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Why do dogs growl?

Hearing a dog growl can be scary, but a growl isn’t always a sign that your dog is angry or sad. Dogs actually growl to communicate lots of different things. However, this means that it is important for you to pay close attention to where your dog is and what they are doing when they growl. These should give you some big clues as to why they are growling and how you should react to them.

Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs growl and what you should do next.


They are confused or anxious

Do you sometimes feel shy, anxious or scared when you meet someone new or go to a new place for the first time?

These feelings are very normal, and animals have them too. Our pets like things to be the same as it helps them to feel happy and safe. When they visit a new place, meet new animals or people, or even if the people that they know well suddenly change - such as wearing a new perfume or changing their hair colour - it can be scary for them. One of the ways that your dog might tell you that they feel anxious is by growling. You should tell an adult so they can try and reassure them as much as possible as this will help them to feel safe and calm.


They are in pain

Our dogs can’t use words to tell us that they are hurting, but they can make sounds. There are a variety of different noises that your dog might make to let you know that they are in pain, including howling, yelps, whining and even growling. If the pain affects a specific area of their body, they may growl if you come too close to it. This is them telling you that they are hurting, and they don’t want to be touched. If you think your dog is in pain, it’s important to take them to see your vet so that they can find out what’s wrong.


They don’t want to share

We know that sharing is caring. However, dogs don’t understand sharing, and they can become a little jealous or worried if it seems like someone is trying to take what they think is theirs – whether it’s toys, food or even your attention. Dogs who have been rescued from shelters can be especially prone to growling if they feel that their things are at risk of being taken by another animal or person. Teaching pets to share can be tricky and should usually be done as part of socialisation training, organised by an adult. However, for older pets you may wish to consider seeing a pet behaviour specialist.


They are just playing

Not all growling is a sign of being unhappy. Many dogs will also growl when they are enjoying themselves, such as when you are playing with tug toys with them. You should be able to tell fairly easily if your dog is growling in play, since the noise will be accompanied by a relaxed body and other positive signs like a wagging tail. But if in doubt, always check with an adult.


Growling isn’t always a sign that there is a problem, and to be a great owner we should pay attention to the clues within the situation that will help us to understand our dog’s behaviour. If you are worried about your dog growling, please speak to your vet, or if you would like more information, check out this advice.


As always, we advise that children and dogs are never left unattended.


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