6 Reasons Why Dogs Growl (And How to Stop It)

Dogs are magnificent creatures that we just can’t help but love and want to be close to. However, when you hear one growling, instinct is going to kick in, and we’re going to back off.

After all, a growling dog feels threatened and is about to attack right?

While it’s a good rule of thumb to back away from a growling dog, not all growls are outwardly hostile. So, what are the different reasons why dogs growl? And how can you stop them?

Let’s take a look at six major reasons your dog will growl and how to help them curb the habit.

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1. Fear

angry chihuahua
Shutterstock | Galina Kovalenko

One of the number one reasons a dog will growl is out of fear. This is a natural defense mechanism that is a reaction to something that’s making your dog scared. Some dogs are afraid of particular groups of people — such as men or children — often stemming from unpleasant memories from early in their lives.

Other dogs are afraid of different phenomena like fireworks, thunderstorms, or loud music. They’ll growl and make their feelings known that they want these sensations to go away.

To stop your dog from growling out of fear, you’ll need to remove the frightening element — if that’s an option. In some cases, specialist training may be required to help pups face and overcome their fears to live happy, healthy lives.


2. Pain

small dog angry

Just as we wince and groan in pain, dogs do the same, except their response is often in the form of a growl. Dogs experiencing pain may growl at an overall sense of discomfort or just feeling unwell in general. However, growling pain often comes from localized areas.

For instance, a dog that has injured its paw may only start growling after the paw has been touched. This can become especially apparent if your dog normally doesn’t growl in the first place. Whatever the case may be, growling caused by pain is a surefire sign that your dog needs to see a veterinarian. There may be much more sinister forces at play that need to be checked in order for your pup to be at their best.

With the help of a professional, you’ll be able to curb pain-induced growling quickly.


3. Territorial Urges and Defense

Dog angry

Dogs, by nature, are territorial creatures. And while some breeds are quite docile (i.e., the Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever), others are still exceptionally territorial. Many times, territorial dogs have no qualms about showing you that you’re on their property. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to attack.

Often dogs will growl or bare their teeth as a sign of ownership to clue in the offending party before resorting to a physical altercation. This can become a very big problem when the “offensive individual” is you or another member of the family.

Fortunately, this behavior can be altered through the assistance of a specialist dog trainer and intensive obedience training. In the meantime, you’ll want to hold off on having your dog interact with strangers or other unknown dogs in an area they feel they need to protect, like your house or their eating area. This should keep growling at bay.


4. Guarding Aggression

Box Heeler Dog Breed

You’ve probably been told several times throughout your life never to approach a dog while it’s eating. And if you’ve never heard it before, we’re telling you now. Instinctively, dogs may defend what is theirs from other dogs or pack members. This may include growling at you or other family members.

This can become particularly dangerous when dealing with certain breeds with more volatile personalities such as Chihuahuas or Dachshunds. And if you have small children, the risk of nips and bites increases doubly due to their inability to understand a dog’s behavior.

This growling and more destructive behavior is best curbed at an early age when the dog learns what acceptable reactions are as well as through an early training program for their owners on when to let your dog be.

See: The Most Aggressive Dog Breeds


5. Fun and Playtime

whippet biting and playing

Not all growls are bad. Sometimes, it’s all a part of good fun, especially if you wrestle and play hard with your dog. Playing with your pup is a wonderful way to forge a positive, loving bond, as long as your dog understands the proper time and place for those kinds of activities.

When playing with a growly pup, you just need to ensure that their voice remains positive. And if you do get frightened, your dog will typically sense this on their own and stop playing on the spot to check on you. Gotta’ love those pups!


6. Dreaming Growls

dog sleeping

It can be adorable to hear your pup growling during their sleep. They may be chasing a cat or being a superhero defending their family from the villainous mailman. However, this is also the time where many bite accidents occur.

When trying to wake your pup from a dead sleep, they may not realize that they’re in a safe space and could lash out defensively. This is how even some of the sweetest dogs end up nipping at their owners. They just don’t realize what’s going on at the time. However, once they do actually wake up, they’ll be happy you’re there for them and may find comfort within your loving arms.

If you decide to wake your dog up from what seems like a nightmare, be sure not to shake or touch them. Instead, gently call their name until they rise from their deep slumber. This is the safest way to avoid an accident.

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Conclusion

There are plenty of reasons why dogs growl. But it’s normally used as a method of communication to convey one clear message — that they’re not comfortable with the situation. Often, the best solution is to change the situation altogether whether it’s backing away, getting them medical attention, or removing whatever is scaring them. In order to bring out long term change, be sure to seek out the help of a trained professional.


Featured image credit: freegr, Pixabay