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!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
FDNY firefighters used oxygen masks to
revive a cat and a rescue dog after a fire
spread to their Brooklyn home.
If you struggle to just get your cat to the
vet clinic, you’ll be amazed by the big
adventures Lily and Bug have…
Five interior designers share innovative
ways to create a dog-friendly home
without sacrificing style or function.
Whether it’s deep and dry or high and
phlegmy, your pup's cough could be a
sign of a serious health problem.
We combed our database of nearly a million puppies born this year to declare the hottest male and female monikers.
The energetic and extroverted Munchkin might be short on height, but you better believe that he’s long on fun.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.