A train horn. An ambulance siren. A loud, bass-filled song playing in a car driving down the street. Dogs react to many different sounds with howling, and music is no exception. If you're curious about what causes howling and why your dog reacts when you play a musical instrument, it comes down to instinct and a dog's connection to his ancestors. When there are harmonica sounds, for dogs, the pitch may remind them of another canine or animal, and they may want to join in on making the sound.
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Howling is a way dogs communicate. Their long-distance cousins, wolves, howl to communicate with one another. Your dog might be reminded of those sounds when hearing a harmonica or other noise. So, if you want to entertain your dog, playing harmonica may be fun for both of you.
Why do dogs howl?
Howling in domesticated dogs evolved from wolves' form of communication with members of their pack, and the reasons our pets do it today are somewhat similar. Dogs sometimes howl at one another to communicate. If your dog howls directly at you, she may be trying to warn you about something she senses to be dangerous. She might also want you to pay more attention to her, check out something she found, or notice that she is injured or uncomfortable. Howling that happens when you're away from her can be a sign of separation anxiety.
When they hear a loud pitch — like that of a harmonica or even higher pitches that humans can't detect — dogs will howl in response. Some super-high pitches can be painful to canines. With this in mind, note that sound-based training deterrents can be very unpleasant and upsetting to your dog, and that should be avoided.
Harmonica sounds for dogs
If it sounds like your dog is singing along when you play harmonica or another instrument, you might not be imagining things. Dogs tend to imitate the sounds they hear, and from centuries of working to match other wolves' vocalizations as a means of communication, dogs have actually developed a keen sense of pitch.
Dogs sometimes even enjoy listening to music. Researchers found that dogs tend to prefer soft rock music or reggae as their music genres of choice. When dogs howl to music, it means they're reacting to it but not necessarily that they are upset. If the sound of the harmonica bothered them, they would go to a different area to try to get away from it. When there are harmonica sounds, for dogs, curiosity and enjoyment is what draws them in.
Curb your dog's excessive howling
Howling is instinctual, and it can be fun in situations where your dog gets excited or is reacting to something. However, if your dog is constantly howling to get your attention beyond occasional reactions, this can turn into a bad habit and can be cause for concern. If you determine that the reason for the howling is just to get you to notice him, work on spending time with him and ignore him if he uses howling to try to earn your focus.
Don't leave your dog alone at home or outside for hours at a time and make sure he gets plenty of human interaction to help his mental health and well-being. If you try to work on the problem and it continues at a high rate, contact your veterinarian to make sure it's not being caused by a health issue, such as anxiety or depression.
- American Kennel Club: Why Do Dogs Howl to Music? You Can Thank Their Ancestors
- British Broadcasting Corporation: Dogs 'Prefer Reggae and Soft Rock' to Other Music Genres, Research Suggests
- American Kennel Club: Why Do Dogs Howl?
- VCA Hospitals: Why Do Dogs Howl?
- Union Lake Pet Services: Why Do Dogs Howl at Sirens?
- Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Howling