How to Stop Your Dog From Growling – Do You Know What Your Dog’s Growl Means?

One way dogs have of communicating is to growl. A dog’s growling is not always a bad thing. Some dogs that tend to be rather vocal, will growl when they need to go outside, or they may have a gutteral growl when they are trying to tell you they are hungry.

These types of growls are very different from a dog who growls to tell you to back off his space, his food, his toy. These incidents of growling need to be dealt with immediately. This type of growling is your dog’s way of telling you that he believes he is the “boss” and that it is HIS toy, HIS bed, HIS food. This is a dominant dog. This will escalate into something more harmful if you do not address this immediately.

The very first thing to look at is your leadership role. If you dog has ascended the ladder of entitlement to the point of thinking he is the head of the house, YOU belong to him and so does everything else in the house, then your leadership role is sorely lacking or probably non-existent.

Leadership role does not mean being hard on your dog. It simply means that dogs, like children, need to have a clear understanding of who is running the show and that must be you. If it’s not you, then because having a leader is so intrinsic in a dog’s sense of well being, they will step up to the plate and become the leader even if they are not genetically equipped to be a good leader.

When your dog assumes he is the boss, when you do something he doesn’t like, or you come into “his” space or touch his toy, or food, his way of telling you he doesn’t like it and you need to back off is to growl. If you don’t back off, his next step is to snap at you or bite you.

Here are some things you can do to communicate that you are the “parent” or boss:

  • Do not allow him in your space on the couch on his terms. Send him away from you, wait a minute or two, call him back, make him sit, THEN he can get on the couch. Message is: you getting up here is on my timetable and my terms, not yours.
  • Make him give you a sit or down before you place his food bowl down. Message is: the food is yours and you control it.
  • Make him sit before you give him his favorite toy. Message is: you control something like his toys that are important to him.

Leadership role is vital to the relationship between you and your dog and critical if you have children in the house.

Do not ignore growling, it has the potential to be a huge mistake.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!” (c) Jim Burwell, Inc.

4 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    I don’t have very much info to go on here as I don’t know how you introduced the new dog etc. I will tell you however that using punishment will
    only make your KCC dog have an even more negative feeling about the new dog. I do not believe in using punishmentto correct a behavior.

    You are not correcting a behavior you are only correcting the symptom of the behavior.

    Associate wonderful, fun things for your KCC with your new dog.

  2. bob and coni
    bob and coni says:

    Hi we just got a new 2 year old Jindo and our existing dog that we have Cavalier King, growls at her when she comes close to him. what can we do to stop this? Our family has dogs and he does not do it with them. How do I make him stop without using a punishment?

    please help
    bob and coni

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Hi Gary. Thanks for your comment. While growling is a way of “self-expression” in many dogs, it still bears heeding the warning. It sounds like Chub Chub has learned how to have things on his terms; i.e. nudging the hand when you stop what he likes. It’s good that you’ve learned to read your dog very well. It’s also important to know that a growl can have different meanings in different contexts. For example, our lab Sammy will growl when we rub his ear/ear canal in a certain way. It’s not at all tied to aggression. Hope this helps! Give the Chub a pat for me! jb

  4. Gary Thomas
    Gary Thomas says:

    One of our three dogs, Chub Chub, has growled since we got him at age 1.5 years old. If you play with him he growls, while playing with the other two dogs he growls, if petted while sleeping he growls, if picked up he growls. Only while picking him up is there a serious growl-teeth showing. The other examples, when you stop the actions which made him growl, he looks at you and nudges your hand to do it again. While picking him up, once we say “play easy” he will stop the growl. Chub was extremely aggressive to other dogs and has gotten somewhat better since Jim worked with us. Is it possible that some dogs, although can be trained somewhat, will never rid themselves of certain characteristics?

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