May 12, 2021

Why dogs REALLY howl at sirens

Why dogs REALLY howl at sirens
Dr. Chris Brown

This might be the most iconic dog quirk of all. Why do dogs unleash the high notes and howl at sirens? Well, the answer might surprise you...

Many of us didn’t know we had a mini-musician in the family until the ambulance siren awoke something deep inside them. But while some people fear the sound is hurting their sensitive ears, there is a lot more going on than meets the eyes and ears...

At it's most simple form, this is a very high-pitched form of reactivity.

You see, the howl has been used by wolves for thousands of years as a form of social media where members of the pack are encouraged to ‘check-in’ and reveal their location. And despite your tame-wolf swapping the wilderness for the warmth of our homes, the purpose is still the same.

When they hear the siren, that wailing pitch triggers their instincts into action and they talk back. They're either telling the siren that they already own this territory or simply communicating with it. They’ll also match the pitch and mimic the siren almost faultlessly which is essentially a surprisingly emotional social experience.

And they always win!

Amusingly, the siren almost always fades into the distance which to their mind makes them believe the interaction was successful. It delivered the necessary messages and the other dog backed off. Yes, the system works!

Compulsive howlers are also more likely to be reactive barkers at passers by, other dogs or just the neighbours arriving home. For those situations, the L-theanine in my Calm + Collected boosted treats is proven to help reduce irritable and reactive barking. 


Calm + Collected
Calm + Collected

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