What Should I Do If My Dog Growls?

A dog's growl is a warning. It should never be punished.
Whether it is your own pup or some strange canine, coming across a growling dog can be a scary thing. Hearing that growl; seeing that his teeth are out; his legs bent, ready to spring; it's enough to send shivers through the toughest of people. In the midst of this situation, it's normal to feel trapped and feel an overwhelming sense of panic with only one question running through your mind, "What do I do?"

If you are not the growling dog's owner, it is important to be aware of what may be causing the dog to growl. At that point, quit the offensive action. Hopefully, this is not a situation that pops up very often because it is a dog owner's responsibility to be aware of their own dog's temperament and make sure that he is not aggressive towards others.

Why Do Dogs Growl?

Understand why your dog is growling; this will help you to find common ground.
As you probably already know, a dog's growl is a sign of aggression. But, the reasons for this aggression can rise up for a variety of reasons. The key as a dog owner is to recognize the problem and safely and quietly move your dog to a place that he feels secure.

Dog owners should NEVER punish their dog for growling. Punishing a dog for growling will only teach him to skip his growl and move directly into attack mode. This is not what we want. Instead of a punishment, a dog owner should be doing his best to make the situation as comfortable and relaxing as possible. Using a dog treat or some other peace offering can help in the initial interaction.

Even though growling is scary, it is a healthy way for a dog to express his anger and give us a warning that something going on is bothering him. Some of the most likely reasons that dogs start to become aggressive include:

Sorry mailman; you are going to have to rely on dog owners to tame their pup's growl.
  1. Pain or other medical issues. As we all know, nothing puts someone more on edge than being in pain. Dogs are the same way. When they hurt, they are scared and cannot see outside of this box. In situations like this, it's important to get them immediate medical attention.
  2. Previous negative experiences. If a dog was beaten by his previous owner when he was young, he is often aggressive to people later on. Of course, this is only one scenario in which a previous negative experience can haunt a canine. Luckily, there are trained professionals out there that are specifically equipped to deal with dogs that have been through emotional traumas. Dog owners need to be sensitive, as well, and help their dog move in a positive direction. It can be done!
  3. Perceived loss of a resource like food or water. Dogs, like humans, are motivated by animal instincts. If they think that their livelihood is at stake, they will send a message that they are not happy.
  4. Maternal protective instincts. If a dog senses that their own puppies are in danger, they will become extremely aggressive. Can you blame them?

By knowing the reasons behind your dog's growl, you will be able to help your dog feel safe and secure, which is the only way a dog will feel comfortable and quit growling.

By: Tim Snyder
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