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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > harmonicas and dogs howling
harmonicas and dogs howling
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299 posts
Oct 30, 2021
5:01 PM
A few years ago I took care of my friend's dog for a week, and I quickly saw that he would go absolutely mental for the harmonica. The second I started playing, he would immediately start howling like crazy: usually loud, but sometimes a little quieter, looong howls, followed by short bursts, etc so much variation, it was like he was communicating via howling. He would just keep going too; the more I kept playing, the more he would be howling. He would only stop when I stopped. (I imagine it could be annoying for practice sessions, but for me it was all fun and games since it was just a week) That dog has been around many other instruments, and the harmonica was the only instrument he responded to like that. It was an amazing experience for me for a week, but my friend has moved away since then, so I don't get to repeat it.

Fast-forward to today, I finally became a first-time dog owner myself. She is a wonderful creature, but the harmonica experience is the opposite of my experience with my friend's dog. She gets a bit intrigued for a couple of minutes, as she does with anything that makes a different sound, but goes back to sleep a minute later, and shows absolutely zero interest in howling at any point.

I'll take my harps to the dog park next time to see how all the other dogs respond. I feel a bit nervous, because I don't want any owners to get mad if the dogs start howling (in case they interpret the howling as their dogs being in pain or something? I don't know, probably just being paranoid)

So anyways, I'm curious, what's everyone's experience with dogs? You ever get them howling? I wonder if it's even a common phenomenon or did I just get really lucky? Why do they even howl?
3403 posts
Oct 31, 2021
6:33 AM
I've not seen that with dogs but when we play on th street dogs do give me some weird looks., especially small ones like Yorkies or Dachshunds. Of course they are already keyed up by the street activity, truck engines, lots of people talking, tons pf smells.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.




2270 posts
Oct 31, 2021
10:04 AM
Most dogs have reacted vocally when I played harmonica near them. It does not seem quite like howling (as with sirens), but more like they are singing along in a sort of canine yodel.

My spouse is convinced it hurts their ears, but I suspect she is projecting her own auditory sensitivity and dislike of high pitched harp onto our canine friends experiences.

Recently a friend brought his dog to an outdoor open mic Hootenanny here in Urbana, IL. He told me his dog made noises when he played harp in a rack, and that he would stick around until I was called to the stage in order to hear if my playing had a similar effect on his dog.

It did...

Doug S.
Thievin' Heathen
1237 posts
Nov 01, 2021
8:09 PM
I think it's hurting their ears, is why they are howling.
2273 posts
Nov 01, 2021
8:24 PM
I DO think it hurts their ears, but I wanted to make my joke!

It is best to not subject animals with more sensitive hearing to shrill harmonica sounds, no matter how well you may play.

After seeing the negative reaction from our dog I practiced away from the dog in a closed room. My spouse asked that I do the same courtesy for her, preferably when she was out of the house.

She also is bothered by other high pitch sounds,
so it is not my playing that she dislikes. (I think?)

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Nov 01, 2021 10:17 PM
2274 posts
Nov 01, 2021
8:35 PM
Cats don't like the sound of harp either.

Hmmmmmm... perhaps living with a practicing harp player is difficult?

So that is the reason for having a woodshed!

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Nov 01, 2021 8:42 PM
388 posts
Nov 02, 2021
4:47 AM
I think for the dogs it's their version of "singing along"
Some dogs seems to have no interest, but I had one shepherd mix that would always join in. I would set that dog to howling when we went camping. Folks would swear they heard wolves in the night.
We took care of our friends Golden Retriever for a few days. He didn't howl right away till I would get to a particular song then he would join in. Friends didn't believe it till I made a recording of him doing it.
Turned out his favorite song was "St Louis Blues".

There have been lot's of interesting things with various species and music. I think it is something were share with some of them, though we are not always on the same 'wave length' so to speak.

Last Edited by Spderyak on Nov 02, 2021 4:51 AM
688 posts
Nov 02, 2021
4:49 PM
My pug Big Steve used to yip along, but only with the bent notes really....
he's since lost his hearing, so it's been too long to hear him sing.

Marc Graci
YouTube Channel

Last Edited by Mirco on Nov 02, 2021 4:50 PM
Dougie Blue
22 posts
Nov 03, 2021
1:51 AM
I have three dogs now. One is clearly a husky or malamute mix - she howls when she sees another dog in distress (like a dog chained up in a yard - very common here in the Philippines - it's how she shows sympathy I think. She generally does not howl when I play my harps acoustically - but with an amp - even low volume? She howls non-stop. I don't think it's a choice for her - she HAS to howl. I sometimes think it's a little uncomfortable for her. So usually I get her to go outside, or into the bedroom when I practice with an amp. The other two dogs - local "askals" - mixed strays - don't pay much attention to my playing.
Soap Music
87 posts
Nov 03, 2021
2:10 AM
I've got 3 cats and they get on really well together, but as soon as l start playing a harmonica in the key of C they start attacking each other.
Where as, when l play harmonica in any key at pub gig l get attacked by everybody...
10374 posts
Nov 03, 2021
12:17 PM
I think if it hurt their ears they'd leave the area. You could test that outside.

I've always thought it was more of a sign that they thought they were supposed to help you signal pack size. One of the reasons wolves howl is to let other packs and predators know where their territory is. I've seen dogs react to sirens and while they yowl they also seem uncomfortable. They seem to enjoy the harmonica though.

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First Post- May 8, 2009
7009 posts
Nov 03, 2021
1:46 PM
My dog is a Welsh Springer. She has done harmonica howling but she never was predictable with it, and it’s been years since she has done it.
I had a cat which reacted to harmonica by leaping on my lap and acting like she was trying to get the harp off me.
I don’t think my dog ever looked troubled by the sound and in line with Nate’s comment, she was not under any duress to hang around. She just seemed curious.
Ditto the cat. She would come running to me from another room.
Sometimes that cat would grab a bird. Whenever she had a bird I could always tell by the sounds she made. I would go running to her and get her to let go the bird. Then I would see a pretty cranky kitty. She’d keep looking for that bird for quite a while.
I always thought the harp was telling her I’d caught something. But who knows what a cat is thinking apart from eating, digestion, sleeping or hunting/killing. Can I eat it/will it eat me/can I mate with it? Oh, that’s humans but cats are probably similar on that level. The rest is filling in time between meals etc. I figure that cat was so animated there must have been thoughts of a meal involved
491 posts
Nov 04, 2021
5:40 AM
If their dogs respond, this might be the thing that gets my two youngest grandkids started on the harp.
Phil Pennington
2275 posts
Nov 04, 2021
8:16 AM
Regarding cats, we once had a cat who would come to me from another room when I played harp. She would get up on me and slap my face, without using claws.

She sent a very clear message.

Doug S.
2088 posts
Nov 09, 2021
7:01 PM
My older dog will sometimes sing along, particularly if I play something wit lots of bends. The younger one just cocks his head sideways and looks at me.

The younger dog seems to like the trumpet. If I sit down on the couch and play trumpet, he will curl up next to me.

The goats seem to respond to harmonica, they will follow me around if I play and walk.

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