My Dog Growls at Other Dogs

Normal, social dogs growl, bark and snap. It’s their way of communicating. Growling is usually not bad.

My mutt Ace is the most gentle dog I know, but he will growl at other dogs when appropriate, like when our puppy won’t stop biting his jowls or when a dog won’t stop humping him at the dog park.

There is usually at least one pest at the dog park who runs around trying to hump everything in sight!

Usually my dog Ace tolerates this behavior for about five seconds. Then he flings his body around. If the “humper” persists, Ace’s hackles go up and he might bark at the other dog – “Do not like!”

If the dog still tries to hump him, that’s when Ace lets out a ferocious growl. This is usually followed by a friendly tail wag – “Hey, I’m a nice guy, but please don’t hump me.” Both dogs shake themselves off and either part ways or play. (2018 update: Ace has passed away.)

I remember when I was pet sitting a German shepherd puppy and an adult Maltese from the same family. The German shepherd was around 45 pounds soon to be 75+ pounds, complete with puppy teeth and clumsy paws. The Maltese was 4 pounds.

If the Maltese didn’t growl at the shepherd, she would get stepped on and injured. She has to draw some limits so the shepherd would back off. I never corrected the Maltese for growling. Instead, I re-directed the shepherd’s attention.

Karli the long haired German shepherd puppy and Maddie the Maltese dog in a pink dog coat

If your dog growls at other dogs, don’t punish him

Growling is a dog’s way of warning us that she is feeling stressed. Dogs that are punished for growling learn to stop giving this warning sign and go right to a snap or bite. Instead of correcting a dog for growling, re-direct her attention and give her a break from whatever is causing her stress.

There are all kinds of scenarios that will cause a normal, social dog to growl. I’ve covered some of them below. Feel free to share more examples and suggestions.

1. It’s normal for dogs to growl when they are playing

When two dogs are wrestling and playing, they will both play growl. It’s easy to tell when both dogs are having fun, because they will show an equal amount of energy.

The more energetic dog will probably roll over on her back and let the other dog “win” so the other dog will feel comfortable “attacking” her. Then they’ll switch. Both dogs will play bite and play growl – and it gets very loud! They might chase each other, bite each other, bark or play tug with the nearest toy.

Dog growls at other dogs

2. Normal warning growls – dog parks, dog daycares, dog playdates

Normal dogs use growling to communicate after the other dog (or person) has ignored previous warning signs that they’ve had enough.

For example, if one dog no longer wants to play, she will likely stop instigating the wrestling. She will start avoiding the other dog by looking away or pretending to be interested in something else “Oh, this smells good!” She will likely stand up and shake herself off, which dogs will do when they are ending something, kind of like a big sigh of relief – “Well that was fun, what’s next?”

If the other dog continues to pester her, she might yawn (a calming signal) and keep looking away. Next, she might stiffen, raise her lips, crinkle her muzzle and growl.

If the other dog still won’t leave her alone, that’s when she might snap, lunge or let out a vicious bark – “Get the f— off me!”

3. Owners make the mistake of scolding the dog that snapped.

Really, the other dog (the pest) in this example should have been re-directed long before the incident escalated. Younger, more energetic dogs need to learn boundaries, especially if they haven’t been around enough dogs and can’t control their never-ending desires to play. These are the dogs that shouldn’t be at the dog park quite yet. They should socialize in smaller, more controlled groups of dogs first.

In scenarios such as dog daycare or the dog park where one dog won’t leave my dog alone, I re-direct their attentions with toys or food or by calling them.

Sometimes I have Ace sit and stay at my side for a minute to give him a chance to re-group. Usually the other dog runs off and annoys someone else. This “time out” is not a punishment. It’s a chance for my dog to relax and take a break. After a minute or so, my dog is eager to go back and play. If not, then it’s a good time for us to leave the park.

I also call my dog and have him sit at my side whenever a new dog enters the park so my dog isn’t the one overwhelming the newcomer.

4. Dog growls at other dogs when guarding/showing possessiveness of toys or food

Dogs have a tendency to guard food or toys. Ace will growl at other dogs that try to take his resources. This is common dog behavior, although probably not something any of us would like our dogs to do. The dog is saying, “This is mine! Leave me alone!” Typically, the dogs work this out on their own with no issues.

Black lab mix Ace showing possessiveness of toy holding it in his mouth

The problem is, some dogs become overly possessive and will bite a dog or person who comes near their food or toy. This is why I do not tolerate any possessive growling from my dog even if he is guarding something that is technically “his.” If he growls at an obnoxious young puppy who needs to learn some rules, I think that is acceptable. But if he growls at my cat walking by who doesn’t even want his toy, that is not acceptable.

I also expect all dogs in my house must understand that everything belongs to the humans first. If Ace wants a toy, he is going to sit first. If he wants to eat, he is going to lie down and wait calmly for a few minutes. I make this process fun and rewarding for the dogs (“Wow, what a good sit! You’re such a good boy!”), not stressful and frustrating.

You also want to teach your dog a command such as “leave it” or “drop” or “trade” and help him associate receiving something even better for obeying. For example, if he drops the rawhide, he gets a piece of chicken. My dog understands “drop” to mean “put it down” and “leave it” to mean “don’t touch that.” He doesn’t need treats to obey these commands, but I try to surprise him every now and then with something wonderful (a tennis ball) for obeying.

For more information on possessiveness, see my post on how to help a dog with toy aggression.

5. Dogs growl when they are scared

Animals will get defensive if they feel threatened, especially if they are cornered.

Ace the black lab mix dog wrestles with his friend, our foster dog Sammi the pitbull Jack Russell terrier mix

The key here is that normal, socialized dogs are not going to feel threatened by something ordinary like a dude shoveling his driveway, a kid racing by on a scooter or a big, black dog barking. That’s why it’s important to socialize puppies and dogs to as many different people, sounds and situations as possible throughout their lives.

I want my dog to growl if a strange man is stalking us during an evening walk, for example (although I don’t know if he would). But I don’t want my dog to growl at every man who walks by us after dark. Thankfully, he doesn’t.

Dogs growl!

Dog owners need to remember that growling is a normal part of dog communication.

It is our job to socialize our dogs and give them plenty of opportunities to interact with other dogs. It is also our responsibility to limit the amount of stress our dogs experience and to provide them with safe and constructive ways to deal with the stress they inevitably will experience.

What are some other scenarios where it is normal for a socialized dog to growl?

Do you have any questions or examples about your dog’s growling? Leave them in the comments!

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225 thoughts on “My Dog Growls at Other Dogs”

  1. For a long time I couldn’t figure out how Misty the alpha Poodle established her alpha-dom. Then one day I walked unexpectedly into a room and she was growling and the other dogs looked quite submissive. When she saw me she said, “Oh, did you think that was me?” So I’m sure now that she establishes her authority when I’m not around to question her.

