Understanding the meaning of growl through the dog point of view

In the previous entry titled “Why dogs bark? “, and “ Look at the world through a dog’s point of view;barking,chewing and more ” I wrote that most of common dog behavior problems you would like to stop or curb them are natural canine behaviors or something we kept reinforcing the behavior without any intention.

Barking, for example, from dogs’ point of view, it is their natural way to communicate each other. 

What about growling?

Growling also could be one of the behavior problems you would like to stop or curb them.

However,growling , also is natural canine behaviors and it could be something you could have kept reinforcing the behavior without any intention.

In this entry, I would like to look deep into canine friend’s natural behavior;growling.

Discourage the  growling vs  respect the growling..

Growling is, just like barking, it is their way to communicate with you.

Often ties,many people may want to discourage the growling behavior, and dogs maybe hearing “Hey. no. No growling” over and over again every time they growl.

It is possible that they maybe punished for growling at you or your family or friends.Then, it might be possible that the growling dog could soon be labeled as “Aggressive dog” without any deep thoughts as to why and what is causing the dog to growl.

We need to understand that any dogs,any healthy dogs would growl to communicate with their canine friends or us human.

It just that we human have tendency to be quick to judge and label them as aggressive dogs

Before labeling the dog as “Aggressive dogs”, we need to investigate what caused the dog to growl,and how you can manage or help them change their opinion about what they do not feel about…

Not all growling is a bad thing.

However, if you keep suppressing the growling,, over time, the dog may stop growling due to repeated negative reinforcement by you.

Would it be good for you and your family and friends who may be spending time around them in the future?

Answer is “No”.

In a way, growling is not necessary a bad thing. We rather want it to be able to communicate with them better.

Of course, we do not want the dog to be growling at us all the time, but at the same time, growling is kind of like a warning sign and you do not want it to go away completely too.

Otherwise, you might be creating the situation where dog could attack or snap at you without any sign of warning; growling.

You want to be alerted when they are in stress or being uncomfortable so you can act on it accordingly.

If you know what causes them to growl, it gives you the clue as to what you can work with and what you can do to make your relationship with them better.

Why dog growls?

Dogs growls when….

1. they feel fear/anxiety/being afraid

When they feel being cornered, they may use growl to warn you that they are not comfortable with what you are doing to them,and they want you to back off.

Or, they may use growl to make scary things go away example,strange dogs, strange person.

In which case, some people may pet them saying “that is ok,that is ok” to reassure/comfort them.

However, that is only reinforcing the anxiety/feeling of being afraid and not a great move on your side.

It only nurture the fear.anxiety etc.. by doing so.

If the dog were growling from fear of person or objects or whatever, remove the dog from the situation calmly without any talk and, without yelling,punishing them, or trying to reassuring them.

Then work on the issue later;starting from person the dog was afraid of could toss the chicken every time he comes from a little distance without any eye contact or talk.

You can gradually work with the shorter distance.

That way,the dog may change the opinion about the scary person approaching to him. When the scary person comes, they get chicken!

Over time, you would want to teach your dog to look forward to the things he was previously afraid of.

By changing your dogs perception from negative to positive, you could  changes their behavior too.

If he was happy, why he should be growling at?

2. they want to guard something; they are asked to give up on something they are playing with or chewing on, or the spot they were napping on. It can be a person.

They may freeze,keeping the toy or treats under their head or possibly holding onto the objects they are asked to give up on, and then growl

Teach your dog to learn to “Give”.

3.  they are feeling physical pain

They may be telling you to stop touching the spot you are trying to look closer at.

If you suspect the pain is the cause of the growl, take them to the vet to check them medically.

When dog growls…

Lets imagine the likely scenario.

Little kids (toddlers/babies) may not be taught how to interact with the family dog. They may do things dogs might not be appreciated for.

In which case, dog may growl at your little ones.

What would you do?

In this scenario, because of the dog’s growling, you can understand that the dog is not comfortable with what your little one was doing to the dog.

You, therefore,  would remove your little ones away from the family dog telling them the family dog is not comfortable with what they were doing to them and teach the kids the right way to interact with the family dog some other time.

It means, when you hear the dog’s growling in different situation, stop whatever making the family dog uncomfortable/whatever you are doing and don’t punish the dog for the growling (no talk to them).

Then, turn away from dog and away from the dog, not moving toward the dog.Moving towards the growling dog would more escalate the growling and make the situation worse. Step back from the dog.

It is also important for you to be calm, no yelling at them no stress on you.The dogs are very good at picking up your emotion.

Just stay calm.

If you ignore the dog’s warning (growling), you would most likely to be snapped at.

When dog growls at you, don’t ignore the warning and use it for your advantage for better relationship.

When you hear the growl, and stop whatever you are doing, try finding out what caused the growling.

The dog did not care for being touched specific spot?

(You can clicker train the dog so they get used to be touched)

The dog did not like some grooming routine?

(You can clicker train the dog so they get used whatever grooming routine they did not care for)

Did you take something away from them without warning?

(You can clicker train the dog and let them learn “give”. Then you can trade the item you like to take away from the dog with something else)

You were trying to do something they did not like to do?

(If the dog did not care for what you were trying to do, don’t do it unless necessary)

Some things like that, which dogs were not feeling comfortable with , can be managed with good clicker training. You can change their reaction toward whatever they were feeling uncomfortable with.

Over time, what they were seeing as bad thing can  become a good thing with consistent clicker training with patience.

All you need is patience in you and consistency in the training.

If you are trying to help your dog to feel differently about something they are upset about, you would want to go slowly with small steps for the goal to be achieved.

That way, your dog would not get overwhelmed, resulting in bite.

If you consistently teach him what you would like them to do rather than what not to do with good clicker training and make the teaching time fun as much as you can make it to be, you will get the result in the end.

That being said, depending on the degree of stress put on the dog, it might not be something you alone could help them change their opinion about whatever causing them stress and resulted in growling.

In which case, don’t hesitate and try reach out to good positive clicker trainer in your area.

Any help you can get for the better relationship between you and your dog is good for both of you.

The dog training article written by Jolanta Benut for quick and dirty tips website is great read. You can read the full article here.

May 18, 2016 | Comments are off | Dog Training

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