Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Dogs communicate in a variety of ways; one common strategy is growling. Depending on the context, a growl can be anything from a sign of enthusiastic play to a warning of an impending attack. It is important to understand why your dog growls and when you need help retraining this behavior.
While growling does not necessarily indicate a problem, it can be an important sign of escalating aggression and may not be something you can handle on your own. A fearful or aggressive growl warrants immediate intervention with a veterinarian and possibly referral to a veterinary behaviorist or positive reinforcement trainer.
Dogs who bite without warning often have been punished for growling in the past; this makes them more likely to skip the warning growl and go right to the attack. Rather than punishing your dog for growling, work with a professional to teach your
dog strategies for coping with stressful situations.
Keep in mind that depending on the context, growling doesn’t always mean an unfriendly dog. Here are some common reasons your dog might growl.
Dogs often growl during friendly play with other canines. This type of growling is higher-pitched and shorter in length than other growls. Watch for the
proper play signals in your canine to ensure the interaction is friendly and conduct frequent breaks in play to keep arousal levels low.
Your dog may also growl when he plays with you. Structured tug is a great way to bond with your dog, but it must be done with rules like “
drop it” and no teeth on human skin. Pay attention to your dog’s body language while you play, as sometimes growling can indicate discomfort. Avoid rough play with hands and physical wrestling. If you are unsure about the distinction between acceptable play interactions and aggression, seek help from a professional.
Your dog may also growl while dreaming, with occasional yips or muffled barks. This is a benign doggy sleep behavior and is nothing to worry about.
A dog who is afraid of something will growl to fend off potential harm; the message is that the dog will defend himself if necessary. The growl is your dog’s way of defusing a potentially dangerous situation before it escalates to a bite or a fight. Some
dogs may growl at any unfamiliar person, while others will respond only to specific types of people, like men with beards, or at sights they are uncomfortable with, such as a horse. In this case, remedial socialization help is needed.
Your dog’s growling may also be associated with
resource guarding; he may be protecting food,
toys or people, or his favorite places, like a sleeping space. Even with the best management plan in place, a guarding dog may escalate his aggression, which is why this behavior calls for professional intervention.
Your dog may growl when he is handled, either because he is uncomfortable or afraid. He may growl when his collar is grabbed, his toenails are trimmed, his ears touched or his mouth opened. He may also be uncomfortable with direct eye contact, a person leaning over him, hugs or other forward greetings.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Five adorable partygoers are celebrating
the National Parks' 100th birthday at
Alaska’s Denali National Park.
It's back-to-school time, but is it a good
idea to take your dog when you pick up
the kids after class? We asked an…
From hosting a dog party to volunteering
at an animal shelter, we rounded up 14
ways to honor this special canine…
We asked veterinary experts how pets
are affected by the plant — and if they
can spread its oils to people.
Veterinary clinics have seen a rise in
marijuana intoxication in pets, especially
from edibles and cannabis…
If your cat isn't leaping onto furniture and
counters like he used to, then a visit to
the vet might be in order.
Known as the gentleman of the Terrier group, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a self-confident attitude.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.