Have you ever wondered why your dog growls? People have a tendency to think that a growling dog is always an aggressive dog, one that is about to bite. The truth is, that isn’t always an accurate assessment. As it turns out, dogs growl for a number of different reasons. Just as humans use certain verbal cues along with body language to express their feelings, so do dogs – just think about all of your dog’s ear positions. The difference is that your dog obviously can’t speak English. However, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t trying to get his point across. By interpreting his body language along with the growl, you can start to understand what he’s trying to tell you. You might be surprised to learn that in many cases, it’s really not about aggression at all, though an aggressive dog almost certainly will be growling. If you want to learn more, you can find out about the different types of growls and what they mean in the following paragraphs.
Dog Growling as a Means of Aggression
Since most people tend to associate a growling dog with an aggressive one, it’s important to go ahead and get this one out of the way first. A dog that is feeling aggressive will almost certainly growl. It’s done more often than not as a means of warning another animal or a person that the dog will bite if forced into a situation. You might even think of this in much the same way that you think of a person who is angry yelling at another person. Dogs that are aggressive have a tendency to bark and growl more than other dogs. In fact, growling and baring teeth are one of the major warning signs that a dog is about to bite. However, it doesn’t mean that a dog that is growling is always ready to fight. That is precisely why it’s so important to learn the body language of a dog before automatically assuming that any dog that growls is being aggressive. Dogs will almost always give off particular body language if they’re being aggressive, in conjunction with the growling.
For example, the aggressive dog is likely to lay his ears flat while showing his teeth. He’s also likely to lock eyes with the source of his aggression, all while leaving his tail up and draped over his back. It’s also likely that the hair along his shoulders and spine will be standing up. When you see a dog in this state, you know that he is feeling aggressive toward something that is setting him off. If that particular thing that is upsetting him continues to do so, it’s quite likely that he might bite, especially if he is prone to being more aggressive in the first place.
Growling as a Warning
Dogs sometimes growl as a warning to back off. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being aggressive, but it may very well mean that they feel trapped in a certain situation and they want out. Just as you probably don’t like feeling backed into a corner, neither does your dog. When something happens to make him feel that way, he may growl as a means of trying to communicate that he’s uncomfortable. In other words, he doesn’t like the situation that he’s in. If he is growling in this manner, is he truly being aggressive? It all comes down to body language. If he is displaying wide eyes, sometimes called whale eye (1), and his tail is between his legs while wagging back and forth quickly, he’s probably feeling much more insecure than he is aggressive. However, the insecurity can turn to aggression in a heartbeat if the thing that’s making him feel trapped continues to do so. In other words, having a stranger come over to the house and insist on walking straight up to your dog to pet him may not be a good idea. If he starts exhibiting a warning growl and that person continues to come toward him, it can quickly turn into a situation where he feels like he has no recourse but to become aggressive. That’s precisely when most dog bites happen. The way to prevent them is to not put your dog in this type of situation, to begin with.
Growling Out of Fear
Sometimes, your dog will growl because he’s afraid of something. This may be another dog, a person that he doesn’t know, or some other type of animal such as a snake. When your dog gets scared, he may show what appear to be signs of aggression. Growling is a part of that behavior. He may not be feeling the least bit aggressive, but simply scared. It’s much the same as dealing with a person who feels defensive and begins to shout. When people shout, it is definitely out of aggression at times, but not always. Sometimes a person who is utterly terrified will shout because they don’t know what else to do. It all comes back to trying to make oneself seem more fierce than one truly is, out of a sense of self-preservation. It’s the exact same thing when your dog starts growling out of fear. He may not be doing it because he wants to bite, but because he is frightened by something.
Make no mistake about it, if whatever is frightening your dog continues to do so, the fear may turn to aggression. This is very similar to the warning growl. In fact, a dog growling out of fear may eventually give a warning growl that signifies someone to take a few steps back unless they want to be bitten. Even the calmest, sweetest dog will growl when they are confronted with something that scares them and they don’t feel like they have any other recourse. If your dog is left in a situation where he can’t get away from whatever it is that is scaring him, he will growl at it in an attempt to make it go away. If that doesn’t work, he may bite, even if he has always been obedient and has never displayed any aggressive tendencies whatsoever. When this type of thing happens, it’s often the dog that gets blamed but it isn’t really the dog’s fault. If he is afraid of something and he can’t get away from it, he probably feels like he doesn’t have many options left but to bite. As such, it’s often the people who put their dogs in these types of situations that are truly to blame.