  2. Belle kind of barks/growls at fireworks. She is definately our “talker” while playing. She’s the one who growls and plays rough. She’s a rescue and no one taught her to play nice. We’re working on it but its a slow process. She’s also the one who last week while house sitting an 8month old Lab puppy got upset when DOG and him started to play. so I put her in a time out till she settled down. I didn’t want both of my guys ganging up on the puppy.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The more she interacts with other dogs, the better she will get at communicating. My dog Ace was extremely submissive when I first got him simply because he had not learned how to play with other dogs. Now that I’ve had him for four years, he’s really come a long way as far as instigating play, asserting himself when necessary, etc. He’s still laid back and usually the submissive one, but he’s learned a lot about how to act around other dogs simply from being around them more. I’m lucky that he’s never had any aggression issues.

      1. The hard part I have is not a lot of my friends have dogs that I could socialize her with. Going to the dog park is fine, but I would rather work on it in a smaller setting. And Alaska doesn’t have a fenced in dog park yet. On a side note, in Alaska, we had a “pitbull” attack his family’s 9-year-old son in the car yesterday. Apparently the child was eyeing the dog’s toy in the back seat. The kid is fine, but I’m curious what other signs the dog gave before biting. I also wonder if the dog knew that what he did was wrong.

  3. This was extremely helpful! I have a 6-month to 1-year-old Maltipoo pup that doesn’t get along with my roommate’s 6-year-old terrier mix, Jack. Jack gets vicious with Phoebe when she is trying to play with him, but this article is just what we needed. I often get frustrated that my roommate doesn’t scold Jack for not playing nice, but if he is stressed, that makes sense.

    Thanks for this!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh I’m so glad I could help! I’m sure your pup is just too much energy for Jack. Does she constantly try to run up to him and climb all over him and “bite”? This gets old really fast when you are an adult dog! Let them play for short period and then distract your puppy when Jack is feeling stressed. He should learn to be tolerant of her, too, though, and not be a grumpy “old” man. Try taking them for walks together. That usually helps the dogs bond, because you are all walking together as a pack.

  4. Every dog seems to growl at my poor Gus. His size intimidates smaller dogs, and he gets at least a growl if not a bark. The smaller the dog, the bigger the reaction!

  5. Lindsay Stordahl

    Aww, poor Gus! He’s the sweetest dog in the world, too! He probably has no clue why other dogs (and people) are intimidated by him! I just want to give him a big hug!

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  7. Charlie growls if we reach for his rawhide, but he backs up right away and doesn’t try to keep it. I’m not sure if I should worry about that?

    That day we were at the dog park, Charlie was growling at that obnoxious dog. I handled it the wrong way, and I knew I was when I was doing it. I figured if I just took Charlie away it would be fine. It obviously didn’t work.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I was really irritated with the owner of that dog (I don’t know who the owner was because no one did anything). That dog was totally fixated on Charlie and should’ve been re-directed.

  8. My dog is a shih tzu and rarely growls, but when she does it’s usually because she needs to go outside. Just some advice for new dog owners, because I didn’t catch on right away if you know what I mean!

  9. Thanks for this, I found it very helpful. My dog growls at dogs when we are out on walks. Is she afraid or protective? Not sure. She usually growls at dogs and the fur on her back is standing up. But on occasion, she meets a dog she likes and they actually play.

  10. You know, it could be either.

    Often, the leash (or fence or other barrier) brings out some aggression in dogs because they are unable to get to the other dog and they become frustrated. Or they are fearful and have nowhere to run.

  11. Lindsay, There is so much helpful info here. I should probably work on Elsie’s over possessiveness with toys. She definitely growls more than Sophie does, it must be her way of expressing dominance. Love the picture of Karly and Maddie. Ace does look pretty ferocious in the last photo! ha.

  12. Very true. Jasmine will put unruly dogs in place by growling too. J.D. when he plays with certain dogs, such as his buddy at the farm, they sound like they are trying to kill each other. It is my observation that female dogs are more likely to be vocal, while boys are more likely to get into an actual physical confrontation.

    I agree that it is important to understand what and why the dog is trying to communicate. Bottom line is, they growl because they don’t want to bite.

  13. I agree, growling is a form of communication, but a good dog owner can hopefully notice other signs like “stiffening” before stress gets to the point of growling.

    As far as the play goes and those pictures, that looks like my house all the time! The barking and growling and showing of teeth is a sport around my house!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, dog owners should definitely watch for stiffening and other signs of stress such as the dog looking away or licking his lips.

  14. I’ve been confused by my dog’s interactions with two new puppies in my building over the last few weeks. My dog is a little less than a year old and super friendly. I know everyone says that, but my dog likes other people and dogs more than me most of the time. I’m old news to her, and she’s into the next big thing coming along the sidewalk. 🙂 She’s the only dog that will play with the huge pitbull down my hall, and she greets everyone, butt wriggling in excitement. But when either of these puppies come up to play, she begins growling. I’m hoping that since she hasn’t been exposed to many puppies she just doesn’t know what to do with them yet, but I’m concerned since she’s never growled at anyone or anything else. Hopefully your advice will help! I don’t want her to become the anti-puppy dog.


  15. Lindsay Stordahl

    Maybe the puppies are just too much energy for her. Or maybe, like you said, she just hasn’t been around them enough to know what to expect.

  16. Gwynneth Devane

    Hi. Just found your dog blog and wonder if you can help me with my problem? I have a 20-month-old deerhound crossed with Rottweiler. He is a neutered rescue dog who loves to run and play with all kinds of dogs, but if he comes across a new dog who is particularly submissive, he will nip it until it squeals. I immediately put him on the lead, but he still wants to nip the dog and becomes fixated on it. Even with the lure of treats, it is very hard to drag him away. Any suggestions to stop him from doing this?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I notice that some dogs tend to get fixated on dogs they perceive to be “weak.” I know some dogs who are very sweet and friendly but just like your dog they get nippy or even very aggressive around these very submissive dogs that give off a weaker energy. I would keep socializing him to as many dogs as possible but do it in a more controlled environment – on-leash walks with other dogs, play groups with two or three dogs, etc. The ultimate reward for him will be getting to play with other dogs, so as long as he is being good, let him play. But make him take breaks where you work on getting him to lie down and stay at your side and focus on you for a few seconds or minutes at a time. Use his absolute favorite food goodies like real chicken or hamburger or hot dogs and get him to make eye contact on command no matter what. I use the “watch” command. Then you can use this at any time such as when he gets fixated on another dog. If he is able to focus on you for a minute or so and calm down, then allow him to play with the other dog as his reward. Don’t use his leash time as a punishment – use it as a time for him to relax, regroup and get treats from you for showing calm behavior. Once he’s in a calmer state, he will be able to maintain some better self control around the “weaker” dog.

