Even for professionals, growling can be scary. Perhaps you approached your dog while chewing a bone, and were met with a hard stare and low growl. Or maybe your dog isn't sure about your houseguests, hanging back and growling whenever they move around the room. If you find yourself face-to-face with a growling dog, keep a few things in mind.
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1. Growling is communication. It's neither good nor bad, but rather a way for your dog to communicate his feelings at that moment. And although we wish your dog didn't feel the need to growl, we appreciate his ability to communicate his feelings before it turns to snapping or lunging.
2. Growling is often a warning. If you're in a heated conversation with a friend, there's a chance it could lead to an all-out screaming match. But wouldn't it be wise if your friend said, "Look, I'm getting pretty agitated and I think we should take a breather before I say something I'll regret." Well, your friend just growled at you! A growl can indicate a warning to an approaching person or other animal, essentially saying, "I don't want to hurt you, but if you keep approaching me, I will." Heed the growl and give your dog some space.
3. Do not punish a growl. Remember, growling is an important form of communication. If your dog is having negative feelings at that moment, punishment won't make those feelings go away. Many dog professionals worry that, by punishing a growl this time, the dog may skip the growl and go straight to a bite next time. Rather than punish, heed the growl, and slowly and calmly back away. Once you're safely out of the situation, take careful notes of what happened, and contact a certified trainer or behavior consultant to help you choose a training plan, moving forward.
Watch my interview on AKC TV's Ask the Expert to learn more about the good, the bad, and the growly.
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Kate is a certified dog behavior consultant, certified dog trainer, certified Fear Free professional, certified dog parkour instructor, and award-winning author.
The views expressed on this website belong to Kate Naito and may not reflect the views of the agencies with which she trains.