Dogs growl to tell you, or another dog, that they are not happy about something, or are angry, or scared. For example, if a dog has had bad treatment from someone in the past, he may growl when you grab his collar and try to pull him towards you. Some dogs may growl and then wait to see if the threat will increase. Others will growl and quickly become more aggressive if the threat persists.
It's a communication
Growling should be taken as a warning and as an instruction. Stop what you are doing, or move away, or try a different approach. Otherwise, the dog may be forced to take things to the next stage, which could include snarling, snapping or biting. Always take growling seriously and take action to make sure it stops. Then find out why the dog needed to growl in the first place and find a way to help him overcome the problem for the future.
Don't turn off the early warning system
It is natural to feel that dogs shouldn't growl at people or other dogs, and that they are being naughty when they do so. Growling can also be frightening and so it is a natural reaction to scold or punish to stop your dog from doing it. The problem is that although punishing the growling may seem like a quick way to bring it to an end, it doesn’t solve the problem that the dog is having and he will continue to feel upset, angry, or scared.
Severe punishment may stop your dog growling completely, and repeated punishment for growling may stop it happening in the future, but your dog is still left with the issue he was having that caused him to growl in the first place. Punishment turns off your dog’s early warning system that a snap or bite may be coming next, and leaves him unable to communicate important feelings. Turning off growling means that snaps or bites may occur without warning, and once it is turned off, it is nearly impossible to help the dog be brave enough to turn it on again.
Stopping the growling
Dogs growl for a reason. They are usually upset, angry, or worried about something. To find out why they are doing it, go to ‘Aggression to People’ or ‘Aggression To Other Dogs’. Finding a solution which helps the dog feel better about the situation will take away the reason for growling and result in a happier, more contented dog.
Growling during play
Some dogs growl when they play. This is not a warning, but just a play growl. It is similar to when we are mock-aggressive to friends and family in play and isn’t anything to be worried about. However, if you don’t like it or it worries you, simply stop playing and walk away every time it happens. Your dog will eventually learn not to growl if he wants the game to continue.
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