Why Do Dogs Howl At Sirens? 5 Different Reasons


Last Updated: April 10, 2024 | 7 min read | 2 Comments

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Did an ambulance just roll by, and your dog started to howl? While this may be loud or annoying, it’s sometimes unavoidable. So why do dogs howl at sirens? There are actually a number of reasons a dog may call out when an ambulance or police vehicle drives by.

If you have a dog that is prone to howling, you know that a siren in the distance can easily set them off. A passing ambulance can have your pup bolting to the window with a loud bellow. This often leads us to wonder what these sirens could possibly trigger in their mind.

In this article, we’ll dive into the details of why dogs howl at sirens and help you better understand this canine behavior going forward.

5 Reasons Why Dogs Howl At Sirens

Small Dog Howling in Snow at Siren
While howling happens for a variety of reasons, there are five that are most common.

What does it mean when a dog howls? Before we discuss the reasons behind a dog’s reaction to sirens, we must first understand the behavior of howling in general.  Howling is an ingrained method of communication that our dogs have inherited from their wolf ancestors. While there are many ways our dogs communicate with us, some methods are more primal.

Our dog’s ancestors used howling as a way to inform the rest of the pack of their whereabouts. It’s also a way that they communicate to run off any foreign invaders. While our pups may no longer need to communicate with their animal pack, this behavior is still seen in many dogs today.

Our dogs may not be a member of a wolf pack, but they are a member of our family. With loving a family comes a huge responsibility in our furry friend’s eyes, and they still feel the need to communicate with us about our surroundings. Each howl carries an important message from your beloved companion, so it’s up to us to decipher their howls.

There are many reasons dogs may howl at sirens and other loud and high-pitched sounds. There are five reasons that are most common, though, and we cover each of those below.

1. They Are Tapping Into Their Inner Wolf

Husky Howling Outdoors
All dogs have some primal inner wolf tendencies.

As we mentioned above, even the smallest of furry friends have wild ancestors. Our dogs are descendants of wolves, and their wild roots can peak through from time to time. When a wolf would get separated from their pack, they would let out a high-pitched howl to alert the rest of the pack of their location.

While a passing siren may not be a wolf in distress, it certainly mimics the sound. When a dog hears and then howls at the sound of a siren, it may be their inner wolf responding to the sound of a high-pitched “howl” in the distance.

2. They Are Alerting Us

Great Dane Howling
Your pup may just be alerting you to the fact that there’s an intruder nearby.

As we mentioned above, our dogs feel a need to protect their loved ones. They also want to keep us aware of our surroundings. When a dog hears a siren approaching their home, they may process it as a possible threat that we need to be aware of. Sirens can be loud and daunting, and our pups will often hear it long before we do. Because of this, they may feel a need to alert us of the siren’s presence, just in case it brings any danger.

If your dog is howling in an attempt to alert you, you may notice them running to your side or even barking at you for attention. You may notice your pup howling with a sense of urgency, with their howls quickly ending once the siren fades. Though these sirens may not be a true risk to anyone in the home, our pups are on alert just in case. The high-pitched sounds are a signal to them that something is amiss. High-pitched noises can provoke anxiety, causing dogs to act panicked or on guard.

3. They Are Guarding Their Home

German Shepherd Howling
Some dogs are just more protective of their home and territory.

When we welcome a dog into our home, our house becomes a territory that they want to protect and guard. Not only are they protecting the space within your home, but the family members that reside in it. If your dog thinks a siren is a potential threat, they may want to send a signal that tells any intruders to stay away.

A loud howl can fend off potential predators, showing that this particular area is already claimed. If your pup is known to howl at people entering your home, they may be howling in an effort to guard their property.

4. They Are Stating Their Presence

Husky Dog Howling Outdoors
Some dogs just like to let their presence be felt.

Wild wolves will often howl into the distance to state their presence to other wolves in the area. This doesn’t always mean they are threatening a potential intruder, but rather making the presence known in general.  A wolf will also howl to their pack if they ever become separated, helping the other wolves locate them if needed.