  17. Gwynneth Devane

    Hi Lindsay. Thank you so much for your reply. I will definitely follow the tips you have given me. Elf is definitely worse when he’s been playing for a while and is very hyper. I think a timeout with the lure of tasty treats and eye contact with me is just what he needs. He nipped again today with a young German shepherd who had been rescued from her litter mates because they were all trying to bite her, so this totally confirms your weaker energy theory. Thanks again. I’ll let you know how I get on. Happy blogging!!

  18. Hi. Can anyone advise? I have a very sweet 2-year-old crossbreed of everything! I took her to my mum’s house, and my mum has a springer. We got them to meet outside. They played nice, and we took them back to my mum’s house. My dog one minute wants to play. Then she, yes she, tries to hump him! Then she growls. Mostly she growls whenever he walks passed. Yet in the park they get along again.. Why is she growling? I could understand if it was her house. Also, when she sits on my lap, she does growl when other dogs approach. Any ideas? But again at the park, anyone can approach me. Thanks for any advice. She has been spayed 😉

  19. Lindsay Stordahl

    It sounds like she is possessive of you. Don’t allow her to sit in your lap when she is growling. Push her off of you or just get up and walk away. Sitting in your lap makes her feel more powerful so just remove her from her “high status.” In the house, I would work on getting her to lie down and stay until she relaxes a bit. If she is calm, then allow her to walk around the house.

  20. Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it. Often at my mum’s house she will lie quietly, but when the other dog walks in the room, or past her, she growls. My mum’s dog is great and totally ignores her. I’m just worried as to why she is growling at him, and of course, if she goes for him. He is very patient, but I guess he will only tolerate so much. As for the lap thing, I’ll do that. Thank you : )

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Has she been around many dogs? I like to teach the “watch” command where I get the dog to make eye contact with me no matter what. This is useful in all kinds of settings such as around another dog. Use her favorite treats and reward her for paying attention to you rather than the other dog. If the other dog is pacing around and full of energy, this may be affecting your dog. So encourage your mom to keep her dog calm as well. Maybe he is calm, I’m not sure.

  21. Yeah, in the house she is calm indeed, and she plays pretty well with most dogs outside of the home. The odd one she does not like. Going to take her to some classes as well.

  22. I have a English springer spaniel called Ollie. He will play with other dogs in the park for a few seconds. Then the other dog will get submissive, but Ollie won’t leave the dog alone. Then they start having it out at each other, and I literally have to tackle him to the floor. It is impossible for me to distract him as all he cares for in a park is other dogs and birds. He won’t even smell treats or give a toy a glance.

    Any help?

    We have thought about socializing classes, but they are just too expensive.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Dogs tend to pick on other dogs that show signs of being overly submissive. That may be the case with your dog, unless your dog acts this way with every dog. I would definitely try some socialization or training classes if you can swing it. At the dog park, pull him over to you and make him take breaks when he gets too forward or too excited around other dogs. If he doesn’t have a reliable sit-stay with no distractions, practice this at home and elsewhere before you try it at the park. When he’s calmer, release him to play again.

  23. Awesome read! This was exactly what I was looking for. I just got my first dog a few days ago, and he is 5 years old. He is always barking and whimpering when I walk him out and he sees other dogs. I can tell he just really wants to play, but it scares the hell out of the other dogs! I’m just worried that being he is a little older it will be harder to train him to cool down. What do you think? Thank you!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It may take some more time to condition him if he has developed some bad habits. But at the same time, older dogs typically have less energy than pups, so maybe once he gets used to your routine and you give him some more exercise he will settle down. I suggest taking him to an obedience class.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I just know that most dogs need more exercise, especially recently adopted dogs since they are desperately trying to adjust to a new routine. Wasn’t implying that he’s fat – maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.

  24. Hi, I have a Great Pyrenees he is 3 and a half years old, he has been socialized through out the years though not enough, he has been to two obedience courses. The problem though is he growls/barks and lunges at everything on our walks ie other dogs, that are larger, bikes/skateboarders, large trucks/buses, loud vehicles, joggers, other pedatrians that dont show outward friendliness to him and kids. I am at my wits end i would love some suggestions to help this. he has neve rbit anyone before but i am terrified he may one day do so, i try to address these situations calmly but its hard. I would appreciate tips if possible, he is also fixed

  25. Get a good training collar if you don’t already have one. Try a head halter such as the Halti or the Gentle Leader. Or if you prefer, try a prong collar high on his neck where you will have more control. Also make sure to ditch the retractable Flexi leash if you are using one and keep him at your side on a short leash. You may already be doing all these things. I don’t know.

    You can try these tips from my post on dog leash aggression:

    Here is another post on getting a dog used to bikes. The same idea can be applied to other situations:

    Also, look into the book called Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell. The book goes over in detail the steps for teaching a dog to “watch me” and make eye contact with the owner whenever there is another dog. Use highly valued treats at first and work from a distance where the distractions are mild. Then slowly build up to more and more difficult situations as the dog is successful. The goal is to get the dog to automatically look to you when you come across the usual things that bring out aggression, whether it’s other dogs, runners, bikers or whatever it might be.

  26. Thanks for the fantastic article, my dog a 2 year old pit bull mix is not possessive when a human approaches or takes any of “his” things, but, and it seems to only really apply to tennis balls, if another dog comes near him when he has a ball he will growl. We have two dogs, as the “problem” dog really enjoys playing fetch I’d like to continue to play with him, is there a way I can get him to stop doing this about the particular toy? Or should perhaps I just resign myself that fetch time is going to be a one on one game not to be played around the other dog? He will still growl about his ball even if there are multiple balls out, and even if the silly puppy is NOT actually trying to get the ball.

    I’m not sure if this information is helpful, the other dog is also a lab/pit mix she is younger than he is, 6 months. They get along fabulously most of the time, so far this has been the only issue. He is neutered.

  27. Lindsay Stordahl

    Clearly he sees the tennis balls as “his.” It is your job to make sure he understands the tennis ball is actually yours and you are allowing him to play with it. You can do this by leaving a ball in the yard and not allowing him to pick it up until you say it’s OK. Teach him a command for “leave it” and also a command for “drop” if you haven’t already. If he goes for the ball before you say it’s OK, then step over the ball and towards your dog and tell him, “No! Leave it” in a serious voice. This should cause him to take a step back and go into a waiting mode. Make sure to reward him by allowing him to pick up the ball. But when you are playing, make sure to take some random “timeouts” where he is not allowed to pick up the ball.

    Another thing you could try is to make the problem dog lie down and stay while you play ball with the other dog, even if that dog is not very interested in playing fetch. You just want your problem dog to understand that sometimes he has to wait. Sometimes the other dog will get to play instead.

