The information presented is for general purposes. If your dog is showing aggression, please consult a reputable professional educated in the science of dog behaviour and communication. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers can help you find a skilled professional.
When a dog growls, the dog is communicating a warning that a bite is coming if the situation isn’t changed in a way that makes the dog more comfortable. If you scold or punish the growl, you are in danger of teaching the dog to suppress this important warning sign, and as a result, can teach the dog to bite without warning. No one wants a dog that bites, and ABSOLUTELY no one wants a dog that bites without warning.
What do you do instead?
Address the underlying cause of the growl.
There are two components to this:
- In the immediate situation where a dog has growled, pay attention to the context and remove the dog from the situation that is causing the dog to growl (or give the dog distance from the thing that is causing the dog to growl).
- For the next weeks/months, do training to address the underlying cause of the growl so that your dog does not feel the need to growl in future situations that are similar.
Addressing the underlying cause of the growl:
This is something that skilled dog trainer educated in the science of behaviour modification can help you with. Be very cautious of the information you find on TV shows, online, and from people at the dog park. You should also be cautious about dog trainers because the industry is unregulated and ANYONE can call oneself a dog trainer, even someone with no experience and no training. Buyer Beware. But this is a topic for a different post.
Watch for early signs of stress before the dog growls
In general, dogs will give many early signs of stress before they resort to a growl. Learn to read these signs. NOTE: Some dogs have not learned to use these early signals (poor socialization experiences) or have learned that they don’t work for them (because they have been ignored).
to be continued