Our dogs are always talking to us mainly with visual signals, but they also use vocalisations that carry meaningful information. Growling is one of my favourite vocalisations and is key to a dog’s early warning system. Growling tells us that a dog is worried and is willing to escalate the request if the warning is ignored and the source of worry does not withdraw. Now, this may sound harsh but if a dog is growling and you do not change what you are doing it is your fault that you get bitten. Listen to what the dog is telling you.
Did you lose your growl?
I know never is a pretty strong word, but I’ll soften it with use of the word ‘please’……..please never, ever take a growl out of a dog. Lost your growl??? the most common reason for growls to stop is when a dog has been corrected for growling. Picture this classic scenario, you’re out and about when a stranger approaches and your dog growls, you reflexively jerk on the leash. You just taught your dog not to growl……….. Uh Oh. Fast forward to the next outing, a stranger approaches, your dog knows growling is punished and the stranger stretches out a hand to pat your dog and…….. gets bitten. You disabled the early warning system, your dog has no better way to say ‘hey, you worry me move away please’.
While lost growls can be found prevention is always better. The moral of the story is to listen to the dog…….he’s asking the best way he knows how for space just so he can feel safer.