Dog owners know when a siren blasts around the corner, their dog will provide a vocal response. The reason dogs howl at sirens is unknown, but we’re still intrigued by this phenomenon.
It all started with their ancestors: wolves
Some experts interpret dogs howling at sirens as a trait inherited from their ancestors: wolves. Howling is a form of communication among wolves, who live in packs. Howls and similar vocal sounds are used by wolves to transmit messages, mainly indicating their location, over long distances.
Protecting their owners
Sirens emit a uniform sound. It would be interesting to learn how the high-pitched ring would translate into dog language. For dogs, howling at sirens is a normal response to an unusual sound. However, certified dog trainers think that the reason is much deeper than that, citing that dogs are guardians in nature, and will always strive to protect their owners and homes. It is important to note that dogs have a much better hearing ability than humans. So, when a high-pitched sound becomes unexpectedly audible, their instinct is to warn their owner and respond to the potential threat assertively.
Are sirens harmful to dogs’ hearing?
A common assumption among owners is that dogs howl at sirens because they are annoyed and provoked by the sound, therefore responding with a howl. Many experts disagree, arguing that if a dog is painfully bothered by the sound, other physical signs would also be visible. Behavioral changes like shaking and lip licking would be apparent. It’s doubtful that siren noise can hurt pups. Most experts are unanimous in their conclusion that dogs do not howl at sirens because of distress.
Dogs indeed have more sensitive hearing than humans. Though the frequency of sirens is not high enough to make them uncomfortable, experiments have shown that frequencies above 25,000 hertz can be painful for dogs. Most sirens used in ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars, however, do not go above 1,600 hertz.
Not all dogs howl at sirens
There is no scientific study that has correlated sirens and howling. Surprisingly, not all dogs react with the same enthusiasm when encountering an ambulance or a fire truck. Some dogs ignore sirens completely. On the opposite side of the spectrum, breeds like Bloodhounds, Foxhounds, and Beagles cannot resist the urge to respond to a passing fire truck. The explanation is obvious – they are hunting canines, ones that use howling to signal their location to their owners.
Other sounds that inspire a howl
Sirens have been at the center of this discussion, but dogs react to other sounds as well. Musical instruments, for example. Upon hearing a musical instrument, some dogs even try to mimic the sound produced. You can look up examples of this on YouTube.
How to stop your dog from howling at sirens
Barking is an issue for every dog owner, and constant howling can be a nightmare, especially if you live in a shared space or an apartment complex. Your neighbors will not be impressed with howls coming out of your apartment, trust us.
To deal with this annoying habit, pet owners can train their canines using the reward-motivating system. Howling is a hard habit to break, but a patient and persistent owner can allow their dog to see the benefits of keeping their voice down. By giving them treats every time they react calmly to sirens and firmly scolding them if they misbehave, even this instinctive behavior- with time and consistency- can be altered. Keep in mind, however, scolding a dog may trigger other phobias and anxiety.
Howling at sirens is a canine habit that dog owners and scientists alike have trouble explaining. The most logical explanation is that the sirens bring out the inner wolf in your pet. Howling is usually not related to a health problem. At most, it can be annoying. If it becomes concerning, owners are encouraged to talk to a veterinarian or a dog trainer regarding this issue. With their help, this instinct can be managed.
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