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When Dogs Growl – is it Always Bad?

When Dogs Growl – is it Always Bad?


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One of the most misunderstood things about dogs is when dogs growl.  What they are trying to communicate?  For example, is it always bad when a K9 growls at another dog or person?

Keep reading to learn how to decipher your dog’s growl.

Growling Is a Natural Response

word image 915 2 when dogs growl First, canine growling is a natural vocal cue. It is vital to understand exactly what is meant by a growl in the current situation or context. A growling dog can mean different things for different reasons, but it usually means your dog is uncomfortable. It can be directed at another dog, animal, person, location, object or situation. Your dog’s growl is usually a warning to a potential threat.

Below we will take a closer look at decoding your dog’s growls.

A Growling Dog Does Not Always Mean Aggression

The media has unfortunately conditioned people to see a growling dog as an aggressive dog. But that is not always true say dog experts and behaviorists. While it’s understandable why the layperson may feel threatened by a growling dog, such a rush to judgment can often be at the dog’s expense.

Let’s look at WHY dogs growl.


The 5 Reasons Behind Your Dog’s Growling

As said earlier, growls can mean different things for different reasons. To be able to help a dog, it’s important to understand the real reason behind their growling.

Dogs tend to growl because:

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  1. They are afraid/insecure and do not know what is going to happen.
    1. Someone, something or someplace is unfamiliar, and it frightens the dog.
  2. They feel cornered and do not like what is going to happen.
    1. Like when someone goes to cut their nails.
  3. They are issuing a warning to stay back/away.
    1. This could also include Resource Guarding over food, toys or even people.
  4. They are sick or hurt and feel unable to defend themselves.
  5. Other warning signals were ignored including:
    1. Tongue flicks.
    2. Stiffened body.
    3. Ears laid back.
    4. Seeing the whites of the dog’s eyes.

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Growling that is Usually Harmless

Yes, there IS growling that is usually harmless although it still should be supervised to prevent it from escalating into an aggressive response. It is called “play growling.” Some dogs will growl when they are fully engaged and having a great time or playing with tug toys with other dogs. While this is normal and harmless for some dogs, it’s important to make sure the play does not get too rough with negative responses. Separate the dogs before that happens!

When a Dog Growls

Accept that growling is a normal part of your dog’s communication. Instead of punishing him, learn why he is growling and take appropriate action to either 1) remove the threat from your dog’s territory or 2) remove the dog from the area. Then be sure to address these situations and any fears, anxiety or negative reasons for growling in targeted training with lots of positive reinforcement.

If you are unsure how to help your growling dog, reach out for expert help to properly identify and address any underlying issues before the unwanted behaviors become worse.

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Does your dog growl?

Unsure if it’s normal behavior or a precursor to a bite?

Do not wait until something happens! We can help

decode your dog’s growling and reveal

whether they need additional training or not!

Call 480-382-0144 or send us an email to schedule.

Serving Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe and East Valley areas of Arizona.

Additional Reading:

PetMD: Dog Growling: 5 Things That Might Be to Blame Dog Growling – 4 Things to Know

AKC: Why Dogs Growl and How to Handle It

K9ofMine: Types of Dog Growls: What is My Dog Growling About?

Image Credits (Shown in Order of Appearance):

Robert Wegner from Pixabay

Mandyme27 from Pixabay

Esteban Paniagua from Pixabay

East Valley K9 Services

East Valley K9 Services


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