Dogs Growl When They Play Too
Perhaps you have more than one dog or you are taking your dog to the dog park and you’ve heard him growling when interacting with other dogs. Does that mean that he’s being aggressive or that he is displaying aggressive tendencies? Not always. Dogs often growl when they’re playing with other dogs. It’s a different type of growl than the one you hear when they’re about to bite someone. However, it can still sound quite fierce, especially if you have large dogs such as German Shepherds or Rottweilers. This isn’t because they necessarily have a tendency to be more aggressive than other breeds, but because they are larger. Therefore, their growls have a tendency to sound more intimidating, to begin with.
What does a dog growling at play look like? Most of the time, the dog growling during play will have a more relaxed face, with ears that are either fully forward or down by their sides. Sometimes, the ears may be back but they’re not laid so far back against the head that they’re flat. An angry dog often looks like they don’t even have ears. This isn’t the case with the dog that is at play. By the same token, they may be wagging their tail in a fairly loose manner. They’re also likely to display what is classically known as a dog smile, with their tongue hanging out. Dogs that play also have a tendency to bow, with their front paws splayed out and their back ends straight up in the air. A dog that is displaying this posture while growling is definitely playing. There is no need to become alarmed.
What About When Dogs Get Frustrated?
There is no doubt about it, dog growling may be a sign of frustration as well. It’s not uncommon to come home and find that your dog is growling because he can’t physically get to you as quickly as he wants to. When this happens, he may display a short series of growls that indicate his frustration about the situation. It doesn’t mean that he’s angry or that he’s going to bite. It’s simply his way of letting you know that he isn’t happy about the way things are going. It’s similar to when you get frustrated about something and let out a grunt that expresses your feelings. Your dog is doing the same thing. The best course of action you can take is to go to your dog. If it’s you he wants, make it a point to spend some time with him. A few minutes of play in their electric dog fence can do wonders for a hyper dog who is growling out of sheer frustration.
What Should You Do When Your Dog Growls?
The first thing you should do when your dog is growling? Try and find out why in the first place. Again, it’s important that you look at his body language. Is he growling out of aggression or is he afraid of something? Is he playing with you or another dog? Understanding why he is growling will help you know what needs to happen next. If he’s just playing, there isn’t anything to worry about. On the other hand, you will want to remove him from the situation if he’s growling because he is afraid of feeling trapped. The same is true if he’s providing you (or someone else) with a warning growl. In cases such as these, the best thing you can do is to remove the thing that is bothering him from the area. If that isn’t possible, consider removing your dog from the area until he calms down.
Other Reasons Your Dog May Be Growling
Are there any other situations where you may find yourself hearing your dog growl without fully knowing why? There are times when he may growl because he is in pain. If you have a dog that is normally good-natured, yet he starts to growl every time you or anyone else tries to touch him, it’s important to get him seen by the veterinarian as soon as possible. He may be in a great deal of pain or suffering from some type of illness that is causing him to lash out when that isn’t normally his nature. Unfortunately, this can also happen when a dog suffers from a brain tumor or some type of brain trauma. As a result, it’s imperative that you make an appointment with your veterinarian as quickly as possible in order to have him evaluated. The sooner you do so, the better the chances of identifying the cause and dealing with it successfully.
As you can see, dogs growl for a number of different reasons. A bark or growl doesn’t always mean the same thing. When people talk, the way that they say their words carries a great deal of weight. The exact same word can mean two completely different things, depending on how it is said. It’s exactly the same thing with your dog. It’s impossible to say that just because a dog is growling means he is an aggressive animal. Doing so would be completely inaccurate. There are many reasons why he might be growling and it’s important to learn everything you can about your dog so that you can better ascertain the reasons behind the growling in the first place. Once you are able to do this, both you and your dog are likely to be a lot happier. Your dog might even start to growl less as you become less stressed about the entire idea of dealing with a growling dog, as dogs frequently pick up on the feelings of their owners and then act accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a growl from a dog mean?
Dog’s growling can mean a lot of things. It may be used to signal aggression, fear, frustration, a warning, or even play.
Why does a dog growl at a person?
A dog may growl when he feels threatened. Therefore, he may not know the person in question. Alternatively, he may feel threatened by someone and growl as a result.
Should you stop a dog from growling?
It all depends on why he is growling in the first place. If he’s just playing, let him be. If he’s upset or afraid, try to remove the thing that is upsetting him.
What do you do if a dog starts growling at you?
Do your best not to make eye contact and slowly back away.