Blogue Dog

Growling Is Not Necessarily a Bad Thing!

Growling exists to avoid aggression and not to cause it. However, many owners do not understand this aspect and correct their dog automatically.

Imagine this: you are online at the store. The man behind you stands very close and you become uncomfortable. He’s almost touching you. There’s a woman in front of you and the aisles are tight. You have no space to move. What would you do? Most people would turn around and say, “Excuse me!” or something like that. Now imagine that your ability to speak has vanished. You might try to take a hard look at the man in question, but if the message did not get through, you might be forced to resort to physical measures, for example, putting your arm to stop him or even pushing him away.

The ability to communicate discomfort is very important for both man and dog. Growling is a perfectly acceptable warning from a dog and roughly translates into “Hey! I don’t like that!” or “Don’t come near” or “Please stop what you’re doing”. Just as in the store scenario, by removing the ability to gently ask the offender to stop, you could potentially be forced to take physical measures, which could worsen the situation on both sides.

Humans are forced to understand that growling is a threat, so it is reasonable and even beneficial to become worried when we hear one. But a roar from a dog is actually a good thing. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that a dog growling at its owner is doing the right thing, but again, the growl is a form of non-aggressive communication. A dog growling at another dog or person gives a warning. If the dog wanted to attack, he would have done it! Growling is done to avoid aggression, not to cause it. However, many owners do not understand it and correct their dog the minute the dog makes the growl. The dog then understands that it leads to punishment, and thus, will eventually repress it, which can often result in a bite without any prior warning.

The rumble has its own spectrum of intensity. If the growl sounds seem to deepen, the level of excitement of the dog becomes more intense. The body language that accompanies the growl also provides information. A dog that stands still when it growls (in opposition to if it moves away under the effect of fear) retains its energy and delimits its territory; this can be a volatile situation, considering the fact that backing up while he growls is typical of the behavior of the dog who is afraid or experiencing conflict while trying to scare away the great and wicked thing that annoys or disturbs him.

If you are entitled to a growl, regardless of whether the dog is yours or not, the best course of action is to defuse the situation. After all, the level of excitement of the dog is already high enough. You don’t want to start screaming or worse, having to use force, as this could lead to a bite. Instead, look down and then to the side. By doing this, you are informing the animal that you are not a threat (communication), while keeping the animal in your peripheral field of vision. Then back up slowly. Try not to turn your back on the animal if possible, as some dogs are more likely to attack from behind. If the dog in question is yours, manage the situation that caused the growl when it is calmed down. For example, if he growls when you touch his paw, you should implement a behavior modification program designed around a gradual desensitization of the paw touch. Always use the assistance of a professional trainer if necessary.

Remember, a growl is a way to communicate. If we take a moment to figure out why a dog is grumbling instead of automatically showing that it is behaving inappropriately, our reaction will be more responsive.