no reason.  This could also be used by your dog as a sort of warning if they feel that someone is getting to close to their territory.  I had a dog who used to sit in our front yard and howl or bark at anyone walking by to close on our side of the street.  He would never leave our property but he would make sure that no one else came on it without permission!

Territory

This ties in a bit to what I just mentioned above and the earlier pack mentality of dogs as well.  Sometimes your pup might howl or growl and bark at perceived threats to their property.  A good way to prevent this is to remove your dog from any situation in which they can see people coming from a long way off.  You could also train it out of them but more on that later.

Dogs have always been territorial by nature and the use of their voice as an initial warning is very common among the species in general.  Fighting is usually a last resort and they would rather get your or another animals attention in other ways to scare them off.

Dog Howling Explained

Alertness

Sometimes your dog may howl at a loud noise like a police siren or jet overhead.  They may respond to these types of sounds by howling to let everyone know that they are alert and aware of their surroundings.  They may also do this to alert you to the potential danger of the situation as well.  Dog’s don’t always understand that a car driving by with loud music or a plane flying overhead is a pretty typical occurrence.  They hear a loud noise and some will respond in kind by making their own to let others know they are ready and willing to act if needed.

In my opinion, this is a valuable thing for dogs to do as long as you help train them to what noises should be triggering and which they should ignore as well.  This may take some time and patience but it’s worth it in the end for sure.

Location

This actually reaches back many years to when dogs were part of wild packs.  The packs were often migratory and would split off often to scout for food and water.  When one of these valuable resources were found, they would howl to signal the others of the situation.  There are actually confirmed cases of dogs changing the type of howl depending on the situation as well.  IE.  I’m hurt vs. I’ve found some water.  More on this below.

Howling helped to locate resources but it would also help the pack to stay in contact with each other and not stray too far.  If you were within howling location of the pack, you could signal them if help or back up was needed.  They could also use this as a way to establish a temporary den and let the other dogs know where to congregate once their hunting and foraging was finished.

Attention Seeking

This is a behavior that some dogs will display and it could cause some real issues for the dog owner down the road if not addressed.  Some dogs will use howling to get what they want from their owners.  It’s typical attention seeking behavior.  The best way to handle this is by creating a strong training foundation and showing your dog the proper way to respond to different situations.  I’ll go into this more in depth below.

The important thing to understand here is that dogs will sometimes use howling or barking as a way to get your attention.  The problem is, once they learn that this works, they will continue to do it as needed.  As soon as this association in their mind is made, it can be hard to reverse.  Negative reinforcement or yelling at your dog for doing the howling is also bad as they are still gaining feedback from you and what they want is your attention.  Never hit or yell at your dog.  These things are wildly counter productive to what you are probably intending to teach them in the first place.

Anxiety

I’m specifically referring to conditions like separation anxiety.  When you leave your dog and then return, they may be unable to control their reactions at first.  Some dogs will jump or bark and others may howl.  Your dog may also perform one of these actions when left by themselves as well.  I had a dog who would bark and howl relentlessly if I forgot to crate her before going out.  She saw the crate as a safe space and it comforted her when no one was in the house.

Anxious dogs can be worked with by both your vet and you.  Sometimes medication may help depending on the severity of the issue but most of the time, you can find other ways to help your dog cope such as creating a safe space like a crate room.  The important thing here is not to yell or hit your dog if they are acting up when you come home or when you leave.  Work with a vet or trainer to establish a routine and help your dog adjust accordingly.

Injury

Most dogs will howl if they are injured or need help.  This is a very common reason to hear a dog howling.  Sometimes they won’t be in any pain or danger at all but they might not understand the situation they are in.  A great example would be your dog getting stuck somewhere like a fence.  They may not be in any pain but panic has set in because they are stuck and need help. Let the howling begin!

If your dog does have a fall or manages to hurt themselves, you will hear them howl.  Usually a painful howl sounds very different from a normal alertness howl though.  The best way to explain it would be to say that you can hear the pain in their voice.  For those of you who may have experienced this, You’ll know what I mean right away.  For those of you who have never heard a pained howl, I hope you never do.

Obviously the best thing to do in this situation is to find your dog and address the situation at hand.  Once this is done, your dog will stop howling and hopefully no permanent damage was done.

Dog Found Something

Howling doesn’t always have to be for negative or warning purposes.  Some dogs will howl in glee if they find something that pleases them.  It could be an old bone or maybe it’s a nice smelling flower.  The key to remember here is that your dog has personality just like you and sometimes they may use a quick howl to signify how happy they are about a current situation.

dog training to discourage howling

Hunting

I added this category in because a lot of dogs are trained hunters and they will use howling and barking to their advantage in this case.  Technically, this involves a combination of many of the reasons displayed above as well but lets drill down a bit deeper on this one.

If you take your dog out hunting and they catch a scent of prey, off they will go into the woods.  Your dog can quickly outpace you as they search for their quarry.  When it is located.  Your dog may try to corner it and then alert you to the situation.  This is where howling and or barking can come into play.  These sounds carry over long distances and will help you to locate your dog to see what they have found.  Aside from the many other benefits dogs can bring to a hunt, this is one of the best in my opinion.

Dog Training To Discourage Howling

As I mentioned above, some of these howling problems are occurring due to either learned behaviors or bad behavior in general.  One of the best ways to cure your dog of these distasteful habits is by providing a training program for them.  Your dog does not have to be a puppy but the earlier you start training them, the better.

Establish a strong foundation for your dog.  You can do this by keeping your dog with you at all times and crate training them when you can’t directly supervise their activity.  A typical way to do this would be by using a tether method.  In other words, get a leash and tether the dog to you during the day when you are home.  When you have to go out, crate them until your return.

This is obviously a very basic overview of dog training or establishing this training foundation for your dog.  If you need some more help I suggest working with your vet or a trainer to get some more specifics.  If you’re more of a DIY person, check out this guide here and save some money by training the dog yourself.  You have a major advantage when training your own dog.  They love you!  Because of this, they will be more inclined to listen and follow your commands even though it may not seem like it at first.  Give it a try and see what happens.  You can always seek out additional help if needed.

Why Do Dogs Howl At Sirens Concluded

So there we have it.  The Question, “Why do dogs howl at sirens?” has been answered.  We have learned that there are many reasons for dogs to howl in general.  Some of these behaviors are learned and others seem to be hereditary or instinctual in nature.  The important thing is to determine why your dog may be howling in the first place and see what you can do to address the specific issue at hand.  Once you have this knowledge to go on, fixing or alleviating the problem is only a matter of time.

Remember that sometimes it may be beneficial for your dog to alert you to certain situations as well.  It may be worth the occasional howling fit if your dog is doing it for the right reasons!

 

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References

https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/training/how-dog-behavior-changes-with-age

https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/behavioral/c_dg_aggression_territorial

 

 

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