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Wolves Howling

Abblasen, the signature theme music for the long-running television magazine, CBS News Sunday Morning, is a fanfare attributed to German trumpet composer Gottfried Reiche (1667–1734). The notes for the piece were transcribed from a portrait of the musician, painted by E.G. Haussmann, on his 60th birthday. The composition was on a piece of paper that Reiche is holding.

All that is well and good, but for dog lovers, there’s really only one important thing you must know about Abblasen: It somehow makes house pets throw back their heads and howl like wolves.

On Sunday, August 30, the show replaced its usual ending—a calming moment in nature—with a segment in honor of National Dog Day, which was held earlier that week. It showed dogs, from fluffy white lapdogs to long-legged Dalmatians—reacting to the sound of the CBS trumpet theme by pointing their noses to the sky and letting out long, mournful tones.


Were they trying to sing along? Probably not, according to experts in canine communication. Most likely it was an attempt to respond to the other dog’s voice, even though that voice was really a piccolo trumpet.

Author Stanley Coren, writing in Psychology Today on what it means when domestic dogs howl, said that rather than making music for art’s sake, howls are a form of canine communication. In wolves it’s a way to assemble and identify the pack. Dogs, especially those who are isolated or lonely, will howl to see if any other dogs are out there.

Certain forms of music seem to have powers to set a dog off, says Coren, who is an AKC Family Dog columnist. These include compositions played on wind instruments and long notes from violins or human voices. “Perhaps these sound like proper howls to the listening dog and he feels the need to answer and join the chorus,” he wrote.

No one really can say what happens in the canine mind when Abblasen plays, but one thing is certain. The sight of the dogs reacting to the music has a profound effect on the human brain, proving especially stimulating to those regions that control smiles and laughter.

“Apparently,” said show host Charles Osgood, “lots of dogs are Sunday Morning fans, too.”


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