It seems like human nature to react negatively when we hear a dog growl at us, someone else, or even at another animal. It is like a gut reaction for us to want to immediately step in and make that behavior stop. In addition, outdated and inhumane training advice also tells us that we need to stop a dog's growling by punishing them. Unfortunately, this advice is dangerous and can quickly lead to more severe behavior problems. Here's why:
An important key to understanding this concept is to realize that dogs use their body language and behavior to communicate with us. In fact, their behavior is the only tool they have to do this! (They do not use their behavior to dominate us, manipulate us, or deceive us. Dogs do not think this way. More info on this can be found here)
Think of a growl as a way of your dog saying "I am uncomfortable, please stop."
Like a warning.
Like what you do when you try to tell someone that they are bothering you.
Think of a growl as a way that your dog is actually trying to avoid conflict by using their voice.
If dogs get punished for growling, for trying to communicate, it does not fix their discomfort. Instead, it commonly teaches them that they need to display MORE intense behavior in order to communicate how they are feeling--- this will most likely be behaviors such as snapping and biting.
So rather than punishing a dog for growling, we instead want to do 2 things:
1. remove them from the situation that is causing them to growl
2. (if appropriate) incrementally & humanely teach our dog how to not be uncomfortable with that situation.
Reach out to a certified pet behavior consultant who uses humane methods for a training plan specifically for you and your dog.
Want to work with a professional pet behavior consultant? Click here
And in the meantime, remember; Growling is good. Growling is communication.