Understanding Why Your Dog is Growling

Understanding Why Your Dog is Growling

Most dogs like to please and will back away from a situation they find stressful. However, if they cannot escape our furry friends will let you know they are scared and they do so by growling. With this said, a dog may growl for other reasons which is why it's important to figure out what's wrong so you know how to react before dealing with the situation.

Reasons Why Dogs Growl

As mentioned, there are many reasons why a dog may growl and this includes the following:

  • Out of fear
  • Because they are feeling insecure
  • They feel they have to guard something or somebody
  • Out of aggression
  • Dogs growl when they are playing

Luckily, each way a dog growls tends to be quite distinctive which makes it easier to recognise why they are doing so and whether it's because they are playing or they are giving you a warning. The key is to understand the situation and then deal with it accordingly by always remaining calm and positive when you do. It would be a natural reaction to respond negatively when a dog growls, but this is the wrong way to go about things.

Growling Can be a Precursor to More Aggressive Behaviour

It's far better to react calmly when a dog growls and to understand why they are doing so. Once you establish the reason, the next step is to remove your dog from the situation that's making them unhappy enough to respond by growling. You should never tell a dog off for growling because it reinforces their fear, anxiety or aggression which in short means they think it is okay to growl and you may never find out the root cause of their behaviour.

The Four Things Owners Need to Understand about Growling

There are four basic things that all owners need to appreciate when and why their dog may growl which are as follows:

  1. Dogs growl as a warning – they let you know they are uncomfortable or unhappy about something. In short you need to recognise this behaviour to be an “early warning” signal.
  2. Telling a dog off is wrong - removing this all-important early warning system would be a big mistake because when a dog gets told off for growling they quickly learn not to which means they won’t give any early warning signals when they are unhappy or uncomfortable about things and this can lead to a situation escalating into full on aggression – something that needs to be avoided at all costs!
  3. Every dog on the planet warns about danger - when they are unhappy or feeling cornered and dogs don't give off any warning signals before they bite it's because they no longer feel they can which results in them taking things to the next level. This typically happens because of a person has scolded them for growling. Dogs that send out a warning signal are much easier to handle and retrain. A dog that gives out a warning signal by growling first before they bite or show more aggressive behaviour, is far easier to handle and retrain than a dog that goes straight into biting mode.
  4. Dogs growl because they feel it necessary to do so – it would be a mistake to think a dog growls for no reason at all. Dogs don't react for the sake of it but rather because there is something wrong whether it's because they find themselves in a scary situation or because something or somebody is worrying them.

Recognising the Triggers

It's really important to recognise and appreciate what is making your dog growl and then to deal with the problem in a calm and gentle way. Behaviourists recommend that dogs be rewarded when they growl because this acknowledges the problem. Then it’s up to the owner to investigate what’s going on before correcting the underlying cause. If it's a situation that your dog finds threatening or frightening, you need to make sure they feel more comfortable about things which might mean asking for help from a professional dog trainer who knows how to help our canine friends overcome their fears.

It could be that your dog is insecure when they are around other dogs or people which is usually the case when a dog has not been well socialised at a young age. Again, the best way to deal with their insecurity is to enrol in a dog training class and take them along on a regular basis so they get used to being around other dogs and people. Another advantage this offers is that you will get lots of valuable advice on how to deal with your dog’s insecurity issues from the trainers and other dog owners too.


Dogs growl for various reasons which is why it's important to understand why they are doing so. It would be a mistake to tell your dog off when they growl because this is their early warning signal, it’s their way of letting you know something is wrong, or that something is scaring them. Without this early warning signal, a situation may well escalate to something a lot more serious like full blown aggression which could result in your dog biting someone or another dog – something you need to avoid at all costs!



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