Have you ever noticed that certain noises such as harmonicas will set your dog off? What this means is your dog will start howling or even crying when you play the harmonica. Does this mean your dog does not like the harmonious sounds of a harmonica? Does the sound irritate their ears? Or do dogs just like to sing along? What is really going on with your dog when these high pitch harmonica sounds are playing? This was such an interesting question we thought we should take a few minutes and get to the bottom of this unusual behavior once and for all.
The Root of the Behavior
To understand why your pup may howl or yelp whenever you pull out a harmonica, you must first understand their sense of hearing. Sound is a crucial part of being a dog and they use their ears to help communicate what is going on around them. Hearing helps warn your dog of danger, as well as lets him or her know when you are praising or scolding them. In the wild, their hearing helped them to hunt and communicate with others. With that being said, dogs are also very vocal animals. They yip, bark, yell, howl, or even growl to get their message across. With sound and communication being key aspects of being a dog, when they hear a harmonica they react to the music much the same way we do. Dogs have such a keen sense of hearing that they can actually pick up on much high sound frequencies then we can. For instance, a dog can tell the difference between different dogs based on how they howl. To us, this may seem like just a whole lot of noise, but to your dog, it is just their friends down the road enjoying themselves.
Since dogs can pick up on higher frequencies, some of the sounds that we may not be able to differentiate from on a harmonica, they can actually hear. It’s not really hurting your dog’s ears. In fact, music affects their moods like it affects our moods and behaviors. Studies have been done to show that certain music affects dogs differently. For example, heavy metal music could make your dog more agitated, while classical music is more soothing to your dog. So, it is pretty safe to say that when you are playing your harmonica, your dog enjoys it and is singing along to the tune. Don’t fret over this behavior it is pretty common.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs howl for several reasons. If you think the howling at the harmonica is attention seeking behavior then ignore him. Don’t look at your dog, don’t speak to him, and don’t even scold him. Any type of attention whether it is positive or negative will only encourage him to continue. Also if the howling at your catchy little harmonica tune is bothersome, you can train your dog to hush or be quiet. First, teach your dog to speak. When he barks, reward him with praise and treats. Then teach him to be quiet or to hush. Once again reward him with praise and treats. Even if he is only quiet for a second, reward this behavior. Once you have taught him how to speak and hush quite well, the next time you play your harmonica, tell him to hush when he howls. If he obeys reward him with a treat. Continue this training until your dog understands to hush while you are playing. Keep in mind that this behavior most of the time is not your dog acting out or being in some type of pain. So, if it doesn’t bother you at all, you can also just let him howl away while you play. It’s really up to you.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The higher notes and musical tones in harmonicas set a certain mood in dogs that causes them to howl. It does not mean that your dog does not like the music or that it is hurting his ears, it just means your dog is enjoying the sound in his own way. If the howling gets annoying, then you can either stop playing or encourage a different behavior in your dog.