How to Stop Dog Growling
Dog growling is a signal that your dog is uncomfortable with something around him. To cure dog growling, you have to figure out why your dog is growling and fix that problem. If the problem starts suddenly, start with a veterinary examination as it may have medical causes.
Why Dogs Growl: Environmental and Medical Causes
Dogs can growl for many reasons, usually because they are uncomfortable or fearful. Dogs often growl when they are afraid of new people or dogs, when they are being asked to do something they don’t want to do, when they are guarding something or when they are uncomfortable being handled.
Growls communicate to the person, “I don’t want to bite you, but I’m very unhappy, so please leave me alone.” A growl should never be punished. When you punish a dog for growling, it may stop the growling, but it has not stopped the unpleasant feelings. Now, instead of communicating those feelings to you, your dog keeps allowing the scary thing to continue until he can’t take it anymore and bites you. It will appear that your dog bit you “out of nowhere,” but he actually learned to suppress all his warning signals.
Treating Fear Growling
If your dog is growling because he is afraid, teach him to handle his fear in another way. This can be prevented with early puppy socialization, but an adult dog can benefit as well.
If your dog is afraid of new people, for example, take him somewhere quiet where he might see a few new people. When someone walks by, praise your dog and give him treats. Don’t let the person approach him or give him treats. All you want to do is create a positive association between your dog and people. Gradually move closer and start visiting busier areas. If at any time your dog shows fear, you are moving too fast. Slow down.
If he is afraid of being handled or having his nails trimmed, approach it the same way. Trim only one and give a big reward. Trim another one tomorrow. Always keep it positive. If your dog growls, put him in his crate for a timeout to allow him to calm down, not as punishment. Try again later and move more slowly.
Stop Growling with Aggression Training
If your dog is growling at you because he is guarding or doesn’t want to do something, he needs more training. Start hand-feeding your dog so that he has to work for every resource that you possess. Make him do something for each handful of food.
Teach him several commands and make him work every time he wants pets, walks or games. Teach him commands that solve some of the behavior problems. For example, if he won’t get off the furniture, teach a “down” or “off” command and make it a game. Teach him “up” and “down” so it’s gets on and off furniture easily. If he guards, teach him “drop it” and “back away.”
Growling is not always a bad thing. It sends you valuable information that your dog is not happy. To fix a growling problem, you must diagnose the problem and figure out how to fix that, thus eliminating the growling.