We have all experienced it. You are going about your business, reading your favorite book or cooking dinner for the family when suddenly, ever so faintly in the distance, you hear a fire engine siren. You shoot a glance at your dog but you know it's already too late and there isn't much you can do anyhow. His ears are perked, his tail is going 90 miles an hour in that nervous/excited wag and then he lets it loose - that ear piercing, belly howl you are sure the whole neighborhood can hear. But wait! They can't hear your dog specifically, because it seems every dog in the neighborhood has been set off and now it sounds like there's a pack of wolves out there. I mean really, what gives? Why do dogs just love a good howling spree whenever an ambulance goes by?
Do Sirens Hurt a Dog's Ears?
It's a well-known fact that dogs can hear much better than us. While humans can hear noises up to a mere 23 Hertz, dogs can hear high pitched sounds up to 45 Hertz. Does that mean that the sirens are actually hurting their ears and they are simply shouting for someone to lower the volume? Other behavior would indicate otherwise. You have probably noticed that dogs don't tend to run and hide or tuck their tail at the sound of a siren. Instead, most dogs run towards the source of the noise indicating that they aren't irritated by the noise. So what is really going on?
Why Howl at Sirens?
There are a couple of possibilities. One lies in your dog's ancestral instincts. Dogs are social animals and howling is one of the many ways they communicate with one another. So when a howl-like siren goes off, that wolf pack instinct gets triggered and your pup feels the need to respond! This can quickly turn into a neighborhood event as all the canines on the block start joining in the "group message." What are they saying to one another? That we can only guess...
Another possibility is that your dog is just trying to be helpful. In your house, you are your dog's pack leader - the Alpha. So when something crazy happens, what's the first thing a dog should do? That's right, alert the Alpha. So maybe they aren't confusing that siren for a wolf ancestor. Instead, they might simply be trying to tell you that something big is going down in the neighborhood. And if that's the case, annoying as our dog's howl might be, we should probably thank them for the head's up.