Because a siren can mimic a howl, your pup may think this is coming from a dog in distress. A loud howl may be your dog’s way of saying, “I’m over here,” and can be their way of lending a helping hand. A howl may also be your dog’s way of alerting other dogs to an incoming furry friend in the area.

5. They Are Scared Of The Sirens

Mixed Breed Howling Dog
Some pups are just frightened of loud noises.

Some dogs have a hard time with loud noises, such as sirens or fireworks. A passing siren may startle a nervous pup, causing them to howl until the siren fades away. Dogs display fear in many ways, ranging from constant barking to destructive behavior. If your dog turns to howl when they are in stressful situations, they may be howling at the sirens due to fear. They may also react by tilting their heads or other canine-specific behaviors like pacing and panting.

Can You Stop A Dog From Howling?

Though many dogs will stop howling once the sirens have passed, the habit can still be a bit frustrating. Sudden howls can startle anyone in the home and can be a nuisance if it happens in the late hours of the night. So, how can you stop a dog from howling? Let’s dive into some of our favorite tips for ending this behavior.

  • Ignore them or leave the room when they begin to howl.
  • This will show them that they will not be rewarded for this behavior.
  • Reward your dog when they are quiet each time a siren passes.
  • You can do this by offering them praise.
  • You can also give them their favorite treat or offer a belly rub.
  • Contact a dog trainer if the above options fail.
  • Some dogs need extra help with getting comfortable with the sound of sirens.

Howling is normal canine behavior, so it may take some time to abolish the behavior for good. Be sure to offer your pup patience throughout the process, and contact a dog trainer if you are struggling with the task.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may still have some questions as to why your pups might be howling or if you can even stop the behavior. Here are some additional commonly asked questions when trying to solve this behavior.

What Does It Mean When A Dog Howls?

Howling is a dog’s way of communicating. They are letting you, or other animals around them, know something out of the ordinary is happening. Perhaps they want to let other dogs or people know where they are. Excessive howling may indicate pain or illness, especially if it is accompanied by growling and odd behavior. In some cases, dogs may howl because they are lonely or to get attention.

Why Do Some Dogs Ignore Sirens?

While some dogs react to every siren that passes by, other dogs ignore the sound completely. Just as every human can react to something in a different way, our pups are the same. Each dog has a different way of coping or problem-solving, and this stands true in their reaction to sirens.

If your dog doesn’t howl at passing sirens, there is a list of possible reasons why. Some dogs may feel secure in their home and don’t feel a need to howl. Some dogs may be hard of hearing.  But, some pups may just be used to the sound and know it does not bring any danger. No matter the cause of your dog’s disinterest in sirens, all are perfectly fine. Every dog is different, and not every pup will feel the need to howl at passing sounds.

Do Sirens Hurt A Dog’s Ears?

Due to the reaction that many dogs have when sirens come around, some pet owners wonder if sirens can actually hurt a dog’s ears. A loud noise can cause us to cover our ears in protection. So, can sirens do the same to our pets? Though sirens can certainly be startling, it’s unlikely that they actually hurt a dog’s ears.

According to veterinary experts, it is extremely unlikely that a standard siren can cause a dog actual pain. It is much more likely that a dog is howling at sirens due to the reasons we listed above rather than the fact that it is uncomfortable for their ears. This is proven in pups that run toward the sound of sirens.

While standard sirens may not hurt a dog’s ears, some high-pitched sounds can. It’s been proven that frequencies above 25,000 Hz can be extremely uncomfortable for our furry friends. Even more painful the higher and louder these sounds get. As long as your local fire department is not using a high-pitched siren, it will not have the ability to hurt them in the way that high-pitched sounds can.

If a dog’s ears are ever in pain due to a sound, there are a few things you may notice in their behavior. An uncomfortable dog may run and hide, tremble, pace, resort to destructive behavior, or any other sign of stress.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many possible reasons why our furry friends howl at sirens. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can better understand your dog’s inner wolf going forward. When all else fails, make sure to consult a local dog trainer that engages in positive reinforcement techniques.

Dogs playing in park adhering to rules

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