Imagine this scene: you'e in the dog park, and your angelic pup starts growling at another dog.
If you’re like most pet parents, your first instinct may be to reprimand your dog. Humans are hard-wired to understand that a growl is threatening, so it’s reasonable — and even advantageous — to become upset when we hear one.
But a growl from a dog can actually be a good thing.
Whether a dog is growling at another dog or a person, it’s a warning. If the dog wanted to attack, he would. Growling is meant to avert aggression, not provoke it.
Keep in mind though — growling has its own spectrum of intensity, and varies based on personality and breed.
As the pitch of a growl deepens and intensifies, your dog’s arousal increases.
Be mindful of the accompanying body language as well. A dog standing stock still when growling (as opposed to moving away in fear) is conserving his energy and standing his ground. This is a potentially volatile situation, whereas backing away while growling is the behavior of a dog who is fearful or conflicted and wants the big, scary thing to go away.
If you happen to be on the receiving end of the growl, it's best to diffuse the situation by looking down and to the side. This will communicate that you are not a threat, while still allowing you to monitor the situation.
Next time you hear a growl, take a minute to assess the situation to understand the why, so you can address it appropriately.
As always, employ the assistance of a professional trainer if needed.
Growling is simply a form of communication. (Although not as pleasant or cute as say, licks to the face.)
Your dog is trying to tell you something when he growls.
And it's your job to listen.