What to do if a dog growls

It can be scary when a dog growls at us. Growling is threatening and means that a more dangerous behavior might follow. We don’t want to be in that situation or have our dogs growl at others or even worse, at kids.

German Shepherd dog showing their teeth

Our gut reaction often when a dog growls at us is to tell it off or punish it, however that is one of the most dangerous things we can do. If we punish a growl, the dog will stop growling, however he won’t stop feeling worried or scared about the situation and since he can’t growl he will go straight to biting in the future. 

Growling is just a form of communication. I love hearing a growl from a nervous dog because they generally don’t want to bite me and are telling me they are uncomfortable so I can move away. It would be more ideal that the dog felt safe but being able to listen to and understand our dog will help keep everyone safe. 

What do you do if your dog growls at you?

Move away 

When a dog growls at you, the most important thing to do is get yourself safe. Make space between you and the dog. Put a door or gate between yourself and the dog if necessary. If your dog growls at someone else, we can use a leash or treats to move the dog away from the other person. I would be very careful grabbing my dog even if they aren’t growling at me because it is very easy for dogs to redirect onto something else in the environment if they are scared or in a heightened state of arousal. 

Look at what caused the dog to growl

If we can figure out what caused our dog to react then it is much easier to build a training plan and add safety measures so we aren’t in the situation again where our dog is growling at us. Knowing what triggers our dog is important for the next step. ex: you walked towards the dog when he was eating from his food bowl, you pet the the left leg of your dog, a dog walked by on a walk)

Set safety measures in place

We want to use management to keep everyone safe. Knowing what causes the dog to react is important for this. We can look at what triggers the dog to growl and then set up safety measures so that no one can get hurt. It is important as a dog owner to keep your household, other pets, and everyone else in society safe from our dog. We can use baby gates, a leash, closed door, crate, or other form of management to prevent injuries. That might mean feeding your dog in a crate so he can’t lash out if someone gets too close when he is eating. It might mean putting up a baby gate so your dog and kids/other pets can’t interact directly. 

Get help from a professional trainer

For aggression cases it is very important to work with a professional so no one gets injured. Look for a professional who will help you make a training plan to help change your dog’s emotions so they feel safer, and no longer feel the need to growl.

For help with growling contact us here! We can help you and your dog figure out a successful resolution!

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