My sister and her husband used to live down the street from a fire station. At least 10 times a day (often many more), they would hear sirens from fire trucks leaving the station, responding to fires and medical emergencies. Their little dogs would howl every time they heard a siren, which, in these “work from home” times, would have been a huge distraction. But my sister and her husband thought it was cute! They enjoyed the little dog howls; they also had to keep their windows closed at all times, to keep the noise from bothering the neighbors. When I was visiting them, I thought it was mainly a pain in the rear, having our conversations interrupted every hour or so!
Today, they live in a semi-rural neighborhood. If they hear a fire engine, it’s a real cause for concern, not a prompt for a fun little “singing session.” So sometimes my sister starts a session herself. It doesn’t take much, just one or two howls, and the dogs all immediately get to their feet and join in.
Here’s the funny thing: When my senior dog Otto stays with them (when I’m out of town i.e., not much any more), he joins in with the little dogs, adding his big deep voice to the chorus of little voices. I keep telling my sister to try to get this on video, because at my house, Otto will NOT join in! And I have no idea why! If he’s outside when a fire truck or ambulance goes by, he will howl for a moment or two – but not if I’m near him. He will grow animated, like he’d like to howl, but he won’t do it. It’s so strange to me! I’ve never admonished him for howling, I would think it’s cute, too! But he just won’t do it in front of me!
Otto is sticking to his no-howling-at-home standard
My son and his girlfriend drove up here last weekend for a socially distant visit. I cleaned my detached home-office thoroughly and put mattresses on the floor for them, and gave them their own bathroom to use, and we ate meals and hung out outside together. They spent the days canoeing and playing disc golf at a course in town, relaxing, while my son’s hound dog Cole and his girlfriend’s parents’ dog, Bailey, stayed with me and my dogs. One evening after dinner, we were having the dogs show off their tricks for various bits and pieces of leftover dinner, and my son mentioned that Cole now knew how to howl on cue as a trick – and that little Bailey, a terrier-mix, would join in very earnestly. We turned on the camera to capture the action, and I hoped Otto might join in.
Nope. He wagged his tail and paced and looked like he wanted to join in, but held to his “no howling at home” standard. The big surprise was Woody, who did join the fun, in a surprisingly high-pitched tone. I would have thought such a big, big-chested dog would be more of a bass, or at least a baritone. He’s nearly a mezzo-soprano!
Now I want to practice, and see if I can put the behavior on cue, too, for one or both dogs. (For video of our one-time howling fest, see the Whole Dog Journal’s Instagram page, dogsofwholedogjournal.) What’s your stance on howling? Cute? Or annoying? Can your dog do it on cue? If so, share a video on our Facebook page! I’ll put a post there, asking for your contributions.