Why do dogs howl at ambulance sirens?

Why do dogs howl at ambulance sirens?

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Your dog might be peacefully sleeping on their bed or chilling with you on the couch, but if an ambulance or firefighter truck passes by, oh dear, the howling monster appears. They run off to the nearest window and start howling like crazy. But why do they do this? Why do dogs howl at sirens? Is it because they descend from wolves or is there another explanation?

In this article we’ll go over the possible reasons why dogs howl at sirens and answer some common questions such as why do only some dogs howl at sirens, which dog breeds are more prone to howling at sirens and how to stop your dog from howling at sirens.

Reasons why dogs howl at sirens

Although there are no studies to back it up, many animal behaviorists and vets agree on the fact that there are two possible reasons why dogs howl at sirens.

Because they descend from wolves

When people wonder about the possible cause behind this strange dog behavior, wolves are the first thing that comes to their mind. Since dogs descend from wolves, most pet parents assume they must have inherited the habit of howling. 

Well, in this case, it is true! 

Many vets and animal behaviorists agree on the fact that one possible reason why dogs howl at sirens is because of the fact that they are descendants of wolves. These animals use howling as a way of communication. Whenever the pack is scattered, wolves use howling to communicate with each other, and as a way of telling them where they are (that’s right, as a rustic GPS).

When our furry best friends hear a siren, they can mistake it for another dog’s howl, so they start howling in response, to let them know that they are getting their message and, of course, where they are. 

What is more, dogs have a much better hearing ability than humans. So if your dog starts howling but you can’t hear a siren, it might be because it is too quiet for you to hear it, but not for your super dog. 

Because they are protecting you

When dogs hear a siren for the first time, they might be scared of it. Picture this: you are chilling in your house and all of a sudden you start listening to an incredibly loud siren passing by. I think anyone would be scared in this situation.

As loyal as they are, when dogs perceive a threat, their first thought is to protect their family, their pack. And that’s when the howling starts. When your dog howls at sirens, they might be trying to protect you from what they perceive as a potential threat.  

In addition, since they usually come from an ambulance or fire truck, the sound plays for a limited amount of time. This creates a false scenario in our dog’s mind. They believe that their howling was effective enough to chase the threat away. This reinforces the behavior and will make your dog howl whenever the threatening siren appears. 

Do sirens hurt dogs’ ears?

A question many pet parents have is whether this piercing sound hurts their dog’s ears or not. This is a common belief since we all know that dogs hear at a higher frequency than we do. But many professionals agree on the fact that sirens do not hurt dogs’ ears.

They argue this statement by relying on dogs’ body language. When they are stressed or in pain, dogs tend to display behaviors such as hiding under a safe surface, constantly licking their lips and cowering. Therefore, just howling cannot be identified as a sign of pain or distress. 

Why don’t all dogs howl at sirens

Now that we have discussed the two possible reasons why dogs howl at sirens, we can address the other big pending question about this topic: why do some dogs ignore sirens while others can’t help but start howling whenever an ambulance passes by?

The truth is quite simple actually: not all dogs howl at sirens because not all dogs are the same. Just as it happens with humans, not every pup has the same reaction that others when faced with the same stimulus. 

What is more, there are some dog breeds that are more prone to howling than others. The ones that are more closely related to wolves are obviously known for being passionate howlers, such as the spitz breeds like Huskies and Chow Chows. 

The dogs that used to be used for hunting such as beagles and foxhounds are also widely known howlers. Since they used to hunt in packs, they used their howling to communicate with one another.

How to stop your dog from howling

Although there is no reason why you should stop your dog from howling, you might need to do it if you live in an apartment building because your neighbors don’t appreciate the howling. If that’s the case, there are a few tips you can follow.

The best thing you can do is teach your dog the command “quiet”. So whenever a fire truck or ambulance passes by, you can tell them to stay quiet and they won’t howl. In order, to get your dog to respond to the command “quiet”, train them with their favorite treat.

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