By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance
As funny as it may sound, as a dog trainer, I like it when a dog knows how and when to growl.
Growling is a very important form of communication that is used by dogs in many instances. You will often hear dogs growl during play with other dogs, while playing with their toys, and even when playing with humans.
You will also hear new born puppies and older puppies make a growling sound before they learn to bark. Dogs also growl when they are frightened, threatened, confronted, in pain, injured, sleeping, protecting something or someone or needing to convey to us that they want us to back off and get out of their space.
Growling is simply a vocalization. Just because a dog growls it does not mean he is aggressive or mean, it just means he has something to communicate.
One very important type of growl is the warning growl. I am thrilled when a dog gives a warning growl. This type of growl is done by the dog to tell you he is not happy, or does not want to be bothered. This growl is done by dogs before a snap or bite. If we listen to our dogs growl, we can understand they are telling us they want us to change what we are doing.
As a dog trainer, I often meet dogs who have been taught not to growl. Either by owners who feel this is the start of aggressive behavior, or by other trainers who do not understand the importance of this very valuable form of communication.
A dog who has been taught not to growl, is unable to give a warning before snapping or biting. The growl is a warning, which says, “I feel threatened. I am not happy and I need you to stop what you are doing!” If you do not heed the warning, the dog may resort to a bite.
Now let’s consider the dog who has been taught not to growl, he does not have a warning signal and resorts to snapping or biting to get his point across. Dogs that do not growl can be dangerous. Without a growl it is difficult to determine if they are about to bite. As a wise old dog once said “a dog will never bite, when a simple growl will do.” I don’ t know about you, but I would rather have a dog that growls.
One final thought on growling. If your dog suddenly growls at situations that normally would not bother him, or if you see a sudden behavior change, my first recommendation is make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out a pet health problem. Your dog could be experiencing a medical problem, causing him to be uncomfortable, and grumpy.