Dogs howling at sirens: Why?

When we were kids, our parents once drove to the theater after the movies, to pick us up in the rain. They brought our big dog Zipper with them. Before we could pull away from the curb, an ambulance sped by, its siren screaming. Zipper raised his head and howled long and loud.
I also knew a German named Kurt, who had a dog–apparently from Germany–a little poodle named Baron. I once asked Kurt, “What does Baron do when he hears the siren of a police car, ambulance, or fire engine?”
Kurt said, “He howls like any wolf.”
Is that it? Do dogs howl at sirens because of their lupine heritage? Or do the ultrasonic frequencies in the sirens hurt dogs’ ears?
Do any Dopers know the answer, please? :slight_smile:

My common sense says it hurts their sensitive ears.

But my sense is anything but common.

::ducks & covers::


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Well, my dog is part coyote and has yet to howl once. And she’s going on 3.

I would have to say from observing my dogs (sorry if you’re one of my neighbors) that they act like it is a wolf call and they are answering. Other things like fireworks can be obviously hurting their ears and they act completely different.

I can get my dog to howl pretty easily and I don’t think it has anything to do with ultrasonic or harmful noise. If I start to call the cows home (pick your call; Come-Bise, Ca-bise, Ca-bossy etc.) Biscuit will start to howl (Arrooooo) right after I call.
He will also give out a howl in answer to a cow(s) giving a long bellaring moo. He seems to take a certain amount of enjoyment in it actually. Then again my dog is considered somewhat weird by most people. I think it’s his mutt heritage and his owner’s personality rubbing off on him.

At noon on Saturdays they test the civil defense sirens. Where we live we can actually hear 3 or 4. Then the church bells start up, and the dogs join in. IT’S NNNNOOOOOOOONNN!!!

My dog howls at sirens. I don’t get the impression that he’s in any kind of pain. I think he enjoys it.
He’s not a “talker”, or a barker.
It’s hilarious when I’m driving and he has his head out the window…
Anyway, why doesn’t he respond at all to sirens on the television?

Id imagine dogs have excellent directional hearing, and that they usually expect random noise to come from the direction of the TV. The siren, however, is probably ‘new’ to them and they have to bark at it and go nuts.

I agree with the ‘howling along’ theory. Was once at a concert near the zoo, and a pipe band was playing. We could hear the wolves howling along to Scotland the Brave.
With dogs, I think it may depend on the breed. The shepherd-husky next door howls at every siren she hears. My mastiffs, age 8 and 3, have yet to howl. Ever.

The sirens in the U.S. are based on a dog’s howl. Related: the reason dalmations became fire department mascots is from the days of horse drawn fire wagons. The dalmations were not afraid of horses and were sent ahead to stop traffic at intersections to make way for the fire wagons. When they went to horseless fire trucks the dog’s couldn’t keep up and were put in (more) danger by other automobiles on the road and a siren was made that was based on the howl that everyone was familiar with.

The dogs are definitely howling along. When in pain, our dog reacted very differently, but he was always calm when howling. Attentive, even. I could get our dog to howl by practicing my trumpet. My sister insisted that I was hurting his ears, but I knew better. The dog would be looking over to me for cues while I played.

My wife Pepper Mill had a dog, too, and she can do a pretty good dog howl. Sometimes we’ll both howl at the same time (even though nobody is hurting our ears), and embarrass our daughter, Millical.

Floyd the Beagle used to howl when I played trumpet as well.

Our golden rarely howls. Usually no more than an a-roo-roo-roo type bark. As we live on a kinda busy street, our kids joke that we hear at least one siren a day. Daisy never reacts to the sirens.

Her most annoying habit is when some people come to the door she goes to them, assumes a submissive pose and whimpers, expressing a desire to be petted.

(Yes, I will tie this back to the OP and subsequent posts!)

My 3 kids all play band instruments: flute, piccolo, trumpet, and clarinet. When the kids play, Daisy begins to whine. It really gives the impression that she is in pain. But I recently noticed that she doesn’t make any attempt to get away from the music. In fact, to the contrary, she often comes into the room where the kids are playing.

Saturday, I was in the living room and my son was blowing his horn, and Daisy came in from another room and sidled up to my chair whimpering. It struck me that if it hurt, wouldn’t it make sense for her to try to get further away from it? We have a basement and an upstairs, so she could have put some distance and insulation between her and the source. So I started wondering if she was, in fact, singing along. Wierd.

I think howling is to a dog kinda what singing is to humans. I used to have a wolf/german shepherd mix, and he and I would sometimes sit on the deck and howl together. (I do a pretty mean wolf howl myself.) He always seemed to love it.