    And of course, make sure to play with both dogs together at times. When you do this, make sure they both understand who really owns the ball, you. If you need to use treats to get the dogs to pay attention to you or to drop the ball, go ahead and do that, too.

  28. Sorry I’m kind of just jumping in i just need some advice asap! Regarding my puppy Busta (10 weeks today) I got him 2 weeks ago he’s a Labrador x Staffy (Dad Lab, Mum Staff) and when we first got him we was very playful but gentle yes he bit and mouthed but from day one we have told him no and instantly pulled out hands away but although his biting has got slightly better i had my nephew (5 yrs) over on the weekend just for one night and they got on really well the first like 20 minuets and then he kept jumping at him which upset my nephew i told him no and down which he did just he soon jumped at him again. i decided to take him for a walk because i thought maybe he had to much energy so when we took him for a walk i let my nephew be involved and they were playing happy together and we was throwing the ball for him and he was running and getting it obviously playing and then out of the blue he just went for my nephew jumping and biting he really hurt my nephews leg! so i told him down and no i picked Busta up because i couldn’t get him of as he bit my finger and drew blood so i put his lead on and took him straight home then monday i took him for a walk and as i went to pick his ball up to frow it he attacked my arm and then today he done it again but to my finger and scrapped a layer of skin off! it was fairly bad i thought I’ve had to put a plaste on because it won’t stop bleeding and then while we was still out a dog came on the park he played with him a little bit and was really be havied and the the dog took his toy and ran to his owner with it Busta wasn’t bothered and then the lady asked he 3-4 year old son to give it back to busta but because her dog went to get it again they boy didn’t even get to grab it so i walked over and Busta ran after the boy and bit the boys leg i could believe it the boy ran to his mum crying i felt so bad and ashamed i feel like i don’t want to take my puppy out and i don’t want to feel like that! as he is only a puppy ! he hasn’t yet done it to my partner! but i spend more time with busta my partner had tapped his bum for being naughty but i can’t see why he’d see him more as a alpha! Please help i give everything to try keep my pup from biting etc he’s got loads of teething toys and bones etc and he come from a home with kids and his mum and dad were very gentle and nice so i don’t understand 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Puppies bite. That’s just what they do. And those little puppy teeth hurt and can cause a lot of damage! Try not to think of it as your puppy being mean. He’s just doing this because he doesn’t know any better.

      That being said, you have to be VERY firm with this dog so this problem doesn’t escalate. You don’t have to be mean, but you can’t tolerate this behavior. If a firm “No!” does not work when he is excited and biting, then simply get up and walk right out of the room. He bites at you to get your attention, so teach him that biting you ends the game immediately. No questions asked. Return again after 30 seconds or so (puppies have a short attention span), and if he bites or jumps on you, turn and leave again. Repeat until he is calmer and doesn’t nip at you. Offer him his own rope toys, chews, etc., and be engaging with those. It’s OK to play tug games, but when he gets too rough, make him lie down and take breaks. And you always decide when the game is over. And ultimately, the toy is yours.

      You are giving him way too much freedom. Do not set him up in situations where he can chase after anyone and bite. Keep him on a leash when he is around little kids. And he needs a lot of exercise. I’m not sure how far you are walking him now, but I would definitely walk him for a good 45 minutes every single day. And by walking him, I mean a structured walk where he is at your side, not in front. If he bites that leash, give him a very firm, “No!” like you mean it!

      When he is on his leash and nipping or jumping, another thing you can do is make him lie down and then step on his leash right by his collar to hold him in place. Make sure there is a tiny bit of slack so the leash isn’t tight and tense. You want it to be loose, but keeping your foot there will prevent him from popping up until he has a more reliable down-stay.

  29. Hi, I just found your site, as I have been scanning the net for some answers to my problem. We just adopted an 8-month old lab mix shelter dog six weeks ago. She has been very good with most things. Her first few days with us she learned to sit and lay down. We also have an 11-year old jack russell/hound dog mix and they get along well…..too well sometimes that they won’t stop roughhousing. I have tried several things to get her to stop when I want them to stop. The older dog will stop, but she keeps on nipping at him and running around him…she will not listen to NO, or STOP. I’ve tried a shake can…she doesn’t react. If I walk away…they just keep at it. Also, today she had her bone (which has not been a problem until today) and I was petting her and she started to growl, tense up and when I told her No, and went to get the bone, she snapped her head and tried to bite me. She ran under a table and I went to grab her and she did it again. Can you give some advice on how to handle this. Thank you.


  30. Hi, I wonder if you can help me. I have a 2 year old saluki lurcher which I rescued 3 months ago. She was terribly underweight, had been stray, had been hunted (they are used for rabbit hunting in Ireland) and had recently had a litter. She has come back in season since then (September) and is booked for spaying in December. When we first got her she growled A LOT at my other dogs (2 littermate huskies of 10 years old) but now only growls occasionally at the bitch, and only when she (the lurcher)is on a bed or a sofa and thinks the husky wants to lie there. But she growls at every other dog she meets. Her hackles go up and she growls throughout the interaction. She is always on a leash and as a husky owner I’m aware that that puts dogs on the back foot, but it’s more than that. Growls, snarls and raised hackles are her default setting for meeting other dogs. I put a muzzle on her today (which she is fine with) and I was chatting to a lady with a husky pup. She said she did not mind the growling as the pup “needed to learn some boundaries” 🙂 So we chatted for 5 mins and ignored the dogs to see how it went. My dog growled throughout, pressed herself to my leg and was clearly unhappy. She never snapped though. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to socialise her. She is extremely sweet natured at all other times, a very affectionate and happy little dog with no other vices. Have you any idea as to how I desensitise her safely? Do you think the spaying will calm her?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I like the muzzle idea, and keep introducing her slowly to new dogs. I like to take dogs to obedience classes where they have to learn to be calm and work around other dogs. Not sure if that is an option in your area. But you can keep introducing her to dogs in small groups or one at a time as you have been. Try to keep these interactions short and positive. Use her favorite treats or a favorite toy to keep her attention on something other than the dog. When she tenses up, try to move her around a bit to ease the tension rather than have her stand there frozen.

      Here are some other posts on related topics:

      Dog leash aggression:
      Introducing dogs:
      Socializing my dog:

  31. I have a 2 year old hound mix who loves to go to the dog park. we have been going there for about 6 months. My male is fixed. He has a friend there that is 14 months female not fixed who he always played well with. Recently he is “possessive” of her and does not want/let the other dogs play with her.She gets upset with him.Her owner recently got a fixed male is this the reason for my dogs possessiveness.My dog tens to bark at the other dogs sometiimes to the point he annoys everyone.

