Why Is My Dog Growling?
It can be disconcerting when your dog growls. Dogs growl for a number of reasons, but – while it can be worrying for dog owners, growling can actually be a good sign. If you are wondering why your dog is growling, read our Holidays4Dogs article to find out more.
Growling is a natural means of communication for dogs. Even though it can be worrying for some owners, it is very important a dog is not reprimanded for growling. Growling is one of the initial signals a dog will display to show that he is not happy with a particular situation, but it does not necessarily indicate the dog is aggressive.
In fact, growling shows that the dog would rather not fight and is attempting to avoid direct conflict. It should be regarded as a warning sign offered by the dog to diffuse friction. If a dog’s growls are ignored – he may then resort to snapping, or biting.
Factors associated with growling behaviour.
There could be many different reasons why a dog may resort to growling. This can be linked to the dog’s age, sex, temperament, as well as previous socialisation and training. The circumstances in which the dog is growling can be numerous and are dependent on many different factors. Also bear in mind, there are different types of growling – some growls may mean “Hey, leave me alone” – others may indicate the dog is enjoying play.
Here are some initial things to think about when your dog growls;-
Is your dog?…
Anxious or nervous?
Ill, or in pain?
Happy playing with other dogs, or people?
Possessive over resources?
Now consider the details in which your pet was growling. For example, if your dog is anxious about other dogs approaching, was he startled by a dog rushing up to him? In this case, he is very likely to feel fearful and snarl as a result.
Growling is common in nervous/anxious dogs and is an indication that he, or she, is feeling fearful or stressed. Other dogs are possessive over resources and snarl to signal to other dogs, or people to keep away from what they see as theirs. This might include claiming/guarding toys, food or, even people.
Dogs experiencing pain, or discomfort, are also much more likely to growl.
Dogs also frequently make snarling noises when they are playing with their owners, or commonly with other dogs. Puppies frequently growl while engaging in play, or play fighting with their litter mates.
What to do if your dog growls.
A dog who growls, is warning those around him that he may bite. Therefore, it is important to address the underlying cause. If you have any reason to suspect your dog may be in pain, it is essential to seek veterinary attention straight away.
If a dog is frequently scolded for growling, he may learn not to growl. Instead, he or she, may just go straight to nipping, or biting. In addition, telling a dog off for giving a warning, can force him more rapidly to the next step of actually biting. You should never ignore growling and always move away from a dog that displays this behaviour towards you.
For fearful dogs, you may need to enlist the help of a good dog trainer, or behaviourist, to help your dog overcome his, or her, fears. Positive, dog-centred techniques – along with managing the dog’s environment – will drastically reduce your dog’s reasons to react.
If your dog growls at you when you try to take an item away from him, you must not battle with him, or scold him. In this scenario, you are very likely to get bitten. Instead, try ‘trading’ the toy for another one. Alternatively, tempt him with a tasty treat tossed a short distance away. You then have the opportunity to retrieve the item.
This sort of approach works well with clicker training and should not be considered ‘bribery‘. You can teach your dog to retrieve a toy and, willingly, give it up for a reward.
While mild, occasional growling is usually nothing to worry about, regular, growling, snapping and biting is a more serious situation. This is particularly so if your dog is directing aggression to you, or other people. If you find it difficult to manage your dog day-to-day it is crucial you speak initially to your vet.
Growling is a natural behaviour for canines and it is one of the ways in which they communicate with one another – and with us. However, one thing owners should never do is ignore growling behaviour, particularly if this is due to guarding behaviour.
While mild, occasional growling is usually nothing to worry about, regular, growling, snapping and biting is a more serious situation. If you find it difficult to manage your dog day-to-day it is crucial you speak initially to your vet.