January 02, 2013
I love it when dogs growl! Yes, you read that right. A dog’s growl is part of his vocabulary, and I am so glad that it is. The growl can mean several things. Let us say that you come upon a dog that you don’t know and he begins a low rumbly growl as you approach. This is a wonderful thing to hear because it gives you time to respond to the situation. The dog is simply saying, "I don’t know you, you’re making me nervous, and I don’t want you to come any closer." Message received loud and clear! Thank you pup for letting me know BEFORE you try another tactic such as lunging or biting. This would be the wrong time to reprimand or yell at a dog for growling. By telling a dog that it is not okay to growl means you want him to stop this behavior. Let’s think about that. Do you really want him to stop growling at you before he does something more extreme? I think not. I’d much rather have the warning before the bite, wouldn’t you?
Never ever reprimand a dog for growling. I cannot stress this enough! This is the time to call in an experienced positive rewards based trainer to help the dog learn that whatever was scaring him is okay and not something to be feared. This is what we want to teach him! We don’t want to stop him from growling; we want him to change his feelings towards whatever was scaring him.
As always, prevention is the best way to keep a dog happy with his surroundings. If you find yourself living with a dog that is growling at you out of fear or anger, it’s time to call in a professional. These issues should never be handled on your own! Of course, many dogs growl during play and fun as well. My dog Lupin loves growling with his uncle. It’s a ritual they have; they talk in growl speak to each other and it is completely harmless. Living with a dog will help you understand when the dog is playing and when he’s not. Learning the dog’s body language will help you decipher his message. If you are unsure, please call in a positive reward based trainer to help you.