  32. Lindsay Stordahl

    Your dog probably sees this female dog as “his” female. Because she is not fixed, he is especially attracted to her just as the other males are also attracted to her. In my city, unfixed dogs are not allowed in dog parks for this reason. Still, it is your responsibility to keep your own dog under control no matter what the others do. I know how annoying it is when hound-type dogs are bellowing at the others the entire time we’re at the park. It’s especially annoying when the owner doesn’t do anything about it. Try to distract your dog with highly valued food or have him take a short “time out,” not as a punishment but to help him relax and re-direct his attention.

  33. My dog has a tendency to start growling (with the occasional “huff” or small bark) for no apparent reason while he is inside the apartment. I assume he is reacting to cars or pedestrians passing on the street corner below us that he can smell or hear but that I cannot. Often he will be asleep one moment and up and growling the next. He doesn’t respond when we tell him no, and will continue the growling if we send him to timeout in his crate. He has never shown any amount of agression towards a person or other dog that he has met in person. How should I be dealing with this growling? He is an 8th month old cattle dog mix.
    Thank you!

  34. Lindsay Stordahl

    You could try squirting him in the face with a water bottle if he doesn’t respond to a firm “No!” Or you could try putting him in his crate with a yummy bone or Kong toy to help distract him.

    You are right that he is probably growling because he can hear or smell other dogs or people.

  35. Hi, i need some advice! Recently i adopted a maltese and she’s 4 yrs old. She’s a breeding dog so she has not beene sterilized and recently when we went to the dog park, she didn’t mix around with the other dogs. The other dogs were all also much bigger (Golden retriever, Great Dame) breeds like this. And one of the golden retriever tried to hump her, my dog immediately started barking and showing agression and she later growl at that dog.

    I was wondering if i’m suppose to be correcting her because i’m afraid she will get bitten by other bigger dogs if she is too fierce but at the same time i want her to enjoy her at the dog park because she doesn’t seem to mix around with the other dogs. Please help me. Thank you so much!

  36. Lindsay Stordahl

    You shouldn’t bring an unsterilized dog to a dog park. The males will be very interested in humping your dog.

    I don’t blame your dog for snapping at the golden for his unwanted advances. Your dog is just protecting herself because she is much smaller. And she’s saying, hey, get out of my business! Still, growling and snapping is not acceptable at the dog park and you can only control your dog. I would give the dogs a few seconds to work it out on their own. Most dogs will probably back off if your dog growls. If they don’t, though, you need to intervene. Block the other dog with your body and lead your dog away. Give a firm “No!” to the other dog if he persists, and be prepared for the owner of that dog to get upset with you for scolding his or her dog.

    Honestly, it’s best to just avoid the dog park if your dog is not spayed. Just set up some playdates with smaller groups of dogs in your yard or a friend’s yard. Or take her on walks with a friend and her dog. There are ways for dogs to socialize beyond the dog park.

  37. Thanks for the advise. he is getting really bad every time I take him to the park for the last few weeks I may have to find other time or other places to take him.He almost has a zero tollerance.

  38. I adopted a 2 1/2 year old Lab/Shepherd mix about 3 months ago from a shelter. When I adopted him, he was very playful around other dogs at the shelter. After about a week of owning him, he would bark at other dogs when we went on walks. If the owner let me, I would let him walk up and sniff them. Sometimes he would get along with the other dog and sometimes he would start growling so the owner of the other dog would pull their dog away. Slowly he has been doing this to more and more dogs. My dog gets along great with my roommates dog (Golden Retriever/Border Collie Mix) and my parents dogs (Lab and a Golden Retriever).
    My sister brought her dog (Lab/Boxer/Great Dane Mix) home and my dog can not get along with her at all. He growls, raises his hair, and has attacked her at least once a day since we arrived at my parents house. As punishment, I spanked him. That obviously didn’t help so when they had a problem, I would lock him in a room for about 30 minutes as “time out.” That helped for a little bit but then he was back to growling at her again.
    During their last fight, he bit her snout and she began to bleed a bit. I wasn’t in the room so my brother and sister went to break up the fight, yelled at him, and put him in his “time-out” room. Since then, my dog has been growling at my brother and sister every time he sees them. Can you help me to figure out how to handle my dog’s aggression towards my sister’s dog and now towards my brother and sister while I’m waiting to take him to a trainer?

    1. Do not spank your dog and do not give your dog a time out. Although a timeout will sometimes work to give the dog a break and to help the dog relax, it should not be used as a punishment. The dog won’t be able to understand that. I can’t tell from your description whether you are dealing with a fearful dog or a more forward/dominant dog. Are you able to tell which it is? I would guess your dog is now growling at your sister because when the fight happened she was angry and now your dog is a bit scared of her. Try having your sister feed him and take him for walks and give him treats.

      Keep your dog leashed around your sister’s dog and just make him lie down next to you while you hold the leash. Do not allow him to stare at the other dog. If he does stare or growl or whine, give a stern “Hey!” and pull on his leash. Make him lie down. Put your body in between him and the other dog for a moment to block his view from her and use treats to get him to look at you instead. Just be calm, not angry, not nervous, not tense. If minor scuffles occur, don’t freak out. It’s a good sign that they are fine most of the time and he has only tried to bite her once per day or so. But you can prevent this from happening by keeping your dog leashed and at your side rather than full freedom.

      It also helps to walk the dogs together side by side as a pack (good for the humans, too). This will help them see the humans as the leaders and associate fun experiences with one another. It also helps to limit the “excitement” when the dogs are home. Limit the running around, playing and wrestling between the dogs. Keep them calm.

  39. hi i have a 4yr old female yorkie,called gemma who is very placid.i recently lost my 11 yr old schnauzzer and would love to ave another yorkie but gemma dont like other dogs going near me.she is very much a lap dog.she was ok with the other dog,who was ere 1st but would distract him if he came for a stoke ect.she wouldnt growl at him but did chew at his legs to get him to play with her instead.she never bite him though.with other dogs,even in other peoples houses,she will growl and snap at them to warn them from me.she will only do this if they was very close to me.i would like another as i am used to having 2 dogs and as im out working to keep gemma company.please advise how i can solve this problem

    1. It sounds like the issue here is her possessiveness of you. If you can take care of that, then she should be OK with other dogs. I am guessing that she is actually a bit insecure, so she goes to you to feel more powerful. She might crawl into your lap or growl or bark or jump onto the couch next to you to bark and “scare” the other dogs away. She doesn’t want them to take away her power source, which is you.

      So to help her build up some self confidence, don’t allow her to jump into your lap around other dogs. And don’t allow her to sit at your feet and “guard” you. You get to choose who approaches you. She doesn’t decide. You get to pet whatever dog you want. She doesn’t decide.

      So just be firm with her without being mean or aggressive about it. Just give a firm “hey!” or “no!” if you see her staring at the other dog or if she attempts to growl or bite. When she tries to crawl onto your lap or sit too close to you, just move her away, block her or get up and move. If you need to, you can try putting her leash on and tethering her to a nearby chair. Ignore her if she is barking and carrying on. Give attention when she is calm.

