Why is my dog growling? To start with, let’s clear a few things up. Dogs growl to communicate, much as we talk. They bark for many reasons, including to establish dominance, or because they’re bored or anxious.
They’ll also growl when they’re scared, lack confidence, happy, excited or in pain or even just learning.
It’s important to keep in mind that your dog is certainly not barking to annoy you! He does it for certain reasons as stated in the start of this post.
By getting to know what’s causing your dog to growl, you would have a better chance to make him calm down.
How To Get Your Dog To Stop Growling?
When your dog starts growling, say “NO!” to him with a firm, confident and calm tone. Use this phrase every time your dog displays such behavior and remember to reward him (with treat and praise) for his obedience once he reacts by calming down.
Establish Your Position As Alpha
Dogs require a strong pack leader, and when they don’t have one, they assert dominance through barking. Your dog may growl at you or nip you because he is trying to protect something like his food or toys. This is a natural thing for him to do.
It is important to establish boundaries and let your dog know that you are the alpha (leader) in the family.
The goal here is to help your dog realize that growling to demonstrate his dominance isn’t going to help him get what he wants.
Very much like when you’re trying to convince a child that shouting doesn’t get him anywhere, you have to make the dog realize that barking isn’t the way to get a rise out of him.
Desensitize Your Dog
To do this, you would need a helper and getting someone who had experienced raising a dog will be an ideal choice. Following will be an example on how to overcome a dog who is fearful of people.
You would be standing on one side and let the helper kneel down near your dog. Remember, the helper should avoid any eye contact with the dog and should be a little distance away from him.
Helper had to keep his body posture in a relaxed and non-threatening state and slowly place a delicious treat on his hand and wait for the dog to reach out to him.
When the dog feels that it is not a threat to him, he will slowly reach out to the helper for his treat. The helper should immediately praise the dog when he eats the treat from his hand.
This will help to create a positive response for your dog and make him confident.
Spend More Time With Him
Your dog may dislike the fact that you are away all day, and is pleased to see you. In this case growling may be a means of getting closer to you, and showing a friendly, submissive disposition.
This can be observed when you are playing with him and your dog may growl out of a desire to be more affectionate. He will “snuggle” with you to show his love.
So plan for a routine to spend at least an hour daily to interact with him. This will certainly help to show your love for him and make him feel part of your family.
Never Punish Your Dog
When your dog does growl, avoid getting angry or punish him as this will only reinforce his fear and anxiety and make the situation worse since he is already in a nervous, scared and confused state.
Your dog looks upon you as his trusted friend and the moment you make any punishment or just simply yelling at him, that is going to make him growl even more and could potentially lead to his aggressiveness.
You should instead work on understanding what is your dog experiencing at that time and taking appropriate steps to treat it.
Say for example, your dog is growling as a result of you trying to take away his toy (resource guarding behavior). You could make use of his favorite treat to distract his attention and take away his toy when he focuses on his treat.
Keep practicing this with your dog till he feels comfortable for you to remove his toy without giving him any treat.
Stay Confident, Not Nervous
Your dog can sense your anxiety state. So if you are feeling nervous and breathing heavily, your dog will likely react to your state and behave in a similar manner.
So it’s important that you remain calm and confident when your dog is around with you in all situations.
Obedient training will be essential to make your dog behave himself. Basic obedience commands such as “sit”, “come”, “stay”, “down” and “No” should be taught to your dog as soon as you have adopted him.
These commands will come in handy when you need him to behave himself such as in a situation when he is growling at your visitors.
Treats will be an essential part of the training too, at least in the beginning. But you shouldn’t give him a treat every single time he obeys you.
Give him one treat and have him obey a couple of times before you give him another treat. This will make him learn to earn his reward.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Using a treat and praise system works well when training your dog to stop growling. When you reward your pet for behaving properly, he will feel gratified and this helps to suppress any bad behavior such as barking.
This method will take longer to train than any other but it does work well and is an excellent alternative to harsh shock collars.
Stop Reinforcing Wrong Behavior
The first thing you need to do is to not reward growling with attention. If your dog gets a reaction by barking, he will be motivated to do so again.
He might carry on barking a little longer just to get that same reaction out of you if he did not get your attention the next round.
It is inevitably that you might have a habit of reassuring your dog not to be scared or nervous by simply petting him and telling him “It’s Okay”, “No Worry” when he is growling but this action is in fact reinforcing your dog to think that he should actually react in this manner.
Rather than giving him the attention when he barks, you should only attend to him when he has calmed down. Also start training him to listen and obey your obedience commands.
Every time he stops barking when you tell him to do so (again, calmly), you reward him. He will learn that being in a calm state is a great thing, and he gets a treat in the end.
For example, when your dog begins to growl because he wants to go for a walk, and you quickly respond by taking him outside or by giving him a loving action such as petting him, you have just rewarded him for his barking. He will just get the idea that if he growls, he will be rewarded.
Another example is when you come home and your dog is all excited and happy to see you. During this excitement he could try to show off his happiness by barking and squeaking or do a little dance, and again, you have just rewarded him for his bark.
So the next time you come home, ignore your dog for a few moments and pay attention to him only when he has calmed down.
Ease His Fear
Sometimes, a dog may growl or bite when he is approached by unfamiliar people. This is a potential sign of fear. It is important not rush in and try to comfort such a dog.
Comforting a dog that is anxious, scared, or aggressive can often worsen the situation. Try to remain calm and do not force the dog to come up to you. This may be difficult, especially if the dog is wary of you and tries to bite you instead.
You can take steps to correct this, such as trying to put the dog off with a toy or food. When you have removed the object or person, reward your dog for no longer being possessive.
You want to be sure that your dog gets plenty of playtime. Exercise not only helps to keep him fit and healthy but also makes him release excessive energy and ease his boredom.
This is also the best time to build a bond with your dog and get him to trust you. Once you have got his trust, it would be much easier to carry out your dog obedience training.
Use of Bark Collar
If your dog is very persistent in his barking, you would need some “tool” to assist you and a bark collar could be a choice to go for.
This collar would release a very mild electric shock that would shock him if he barked for over three times in a minute. You could use his collar on your dog once a week to create a negative reinforcement on his growling behavior along with obedience training.
It shouldn’t take long for your dog to associate that he gets shocked when he barks. Always remember to reward him when he has calmed down.
When your dog is suffering from some health problem such as pain or illness, he will growl as a way to tell you that he is not feeling well.
Usually, you can observe this when your dog has sudden loss of appetite, weight loss or loss of interest in everything, excessive licking on certain parts of his body or hair loss.
The solution to this problem will be to reach out to your veterinarian for medical treatment.
Don’t expect your dog to be well-behaved overnight. You will need to keep trying different approaches until you find one that works well on your dog. Be patient and persistent and you will be on your way to have an obedient pet!