Every wonder what your pet (or someone else’s) is thinking when they let loose with one of their monster-like growls at strange and inopportune times? Well, turns out they’re trying to communicate with you.
Even though it’s hard not to take these growls personally, it’s important to remember that there are many reasons why your dog might be growling – and it’s in your best interest to figure out why they’re doing it. After all, if you can identify what is making your pup uncomfortable, you can take care of the issue before the growling develops into something more sinister.
What’s all the fuss about anyway?
There are a variety of reasons that your dog might be tempted to growl, including sickness or injury, feeling possessive of something, fear or anxiety, or if they’re surprised by something.
Our friends over at the Thriving Canine blog break growling down to different types, making it even easier to understand what your pet is trying to say. Dogs can engage in the following:
- Play growling: this can happen when your pet gets really excited and is just bursting to play. New dog owners often misinterpret this for aggression, but sometimes your dog just has a lot of energy to burn.
- Pleasure growling: This growl is as adorable as a growl can be, since it’s often low and “talking-like”. Dogs save this for when they’re looking for some love and affection.
- Threat growling: This one is used when dogs are feeling fearful, territorial, or possessive. They’re asking the person or canine to leave them (or their bone, dog bed, etc.) alone. Since it can be a low, low growl, sometimes it’s hard to detect – but your dog’s stiff, uncomfortable body language should also give you a clue.
- Aggressive growling: This is the most dangerous kind of growl, because this dog is ready to fight. They’re not looking to scare their target off so much as they want to establish dominance and attack. If you think your dog is in this category, get help from a professional trainer as soon as possible.
- Frustration growling: This is different than aggression because these pets don’t generally want to do harm to anyone – they’re just looking for some attention or they’re curious about something. It’s important to maintain control of these dogs when they’re frustrated, though (often by being on a leash or behind a fence), because if they’re overstimulated, they can get nippy.
- Fight growling: You’ll hear this kind of growl when a play session turns into a fight. It can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, but it’s important to be aware of this so things don’t get ugly.
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Why we want dogs to growl
Even though dog growling can be scary, it’s actually a GOOD thing. Why? Because it safeguards against injury by giving fair warning. In other words, you want your dog to growl before they bite. A growl is an important signal, and you should never punish your dog for growling.
Make sure to listen to your dog and give them the proper training and socialization so they’ll have the tools they need to succeed and thrive.
Communication is key
Dogs seem to be able to tell the difference between various types of growls – even when they hear them on a recording! For example, dogs growling in a playful way sounds much different to other canines than when they’re growling out of fear or aggression.
Before you scold or correct your dog for growling, take a closer look and figure out the reason behind their actions. Not every growl is something to be concerned about.
On the other hand, growling is to be taken seriously (you don’t want someone to get bitten!), so consider it sign to stop and pay attention to the situation. After all, the least we can do is try to listen to our four-legged best buddies, right?
If you’re concerned
If you’re looking to learn more about confusing dog behaviors and ways to best cope with your dog’s quirky ways, don’t forget to check out our Dog Behavior page – the perfect resource for the curious dog lover.
Consult with your vet, a certified trainer, or canine behaviorist if you’re concerned about your dog’s growling, particularly if it’s related to aggression.