Why does your dog howl when it hears a siren?

Kövess Péter

2024. February 21 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

It is no coincidence that most dogs howl when they hear a siren. But the reason is not that the deafening noise is hurting their ears.


If you have a dog, you’ve probably experienced that when a siren goes off in the street, it starts howling – just as the other four-legged friends nearby start to howl. Their reason for this may surprise you.

The sound of a siren makes almost every dog howl

This is why dogs start howling when they hear a siren

The reaction to the siren has nothing to do with the sensitive hearing of dogs. It is a habit inherited from their ancestors, the wolves, who use howling as a way to share their location with the rest of the pack in the wild.

In the past, this was a vital means of communication when pack members lost each other during the hunt. In this respect, the dog is similar to the wolf: it can use howling to communicate its position to its mates over long distances. This can also happen when they hear a siren.

Dog do not know that the siren is coming from a vehicle, so they may interpret it as the howl of another animal.

Although in today’s world dogs no longer need to hunt, they still have the innate pack mentality that can drive them to answer the call of their brethren. Another factor may be that the sound might be seen as a sign that something is wrong in the environment. Dogs may feel that you, the leader of the pack, should be aware of this.

In dogs, this is when the instincts inherited from wolves may be at work

According to experts, this hypothesis is supported by the fact that if the sound really disturbed the dog that much, it might prompt it to run and hide from it.

Howling spreads like wildfire

If a dog starts howling when it hears a siren, you can be sure that other nearby dogs will follow suit. But as the siren recedes, they gradually quiet down. Presumably because they believe that the animal by which the sound was made has found its way again.

The more your dog hears a siren and the more times it reacts to it, the more likely it is that it will prompt a similar reaction in the future.

If the dog thinks that the sound is coming from an unfamiliar animal, it may also associate the disappearance of the sound with its own howl. So it might remember later that it managed to “chase away” the intruder with it.

Howling is usually "contagious"

Howling usually does not require any special intervention from the owner. However, if your pet does it even when there is no siren and it makes a shaky noise, you may want to take it to the vet as it may be in pain. For more on another cause of howling, click here.

dog howl howling Noise siren siren call sound

Related articles

More articles