How to Stop a Dog From Howling at Sirens

by Judith Willson

Just in case you hadn't heard the siren.

Howling is a different response from barking, and the training is different. Dogs usually howl for two reasons: to express misery or to communicate their presence to other dogs. If you think of wolves howling at night, you’ll understand why your dog is howling at sirens. The loud, high-pitched noise is in a similar key to another dog, and he is responding accordingly. He is not, usually, howling to warn you -- he’d bark in that case. He’s just howling to announce to the canine world where he is.

Step 1

Observe your dog and note when he howls. Does he start howling at the faint sound of a siren in the distance or only when it gets close? What does he do before he starts howling? If his howling at sirens has become so frequent as to constitute a nuisance, chances are you live in a place where they are a regular occurrence so this step shouldn’t take too long.

Step 2

Make a recording of a siren the next time an emergency vehicle goes past. Alternatively, find a recording online.

Step 3

Sit with your dog, ask him to lie down and begin an activity that he associates with relaxation, such as you watching television or reading a book.

Step 4

Turn the volume down on the device on which you plan to play your siren recording. It should be nearly inaudible.

Step 5

Play the recording and observe your dog’s behavior. If he doesn’t respond at all, repeat at a slightly louder volume. If he responds by pricking his ears or moving, catch his attention and ask him to lie down again before returning to your relaxing activity.

Step 6

Repeat the procedure several times a day. Use a slightly louder volume only when your dog stops responding to the recording. When you hear a real siren approaching, ask your dog to lie down, stroke him or talk quietly and maintain eye contact until the siren has faded away.

Step 7

Conduct a maintenance session every two or three weeks after your dog has stopped responding to any sirens. Simply follow the above procedure using the recording at the loudest volume.

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