DOG GUIDETraining & Behavior

Why Do Dogs Growl?

Why Do Dogs Growl?

Dogs use growls to communicate with each other and their human family members. They also use them as a sign that they’re content and in a good mood.

Some growls can be positive and indicate a playful exchange. These sounds tend to be lower-pitched and shorter in duration than more aggressive grunts. Other types of growls are negative and indicate that something is bothering your dog.

Potential Causes of Dog Growls

Dogs typically growl out of fear, anxiety, or pain. Understanding this can help you prevent or minimize your pup’s growling behavior.

A fearful growl is a dog’s warning signal that something they are fearful of has threatened them or that it’s time to flee. These dangers could include people, objects, or their territory.

Some dogs will growl when they meet new or unfamiliar faces. This could be a reaction to specific triggers like men with beards or hoodies, or it could simply be an overall fear of all strangers.

Other dogs will growl when faced with unfamiliar animals or pets in their territory. They may feel overwhelmed or cornered by a large animal and need to retreat in order to protect themselves from the potential threat.

Food guarding can often cause fear-based growls in dogs that feel threatened by other animals, especially when these growls come from an injured pup.

Some dogs give out harmless growls when their owners come inside or are eager for belly rubs. This type of growl usually sounds like an excited pup eager for head scratches.

Some dogs will growl when they are feeling pain or unwell, especially if their paws or hips become sore. Other signs that your pup might be experiencing discomfort include weight loss, lethargy, or decreased appetite.

How to Tell the Difference Between Growls

If you’re uncertain as to why your pup is making those strange noises, it can be difficult to know what steps to take. While most growls sound similar, they can originate for various reasons, such as resource guarding, fear, or even play.

  • Frustrated Growling

Your dog may exhibit this type of growl when they’re feeling frustrated with something or someone. It could be as simple as your pup not getting their belly rub, or it could be more complex and involve another dog that’s blocking your pup from going where they need to go.

Your dog may be experiencing anxiety, so it’s essential to address these issues and prevent future instances. By understanding why your pup is growling and what they are trying to communicate, you can better assist them in managing its distress.

  • Warning Growling

A warning growl is an audible warning used to alert people or other animals not to get too close. It has a deep and rumbling sound, similar to thunder. If your pup feels threatened, this should serve as a cue that you should keep your distance.

Body language and voice can help determine the type of growl a dog is making. If they appear happy and excited, their body language could indicate this is an indication that they are engaged in play.

  • Pleasure Growling

A pleasure growl is a low-pitched sound often heard during dogs’ playtime with their owners. It may be accompanied by an excellent ear scratch or soothing belly rub to provide comfort and relaxation for both of them.

This type of growl is usually harmless, but it may be misinterpreted by those around your dog – especially other dogs who might want to pet them. Therefore, it’s wise to teach those who want to pet your pup that such growling should not be taken as an indication of aggression.

  • Aggressive Growling

Your pup’s aggressive growls can be a warning that they are about to engage in combat. They tend to growl more when playing with other dogs, so pay attention to their body language for clues of an impending fight.

It’s wise to leave the situation before growling begins or take a break from play if things become too rough. If you feel your dog might attack, seek professional advice immediately.

  • Bone-Guarding Growling

A bone-guarding growl is a low, rumbling sound that often occurs when dogs are protecting their food items. This behavior indicates your pups are feeling protective and don’t want anyone else sharing their bone with you.

If your dog is showing aggression when protecting its bone, it may be beneficial to give them more space and allow them to guard the object on their own. Doing this teaches your pup that they are in control of the situation rather than you.