December 28, 2008 1:59 AM   Subscribe

It's 3:48 AM on December 28th 2008 in suburban California (Fullerton). I can hear the sound of about 11 dogs barking simultaneously from around a 1/2 mile away. What is happening?

Is this what suburban dogs do at night? I don't know a lot about animal behavior. I am in a so mystified like.

P.S. This question is to be taken literally.
posted by defmute to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We have a dog in our neighborhood who barks at his own echo. He has fascinating conversations with himself. So, if it's hilly, it might be a couple of dogs working themselves up over their own barking.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:31 AM on December 28, 2008

Or, you know, intruders.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:35 AM on December 28, 2008

How do you know the dogs are all 1/2 mile away? Sound carries farther when it's colder, so if you think they are 1/2 mile away because that sounds about right in the day time, it means they could actually be much farther away. This means they also don't have to be as near each other to still sound like they are near each other.
posted by the_W at 3:14 AM on December 28, 2008

A fox, raccoon, or some other animal has probably found its way into your suburban enclave.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:14 AM on December 28, 2008

It could be an earthquake (or an aftershock). There have been several earthquakes in the past 24 hours including 4.6 magnitude rumblers south of San Diego and Anchorage and a 4.5 one near Quincy. Fullerton experienced a pretty big earthquake last summer.

When I lived in LA people talked about how you could tell an earthquake was coming because pets would freak out, including dogs barking. Their superior hearing meant they could hear household goods rattling and maybe even the rumbling coming from the earth. Our cat would start jumping up and down as though she didn't want her paws in contact with the untrustworthy ground. This article discusses a study in Japan about dogs barking in advance of an earthquake.
posted by carmicha at 5:37 AM on December 28, 2008

Not to be flip, but all it takes is one dog to get excited about something for the conversation to get started. A raccoon can amble by and start up the dog discourse if there's a sufficient density of excitable dogs.
posted by adipocere at 6:19 AM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Or there might have been a police or fire siren you didn't hear a while back. Gets the neighborhood dogs going like crazy around here. You can hear the discussion carried black by block for miles in my little town.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:30 AM on December 28, 2008

For the future, you can sign up for the USGS' Earthquake Notification Service here. Being in California, though, you'll want to confine notifications to a very small geographic area, or you'll quickly tire of receiving the emails in your inbox.
posted by limeonaire at 8:55 AM on December 28, 2008

All it takes in my neck of SoCal is one coyote howl for the rest of the neighborhood dogs—thankfully not our two yelpers—to go freaking nuts.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:10 AM on December 28, 2008

Seconding A Terrible Llama. When I take out one of my dogs for the night, he carefully patrols the perimeter of our property, and will offer up a big "Woof!" at the end of his stroll. If he's lucky, he'll get an answer from another dog in the neighborhood. But sometimes, he's really lucky and his lone bark results in a long cacophony of other barks from many other dogs. He doesn't answer, just strolls back to the house with a little 'my work here is done' expression on his face.

I try to take him out early, so as to avoid disturbing the neighbors late at night.
posted by txvtchick at 10:49 AM on December 28, 2008

Our dogs do that too. Patrol the perimeter, leave a little pee-mail, and offer a good night "woof". They usually get a response, but they very rarely carry on "conversation".

That said, we have a fox that lives in the woods not too far from here. He'll come to the pond in our back yard to drink and maybe fish...I dunno if foxes fish...anyway, when the fox appears, you can tell he's coming by the vector of dog barks.

The same is true if there are salesman, missionaries, etc., in the area. You can tell where they are by where the dogs are barking. It's funny how my dogs respond to the various barks. Some barks, they'll "woof" back, and some barks, both dogs will bristle up, do that low throat growl thing, and start patrolling their area looking for whatever it is that set the dog down the street off.

So, odds are, it was just the puppies giving an early warning signal about something just not quite kosher in their patrol zone.
posted by dejah420 at 11:14 AM on December 28, 2008

Response by poster: thanks everybody for all the help. i live in chicagotropolis most of the year and am unaccustomed to the ways of the domestic.
posted by defmute at 11:20 AM on December 28, 2008

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