Your Growling Dog. It Pays to Listen - Jim Burwell's Petiquette

You just had one of those “uh-oh” moments with your growling dog


You immediately wonder if it’s a cause for alarm.

It will pay you to listen.

Pay attention to your growling dog

He might be trying to communicate his concerns. Maybe a perceived threat is way too close to him or his possession. He may just be trying to say, “Keep your distance.”
Dogs don’t speak English. They just “growl,” snap or bite.
If you have a growling dog consider this: he would much rather growl than snap or bite. In fact most dogs, yours included, first will growl to keep perceived threats at a distance.

Defense! He May be Fearful

Your dog has survival instincts; growling is a part of your dog’s defense drive.
Example: If your dog hasn’t been well socialized and is fearful of people, he may growl to keep people he’s not sure of, at a distance. Kids can be extremely frightening to a fearful dog. They can come on so quickly to your dog that he doesn’t have time to run, so he growls and snaps. That is very scary to a child and a parent!
If that has happened, just remember that your dog had choices: growl, snap or bite. He chose to growl. Be thankful of this and work from here.

Don’t Shoot the Dog – Teach the Child

I wouldn’t be so quick to shoot the dog for “just being a dog”. He is trying to protect himself from a bratty kid who is just playing, but scaring the dog none the less. Teach kids not to bother the dog unless the dog approaches them. There must be parental supervision with appropriate interaction.
Have the child ask the dog for a sit and then praise/treat the dog for sitting.

Now Train the Dog

Meanwhile, your dog needs to get desensitized to people and kids and this may take a while. The single best way to do this is to have people and kids feed the dog food treats. You may have to do it at a distance at first and gradually get your dog closer as his level of comfort gets better. Remember, when working your dog always have him on leash for control.
But right now, it’s your job to keep your dog safe and not allow being approaches by all the people that cause this reactivity and stress.


If your growls at the mailman or others passing by your house he may feel they don’t belong on “his” property. You may also notice that he growls over his place on the couch or your bed when approached by a visitor or family member. His growling is his way of saying, “You’re encroaching on my territory.”
Regardless of the reason your dog is growling, its best to hire a dog trainer or behaviorist qualified in this area of dog behavior. Their guidance can help you with some simple exercises on desensitization in the case of fear. They can also help you retrain your dog if it’s territorial issues.
Don’t let the behavior continue as it will only get worse.

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog

Jim Burwell, has been Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 30 years, serving over 11,000 clients. Jim teaches you how to get great behavior with your dog. He gives you back that great member of your family.