      You may find these posts helpful as well. The first is about why dogs lean on us to feel more secure. The second is about dogs being possessive of toys, but it applies to possessiveness of their owners, too.

      1. hi thanks for ur reply.sounds like good advise but dont think i could do it lol.she is a proper baby and absolutely adorable,every 1 loves her,worried that this method she will feel pushed is advise i thought would be recommended though.shes like it with my hubby as well,but not so nasty.may just ave to resign my self to just her,cant have her upsett.thanks so much again xxxx

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Just realize that what you are allowing her to do is what is causing the problem. So if you want change, you have to make some changes. I understand you love your dog.

  40. My Ambyr is a sweet 22 month old boxer. Loves kids and loves to play. When she sees little dogs she whines till she gets to play with them. We are staying with friends and they have a 9 week old boxer and she fell inlove with this little boy but recently while playing outside she has been growling at him. Like deep growls. I don’t know if he is pissing her off or if this is just her way of playing? Like when they eat they eat together and that baby dog will push her out of the way and she will go away till he is done then she will finish eating. Recently I have noticed that she hasn’t been wanting him to lay with her anymore. She will get up and move from one bed to the other until she finally gives in and lets him lay with her (this happens most often) or until he gets the hint and leaves her alone. My main concern is how she just started growling at him and always grabbing at the scruff of his neck… Do I need to worry or is she just trying to be “mom” to him???

  41. Sounds like she is putting him in his place and setting some limits with him. It’s generally a good thing – good for the pup to learn some boundaries. Make sure to always supervise and give the older dog a break from the pup when she seems to have had enough.

    1. Thank you very much! The growling is still going on but not as much as he has learned when to leave Ambyr alone! She will allow him to jump on her for a while then she let’s him know when she’s had enough. He is still pushing her out of the way when it comes to the foot, I have put down 2 separate food bowls but he seems to scarf down his and goes after her food, maybe it’s a puppy thing but ambyr isint doing anything she just steps back and she will take what’s left over. I feed them both the recommended amounts for their weight and age and they are on Performitran ultra so I know he is getting all the nutrients he needs, I’m wondering if he is trying to be dominant already or is he just being a little piggy… He’s only 11 weeks old lol

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        You should step in and have the pup back off from Ambyr’s food. That puts you in control, and that way you will prevent Ambyr from ever having to snap at him over food which could lead to a fight or simply bad habits. The pup may just be one food-obsessed hungry little pup or maybe he has a dominant personality when it comes to food. It’s a good idea to set some rules for him now before he gets any bigger, so don’t let him take Ambyr’s food until she has eaten all she wants and you give some sort of release signal like “OK” to the puppy.

  42. My Beagle Hugo is 17 months old. I am having a few issues at the local dog park, including Hugo stealing other dogs balls or toys and then growling and snapping at the dogs if they come near him. Secondly he will bark and bark at a dog trying to initiate play but if they don’t want to play he will continue barking at them. I put him back on his leash and take him away to another part of the park and focus his attention back on me but then he will run straight back over to the dog he was barking at.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You know, I hate to tell you not to bring him to the dog park anymore because I know it’s good exercise, but I think he would do better learning to socialize in smaller groups. It would also help if you could exercise him as much as possible before you do take him to the dog park so he has less pent-up energy to bother the other dogs.

      I highly recommend you get him to respond to the command “drop” 99 percent of the time with no distractions and then keep adding in more and more difficult distractions. The goal would be to then be able to do this with one or two playmates around and eventually the dog park. You will have to use highly valued treats for working on this. You also want to work on a reliable “watch me” command with the same concept. Work to the point where he gives you eye contact 99 percent of the time with no distractions and build from there. Work so he’s good with a smaller group of dogs before you progress to the excitement of the dog park. The dog park is an exciting place, and a place where most owners tend to be quite lax on their usual rules. So dogs know they can get away with a lot.

      It can also be very effective to give your dog “time outs” at the park, not as a punishment but to help him focus on you, chill out and learn some self control. Use lots of rewards and get him to lie down and stay at your side for several minutes. Then release him once he is calm. This is very difficult for many dogs, but should be a goal for every dog owner to be able to get control of the dog during these “extremely exciting” environments like a dog park.

      Best of luck to you and your pup!

  43. My 11 year old border collie x blue heeler was badly attacked when I was walking her on a lead 6 weeks ago near my house by a small english staffy that got out of its yard and ran straight at her. She was badly injured, three of us couldn’t get this dog off her between us. She has just started to be able to walk properly again. Luckily she is a very fit and healthy 11 year old so has got her energy and health back.

    She was scared of dogs before this and snappy at them if they ran at her at the park. Now she is even worse. I know it is fear, but it makes me quite upset when I take her to the park and she snaps at most dogs that run at her because they want her to play with them. I know it’s not her fault other dogs run at her and have so much energy, but I feel like the bad dog owner that brings the nasty snappy dog to the dog park.

    I don’t know how to help her, I can’t control the other dogs coming at her but also feel like I should still be able to take my dog to the off leash dog parks. Any ideas? She is snappy with most new dogs when I introduce friends dogs to her, but she always gets over this and becomes great friends with these dogs, but she is usually always the boss. I do think her snapping is fear, not aggression?

  44. Wonder if anyone has any suggestions.

    We are thinking of taking on a 1 year old Lurcher Bitch (rescue dog). She is absolutely fine and is a complete softy with all humans including children however, once she meets another dog on a walk within about 1 metre distance she becomes quite aggressive and has been known to take a chunk out of another dog. At her current location she has shown aggression to the other dogs but this appears to becoming less over a period of 1 week and she generally ignores the cats. She is extremely thin, been spayed, is being cared for however the current dog foster person would be happy to let her go as the new addition has upset the equilibrium within the house. Could she be taught to get over this? Obviously we don’t know her previous history so would not be sure of the best way to tackle this problem. She almost seems to want to play with the other dogs but at the very last moment goes into attack mode.

  45. My dog Maximus is a great dog but he has trouble with other dogs and other people. He was only good with the people who raised him before we bought him and also his mother father brothers and sisters. If he sees a dog he will go CRAZY! and its the same with people even if he has known them since he was two weeks old. But I don’t think it is beause of bad eye sight. Even if he does not see the dog, if he hear their collar or chain he will still go CRAZY! I am getting sick of this with him and right when he spots another dog he wants to attack him/her even if they’re bigger than him he is a chihuahua\Boston terrier mix, he is small. I really want him to be good with others, human and canine both plesesssssssssssssssssssssssssss HELP!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Get this dog into a group obedience class. This is a great way to learn more about dog training while helping your dog learn to focus and relax and walk nicely around other dogs. Tell the trainer beforehand what your problems are so he or she knows. If it makes you more comfortable, go and watch a class yourself before you bring your dog. Most obedience clubs offer classes in six- or eight-week sessions.

