Why do dogs howl when they hear sirens?

You and your pooch are sitting on the couch on a quiet afternoon enjoying reruns of “Lassie.” Then, you hear it coming closer and closer; the wail of a siren. Now, it’s no longer a quiet afternoon because your faithful friend has decided she’d like to howl along with the siren. Kind of a duet. But then, all the other dogs in the neighborhood join in and it’s a full chorus! So, why do dogs howl when they hear sirens?

Rendering of howling coyoteThe Wolf

It all starts with the wolf. As you may know, dog’s ancestors are wolves and wolves use howling for long-distance communication. Wolves, like dogs and coyotes, are social animals who live in packs and they howl together. Howling likely tells other packs that they are healthy, alive and living in a certain area. Also, a wolf who is separated from their pack might use howling to find his relatives. You might call it a form of natural GPS. In addition to howling, canines also use barking and growling to communicate.

Thus, researchers believe that when a dog hears a high-pitched sound such as a siren, she’s communicating with another dog. Is it a friendly howl? Maybe it is and your dog is just saying “hello.” But you may have noticed that as the siren sound fades, your dog stops howling. Kinda like she thinks she has told that other dog where to go and was successful in making that dog go there!

Not all dogs howl at sirens and there hasn’t been any research to determine why this is so. Maybe some need that connection to what they think are other dogs and some just don’t

Does it hurt?

Little dog holding ears

You may have wondered if the siren sound hurts your dog’s ears. Well, as we know, dogs have pretty darn good hearing and it’s much better than that of humans. They can hear very high-pitched sounds that we can’t (think dog whistle). Their hearing range extends up to 45 hertz and ours only to 23. But, veterinary behaviorists point out that most dogs don’t run and hide or show other indications of pain upon hearing sirens.

So if you think your dog is saying “Ouch, that really hertz” it probably really doesn’t.

One other possibility to Consider

In your house, you’re the pack leader. So, whenever there’s anything crazy happening like a siren, maybe your dog just wants to communicate to you that there’s something big going on out there!


Why do dogs howl when they hear sirens? However you look at it, it’s probably a way to communicate.

We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. Does your dog howl? Let us know.


6 comments on “Why do dogs howl when they hear sirens?

  1. Sujandar Mahesan

    I have always wondered why dogs do that and now I understand why. It is really cool how wolf uses howling for long distance communication, I wish I can understand them. Also thank you for clearing the myth about sirens can hurt dogs. It is good to know that it doesn’t.

    Thank you for sharing this informative post.

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Sujandar.

      Thanks for your comments. I think it would be pretty crazy if humans howled too. Don’t you?

  2. Derek

    Interesting read. I always thought that maybe it was a pain thing. Is there any explanation for why some dogs howl and some don’t? My two dogs we have had for 10 years have never howled when we hear a siren. However, my mother has a neighbor whose dog always howls when there’s a siren. 

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Derek:

      No one really knows why some dogs howl and some don’t. I haven’t seen any research on the breeds that are most likely to howl either.

      I guess it will remain a mystery until there’s scientific study!

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Renton

    This is a great post! Our dogs don’t really howl at sirens because one is old (like 15) with the same personality as Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh and the other is a puppy who doesent really seem to be bothered by sirens. I do hear some other dogs in the neighborhood making a little fuss but not ours.

    One interesting thing though is that we have a squeaky toy and a rubber chicken for them to play with and whenever we squeeze them the puppy howls along with the toy! She doesent run away and hide indicating fear or pain, and in fact she will race from the other side of the house to come and sing along with her toys. 

    I think that is pretty interesting that they are so selective in “who” they howl with.

    Thanks for sharing this this interesting information!

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Renton:

      Perhaps your puppy is having a conversation with the toy. It’s interesting that some dogs howl and some don’t. I suppose each dog has her own particular communication style.

      I’ve been known to howl along with dogs and have found it to be quite enjoyable!

      Thanks for your comments!


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