Hearing a vehicle with a siren coming (such as the police, fire service of ambulance service responding to an emergency call) certainly makes most of us sit up and take note, for a variety of reasons. If we are driving, we try to see where the vehicle is coming from so that we can get out of the way, and if we are at home and the sirens sound close, we are apt to have a look out of the window to see if something is going on nearby.
Naturally, if you live on a main road or one that is regularly trafficked by emergency vehicles with sirens, our responses become less highly tuned over time, but it is certainly fair to say that the sound of a siren gets our attention, which is of course exactly what it is designed to do. The same is true if you live in an area where you might hear other sirens as well-such as on flood plains, near military ranges and in other areas where a local warning siren system is used to advise people of threats and/or to steer clear of certain areas.
For some of us who own dogs too, you may find that your dog will also begin to behave strangely if they hear a siren, even in some cases going so far as to howl along with the siren, and not letting up until it is out of earshot! This can be confusing, amusing and/or annoying depending on the situation and how often it happens, and if your dog is one of the many that like to join in with a wailing siren, you have probably wondered why this is!
In this article, we will look at some of the main reasons why some dogs tend to howl when they hear an emergency siren, and how such as sound is read by your dog. Read on to learn more.
First of all, it is important to bear in mind that how we as people hear a siren is different to how dogs hear it, because we have a different range of hearing attenuation that does not pick up as much detail at the high frequency end of the range.
Dogs will hear a siren more clearly, acutely and in more detail than we will-which is why you may, in some cases, see your dog get up and start behaving differently a few seconds before the sound of the siren comes into earshot for you.
For some dogs, the sound of a siren will be read as a howling noise being made by another dog-and you might find that your dog will react to certain siren sounds but not others, as each of the emergency services uses a different type of sound.
For dogs, howling is like yawning-if one dog is doing it, other dogs-even those that are usually fairly quiet-are apt to join in. This is particularly true for breeds that tend to be very vocal and that howl more than most, like the Siberian husky.
Dogs howl for a great many different reasons, which will vary depending on the circumstances. The sound of a howling dog is very piercing and can be quite alarming for people, and dogs will sometimes howl to pass on a warning or alert to other dogs across a distance that something is happening. This is likely to be the case when your dog hears a siren, although howling can also be due to boredom, distress, to get attention, or simply because dogs enjoy making a lot of noise on occasion!
As mentioned, howling is often contagious between dogs, and if one dog is howling, other dogs are apt to take up the call. If your dog hears a siren, they are unlikely to know that it is coming from a vehicle or other mechanical unit, and will more than likely think they are hearing another dog, because the type of sound it makes is familiar to them as a noise they can replicate, and that they both hear and feel in their bodies.
If your dog hears a siren and howls in response, they are likely to think that they are replying to another dog, or passing on an important message, even if that message is only that now is the time to make some noise!
Finally, as we mentioned in the opening paragraph, we as people tend to change our behaviours unconsciously when we hear a siren, by trying to orient ourselves to the direction of the sound and see where it is coming from and what is going on.
If your dog is with you, they will pick up on this-even if your cues are as subtle as paying attention and listening closely-and whilst your responses alone will not generally be enough to cause howling, it does reinforce your dog’s belief that something is happening, and will be more likely to make them howl if they were borderline about what to do!