Does Your Dog Growl? That Might Be A Good Thing

by Cory Brannon September 13, 2016

Does your dog growl? Most do, of course, sometimes even when they’re just being playful. Our natural instincts tell us that a growling dog is a bad sign and that we should train ours not to do it. But believe it or not, when a dog growls, that’s actually a good thing.

Imagine if you were standing in a crowded grocery store aisle when suddenly, someone who didn’t see you got right in your way… and then, on your other side, someone else who was oblivious got way too close for comfort. You would probably say “Excuse me” or speak up to make the other people aware of you.

Now imagine if your ability to speak was gone. You could try giving them stern looks, but they still might not get the message. Eventually you’d have to resort to pushing them away, or at least loudly clearing your throat (if you were able). The ability to communicate discomfort is important, both in people and in dogs. And when a dog growls, he does just that.

To a dog, growling is a perfectly acceptable warning to tell someone, “Hey, I don’t like that!” or, “Don’t come any closer.” It’s a dog’s way of asking you to back off. And if you don’t know that the dog wants you to back off, you could end up with a nasty bite. Despite the way it sounds, a growl is actually a non-aggressive form of communication. If you punish your pup for growling, he may resort to snarls or, worse, bite without warning.

If your dog or another dog is growling at you, take a moment to defuse the situation. Stop what you’re doing and don’t get any closer. Don’t turn your back on the dog, but do glance down and to the side instead of making direct eye contact. Try to determine what made him growl in the first place. Is he guarding his food? Does he feel unsafe? If you take some time to assess the situation instead of automatically assuming he’s behaving inappropriately, you’re much more likely to behave appropriately yourself.

Of course, some dogs get a little too comfortable with their growling and try to use it to intimidate. If you suspect that might be the case, try taking your pup to a trainer. A professional will be able to help you set healthy boundaries and establish a better relationship so you and your dog can be what you’re meant to be: Best buddies.

Cory Brannon
Cory Brannon


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