Why Does My Dog Growl at Me?
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Dogs communicate in many ways, dog wagging, whining, barking and even growling. These behaviours have different meaning as they try to communicate their different emotions to their caregiver.
In this AnimalWised article we're going to talk about why your dog is growling at you, the meaning and how to stop it. We'll also talk about other reasons why your dog may be growling in other situations.
Causes of growling in dogs
Growling is a way that dogs communicate certain messages, such as feeling upset, protecting their territory, etc. We're going to go through the different causes and solutions to why dogs growl:
They're in pain
The first reason as to why your dog may be growling is due to pain. This is usually when some part of their body, which is in pain, is touched. This may be the case if your dog is also showcasing other signs that they are sick, such as low energy, changes in their behaviour, decreased appetite, digestive issues, biting or licking specific areas in their body, etc.
Therefore, if your dog is growling when touched in a specific area and is also showcasing other symptoms of an underlying illness, it is because they are in pain. The best thing you can do is to take them to the veterinarian to be professionally examined and diagnosed. It's always best to do this as soon as possible, before the illness gets serious.
Many dogs will growl at strangers due to fear. This is common among dogs that haven't been properly socialized as puppies. When dogs aren't properly socialized from a young age they can develop behavioural issues as adults, such as growling at other pets or humans. They most likely feel scared and will growl as a way to cope and protect themselves form what they believe can be a danger.
In order to help your dog in this situation, you need to re-train them and help them socialize as adults. This way, they get over their fear of strangers and will no longer growl in this situation.
Your dog can also be growling at you or someone else because they're frustrated. Maybe you've said “no” to them, denying them from something they want or perhaps they want to greet you once you arrive home but a fence isn't allowing them to do so. These frustrating moments can make a dog growl or whine.
You can try to calm them down by speaking to them softly or giving petting them so they feel accompanied and understood. However, be careful not to unintentionally reward them by growling as this could incentivise them to repeat this behaviour. We recommend you read our article on 4 relaxing exercises to help a dog calm down.
They're protecting their territory or tribe
Sometimes dogs will growl at a mailman or neighbour passing by. This is usually because they're protecting their territory and tribe. A growl is often a warning to stay away, however, it doesn't necessarily imply that the dog will attack. Dogs may also behave this way with their bed or their usual spot on the couch. They can even growl when a stranger approaches their caregiver as a way to protect their family.
To correct this behaviour, you'll need to re-train your dog to not view these situations as threatening. For this, you will need to help them behave calmly in these situations and reward them when they behave correctly. You can also go to a canine specialist to help you train your dog.
They're guarding their resources
Another similar reason is that your dog is guarding their resources, such as their food or toys. Dogs especially do this when they are eating and someone comes near their food. Another example is if your dog is playing with their toy and someone tries to take it from them. They feel threatened and upset so they growl to protect their resources.
To improve their behaviour, you will need to teach them to trust in others and understand that no one will steal their resources. You can do this by slowly going closer to what they protect but speak to them softly or pet them so they can keep calm. When they allow you to come close to their resource without growling, you reward them with a treat.
Lastly, your dog may be growling because they're playing with you or another pet. This is simply a playful growl and is not violent behaviour. Your dog will not bite anyone and is not feeling angry, they are simply playful. Therefore, there is no reason to correct or change this behaviour as it's perfectly safe and healthy.
Why your dog growls at you
You've said “no”
If you've neglected your dog from something they want, they may feel frustrated or upset. This may lead them to growling at you. In these cases, you will need to find a way to calm them down. This could be by putting on some relaxing music, speaking softly to them or even by inviting them to play or go on a walk.
You've punished them
Dogs are very sensitive animals. When they're punished or scolded, they may react in two different ways. They can either feel very sad or they can feel frustrated and angry. If your dog is upset that you've punished them, they may defend themselves by growling at you.
If this is the case for your dog, we encourage you to read our article about common mistakes when scolding a dog.
You've unintentionally taught them to growl
We are sometimes entertained by our dog's reactions and behaviours. However, this can be dangerous when we reward them for violent or bad behaviour. Perhaps in the past, you have laughed and smiled when your dog growled to protect you or when you've said “no” to them. This will incentivise them to repeat the behaviour.
In order to correct this behaviour you will need to re-train them to keep calm in these situations instead of growling.
You're their companion's new partner
Lastly, if you're the dog's companion's new partner, they may not be accustomed to your presence yet. Some dogs get jealous and protective of their human companion. This makes them growl at the new boyfriend or girlfriend. If your partner's dog is growling at you, you need to form a better bond with them while respecting their wishes to be close to their companion.
You can do this by playing with them, training them through positive reinforcement and making sure they also get cuddles from you and your partner. This way, they will not feel excluded or threatened. They will simply see you as part of the family.
If you've found this article useful, we invite you to watch our video about dog behaviour and communication. This way, you'll be able to better understand your dog and provide them with what they need.
If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Growl at Me?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.