Why Dogs Growl

Have you ever experienced unexpected, aggressive growling from your dog towards a friend or family member? It can make you wonder, “What is that about? And, what should I do?”

First, non-playful growling communicates discomfort, distress, or insecurities. When a puppy or dog growls, something is making them feel threatened or frightened. It’s important to remember this and to be curious about what is causing their discomfort.

Second, growling is an early-warning system designed to protect people. Dogs – as they say – are, “…man’s best friend.” This is why we love them so much. But when they feel insecure about a situation, they will typically growl to change behaviors causing them distress. If we’re smart, we will listen to them.

Third, growling can be a sign that your dog isn’t around people enough. Helping them learn to enjoy people (even strangers) is part of the social grooming every dog owner needs to do. The American Kennel Club warns dog owners (especially those with puppies) to be careful how they address growling, “If growling does occur, punishing it is counterproductive. The last thing you want is a dog that bites without warning. If you punish your puppy’s growls, you might prevent them from growling in the future, but you will have done nothing to change the underlying emotional issue.”

Growling is a natural response helping us understand. The question is: Are we listening?


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