      You should also get a collar that gives you maximum control such as an Easy Walk harness or a prong collar. Yes, they make prong collars for small dogs. Or try a martingale collar.

  46. sandra callegari

    We recently adopted another dog for our foxy terrier. Our new dog is completely different. She is very shy and is now slowly coming our of her shell. I’m finding that the 2 dogs are not really interacting with each other. Is is a sign that they do not get along? or just tolerating each other? Also a few occasions our new adopted dog growls to the other dog. When I see this happening, I always stop her and say “no” to her. Any suggestions and why is this happening?

    thank you

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I foster and pet sit dogs at our house all the time. My dog ignores most of them most of the time. He is a very friendly, well socialized guy. He just doesn’t feel the need to play nonstop. What your dogs are doing is pretty normal. When people adopt dogs, they have these expectations that the dogs will be best friends. That is not always the case.

      The new dog is probably growling at your other dog when she gets too excited and goes right up to her face. Is that correct? If that is the case, I would actually block or distract your foxy terrier rather than correct the new dog. But it’s hard to know without actually seeing them.

  47. I have 2 small dogs 1 Yorkiepoo I, have had him since he was 8wks old . he isvery gentle . I rescued a chihuahua and they play and growl all the time . what can I do stop this or is it just fun play?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sounds like they are just playing. Hard to say without more information, though. If the playing gets really escalated and loud, I would tell them to stop once you have had enough. I typically don’t allow my dog to wrestle and run around indoors, for example.

      Just remember to set the rules yourself. Don’t let the dogs rule the house.

  48. My Wife and I adopted a 7 month old American Staffordshire terrier named Odie at the begining of the month (Feb). We are taking him to Beginner Education at a pets store, he learns fast but when ever he sees another dog he will growl the other dogs dont even have to look at him and he will start to growl, The trainer looks at us in a disturbed way but we dont know what to do, When he starts to growl we start giving him treats and then he will calm down but then will growl again after a couple of mintues, He is clearly scared of the other dogs but wont back down no matter how big they are. He is being treated for Demodex so he is not feeling 100% I dont know if that matters thou. We love Odie and want him to get along with all dogs, He is great with people thou

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How are things going now? I would use a firm “NO” and use treats to distract his attention away from the other dogs. Then give him the treat when he is sitting calmly and looking at you. I would also use your body to block his direct eye contact with other dogs. Just stand between him and the other dog and even walk right into your dog to push him back a little as needed. Give him treats whenever he looks at you.

  49. My Vizsla mix Chloe used to love to play with other dogs at the dog park or in our back yard with the dogs that live next door, they would run up and down the fence line with each other. Well one day when we were at the dog park there was a man with two dogs that had muzzles on them walking around kind of in the corner. His dogs weren’t playing with any of the other dogs and no dogs were walking up to them so he decided it was ok to take their muzzles off. So of course Chloe just happens to walk by one of them to come to me when I was calling her and the other dog took it as she was running at him I guess. Well he jumped on her as she was running by and started to attack her and bit her a few times before her owner pulled him off. I was too busy making sure she was ok to notice that he had left the dog park very quickly before I could say anything to him. Thank god she only had a few bite marks and was not harmed too badly, but anyways now she doesn’t seem to trust any dogs accept for my fathers fiancee’s dog Bailey which is a yellow lab. Even the dogs next door she wont go up the fence to play or run with anymore. If another dog comes up to her to try and play she will growl and sometimes snap at them. Is there anything I can do to get her to trust dogs again or should I just avoid the dog park and other dogs? Any help is much appreciated.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How about an obedience class where the dogs have to walk nicely around other dogs? This is a good way to socialize the dogs in a controlled manner.

      Are things going better since you left your comment?

  50. Thank you!!! I realized that I’ve been ignoring a few signs from our mutt when playing with him. Nothing major but I’m relieved to read this and know what little change to make to help him out. 🙂

    Also, he does a low growl when dogs and their owners walk by our apartment… now, we’re on the 3rd floor, so walking by means anywhere within his sight. He typically doesn’t get all worked up but will growl, sometimes let out a few barks. We haven’t been able to break him of this, we’ve tried re-directing him but typically he’ll just sit down by us and whine while leaning around our bodies to keep his eye on the window. Thoughts?! I’d love to break him of this, or just know if this is the norm for dogs!


    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      A lot of dogs do act that way. I think you are doing the right thing by re-directing him. My dog will sometimes let out a low growl, followed by a few muffled woofs when a neighbor dog walks through our back yard. I typically call him to me and have him sit facing me and then reward him.

      You could also try teaching a command for “quiet.” Just sit at the door with your dog and reward him if he’s quiet. I used to tell people they had to teach a command for “speak” or “bark” before teaching quiet, but now I don’t think it matters. Dogs don’t really understand opposites anyway. They won’t really associate the two commands.

  51. The biggest thing is to learn a difference between the growls, just like learning the difference between a baby’s crying. We can usually tell when our dog is growling if she wants to play/is playing, if she’s annoyed by something, on guard for something, or scared of somebody. She used to get very possessive of rawhides because they were the biggest treat to her ever. We made sure that we fixed that and now we can usually take anything away from her if we need to. (If she doesn’t start thinking it’s a tug o’ war game!)

    Her best doggy friend and her have quite the time playing. She is only about 14 lbs. and the other dog is somewhere at least over 60 lbs. The two love to play and the two are good at finding their boundaries. The bigger one is usually on the bottom of the attack, and they bite each other’s collars. But if one of them accidentally gets a part of the other’s neck, they either growl or make sort of a squeaking noise. The bigger one is younger and has more energy, so she will often be a pest about wanting to play. Sometimes our dog will try to come up by us, but the bigger one pulls her down. We scold her for this and give our dog some time out until she decides she is ready to play again. Or, sometimes she’ll just give in. She always has an escape however, and that is important. If she is really done playing she will usually go underneath the couch and poke her nose out, because she knows that the bigger dog can’t get underneath there.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks for sharing some examples! What did you do to stop your dog’s possessiveness of rawhides?

  52. I just adopted 2 new dogs yesterday one is a lab and the other a tiny brown dog one is a girl the other a boy niether is nuetured but for some reason the small dog growls at the bigger one who kind of gets a bit personal with him and he also growls when we pick at his fleas or touch his face or paws is there a way the fix this problem? is there a way to stop a dog from spraying in the house?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would slowly desensitize him to having his feet handled. Touch his feet just enough to push his limits but not enough where he will begin to growl. Reward him with treats. If he does growl, don’t correct him and don’t back off, either.

