Why Do Dogs Growl?

Having a dog growl at you, especially a dog you don’t know can be a scary experience.  Most of us instinctively take it as a sign of aggression, which is pretty spot on although there can be many other reasons as well.  Because of this, it is pretty important as a dog owner to read up on why dogs growl so that you can best deal with the causes of the growl.

Why Do Dogs Growl?Growling is a type of communication or speech for dogs.  They can’t exactly talk to each other and us and tell us what is going on, so they use their primary sounds instead.  So why do dogs growl?  What are they saying?  Well, most dogs growl because they are afraid, aggressive, or in pain.  One of the primary reasons dogs growl, especially at each other, is dominance or territory.  Ever seen that beware of dog sign with a dog behind it barking his head off at you?  What he is saying is “THIS IS MY TURF!”.  Most dogs will bark when someone or something new enters their turf, and growling as well indicates aggressiveness with the alert of a newcomer.  If you go near a dog and they start growling at you, back off!  They are feeling the need to communicate dominance and do not want you around, and a growl in this situation is an indicator that the dog may be getting ready to bite for some reason.  Dogs can also do this when they are simply afraid of or anxious about a strange person or experience. What they are doing is telling the person that they need space, to back off.  In addition to just territory, a dog may growl when someone (or usually another dog) tries to take one of their possessions, like food, a ball, or a bone; if they growl when you go to pick up something, they are telling you they do not want to share it.

A dog may also growl out of pain.  Especially with a serious injury, your pet could become confused at what is happening to their body when it is in pain.  This could make them react in a very anti-social way, or just simply growl at you if you are touching a part that hurts.  They are just trying to say, stop hurting me!  Growling in dogs is usually brought on by a very strong emotion, and is often times one step away from a bite.  Deal with a dog carefully if they are growling; especially if they are growling at you.  Never approach a dog that you do not know if it is growling at you!  If you follow some of these general guidelines, though, and are aware of the situation, you should be able to figure out what is going on with a dog you do know well.