Quest: Why dogs howl at ‘Law and Order’

Yes, dogs howl at Law and Order. Also at the 20th Century Fox theme. fire engines. And at howling. What I want to know is why they do it. That’s my mission today. UPDATE: The answer for why dogs howl starts with wolves. Dogs’ ancestors howled for two reasons – to find each other and to have fun. Peter Borchelt, an animal behaviorist in New York City, says the “social synchrony” that comes with joining in the howl feels good. “It’s like a family singing,” Borchelt says. Wolves will sometimes howl at non-wolf sounds, like a clarinet. For whatever reason, when people began breeding dogs for particular traits, the urge to howl spread out across the dog spectrum. Any breed of dog might howl. Any individual dog might or might not howl. And compared to wolves, dogs perceive a much wider range of sounds as howling. They’ll howl for opera, for piano, for ringing phones… Celebrity dog wrangler Wendy Diamond rules out the idea that dogs are hearing a pitch in the Law and Order theme that their humans can’t. Televisions are limited in their range, Diamond says. The dogs become conditioned by the opening notes of the show, and they run over and start howling. “It’s always the same song. It’s never anything different. What’s training? Consistently doing the same thing,” she says. “Every night that they’re watching Law and Order, and they hear that same song. Next thing you know, they join in.” If your dog howls only at specific, occasional sounds, like the Law and Order theme song, Borchelt advises either turning down the TV volume or tweaking the mix, changing the bass and treble until Fluffy settles down. After that, smile. “The first thing would be to say enjoy it, have fun,” he says. “There’s no merit in yelling at the dog.” Bonus: The two most wonderful things I found while researching this segment.