      To stop the dog from spraying I would have the dog neutered. This won’t necessarily stop the problem but it usually helps. In the meantime, keep him on a leash and near you at all times so you can supervise. If you see him about to spray, tell him “No!” Or if you catch him in the act, tell him no. When you can’t supervise, leave him in a crate or at least a small room. You can also get a belly band to put over him. It won’t stop the problem, but it will at least keep the urine from getting on your furniture and carpeting. It’s basically a diaper.

      For the growling thing, hopefully they are just working out their pecking order. I would correct the larger female for invading the males space. He is only growling because he doesn’t want to be bothered.

  53. Hi. We have a 2 year old Lab mix that we rescued in May last year. She is an absolutely brilliant dog. Very gentle (unless she’s playing), very calm and loving. This is the first dog we have owned and we’re learning all the time. The only thing that I am a little unsure about is when she growls. She frequently brings one of her toys to us and loves it when we chase her with it. The problem is when we actually catch up to her she growls (sometimes quite loudly) and turns her head in the opposite direction. Sometimes she will hide under the chair. I’m never too sure whether she is playing or telling us to get off and leave her alone. When we do take the toy we always throw it again for her retrieve. We have tried swapping the toy for treats which she’ll quickly grab and then try to grab the toy too. She has never shown any signs of doing anything more than growl and will sit and wait for us to throw the toy for her again. So is her growl a play growl, or is she telling us her game is over??

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Is she tense when she growls? Or is she relaxed and wagging her tail?

      To me, it sounds like she is playing but also controlling the game. I would mix things up a bit. Grab the toy and make her chase you for once. And have her sit and wait while you throw it. Also teach her “leave it” but do so in a fun way. Just use games and play to teach her that you can take the toy whenever you want.

      1. Thanks for that. She does start off playful and definitely invites us to chase her. She does tense a little bit if we don’t listen to her first growl, but, when we get the toy she comes out tail wagging and waits for us to throw it. If we don’t chase her she just drops it and walks off. Her growls do tend to get louder and deeper so I was starting to worry a bit.

  54. We adopted a 3 yr old Shih Tzu this summer. She was a “puppy mill dog” and afraid of everything when we got her. She didn’t bark or growl, she would just cower away. She has become very playful and happy. She now likes to walk on the leash and run and play. In the past month or two, she has begun to give a low growl when people come into the house (usually from the other room,away from the guests) and she has also growled-snapped once at my husband when he was picking her up and again this morning when our 12 yr old daughter was playing with her. In both cases, this is something they do every day with her. It is a very scary growly bark and both are becoming afraid of her…don’t want that to happen as she is 99% of the time sweet and laid back. This is our first dog so we don’t know what to do.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Karen, I think you should contact a local dog trainer/behaviorist in your area for help. This sounds like it could be a serious issue. Better to get control of it before she bites someone.

      I am guessing that she is growling and snapping because she is fearful. She probably trusts you more than the others. Perhaps your husband startled her when he went to pick her up. Perhaps your daughter was playing in a way that also startled her. Do you think that could’ve been the case?

  55. My husband and I adopted a black lab/beagle mix last year and he’s about 1.5yrs now. He is a great dog most of the time but has suddenly become possessive of balls, Frisbees, etc when we go to the dog park (even if we didn’t bring them and the toys were there first). He wasn’t like this last summer when we would be there and over the winter we made sure that he went to doggy daycare twice a week to keep socialized. Any time another dog comes near him once he has a toy he growls at the other dogs, won’t play with them anymore and only let me (or my husband) take the toy and throw it. Any tips? Thanks!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would ask the people at daycare if he has been doing the behavior there, too.

      I would work with your dog on a reliable drop command, so that he will do it even with other dogs around. Practice with highly valued treats and mild distractions such as just being outside in your yard. Then progress to having one other dog around, and so on. This shouldn’t be so hard since he seems to be willing to give up the toy to you already. If he starts to run off and play “chase me,” then keep him on a rope when you are practicing. Not at the dog park, of course. A leashed dog at a dog park will cause all kinds of problems.

  56. We have a 4-year-old toy poodle named Sirius. He was a shelter dog, we got him when he was about a year old, and he was pretty neglected. We brought him into a very loving home, and we have since brought two more dogs and a kitten into our home, and Sirius has always gotten on quite well with the other pets. Lately, however, he has begun growling whenever either of the dogs or cat come near him and sometimes he growls when my daughter walks by. Could this be a psychological, post traumatic stress disorder type of consequence from his puppy days? I’m getting really worried that he will one day bite. Is there a way we can train him to not growl as often? I know it’s normal, but he will just growl when he is sleeping and one of the animals comes by. I just don’t know what else to do!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Can you tell if the growling is based out of fear of the other animals and your daughter? Or is it possibly possessiveness of you? Does he growl when he is on the couch next to you and other animals approach, for example?

      I would definitely not correct him for growling. You don’t want him to stop growling. That is his way of warning. But depending on what is causing him to growl, you can find ways to avoid those situations.

      As far as it being a post traumatic stress issue, I think it’s most likely related to a lack of socialization in his earlier days so he has some catching up to do. Try to do fun things with him and the other dogs like walking them together. Put yourself in a leadership position with the dogs at your sides vs. out in front.

  57. We have an 8 month old shepherd/Rottweiler mix we adopted when he was 8 weeks old. He’s been very socialized with people and is really good with kids(although a bit rough because he’s so big). We also thought we socialized him well with other dogs, we have a westie he gets along with fine and some family member’s dogs, but anytime he sees a dog at the park or somewhere he barks and growls. Normally it doesn’t really cause much of a problem, but the last few weeks he’s grown out a bit and is looking more like a big scary dog to other people, rather than just an energetic puppy. Should I be concerned about this and try to correct it? Would this be considered aggressive behavior?

  58. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yes, it can be considered aggressive behavior, and I would get control of him because of his mix of breeds, especially. And I imagine he is quiet big. Use a firm voice correction when he does this behavior and then distract him away from whatever causes him to growl/bark. Then reward him for any calm behavior. Obedience classes will also help.

    1. I’ve been working on getting him to focus more on me instead of dogs and it seems to be working pretty well on walks. I give him treats(when I remember to take them with me) for ignoring other animals. I’ve been trying to talk my fiancé into obedience classes for him, but he thinks I should just take him to the dog park and socialize him more…but I don’t feel as if that would be very responsible to take him there if I don’t know how he’ll act. He is normally calm when off leash and approached/approaching another dog, or even if he’s on leash and kinda snuck up on by another dog, his reaction is just to play with it, but when the dog gets a few steps away he wants to growl and bark again.

  59. I have a shih tzu mix that I adopted that is the sweetest little guy. He’s missing a leg. He likes other dogs and has dog friends, however, he growls at other dogs when we are out walking. This is mainly directed at dogs that are bigger than him…which is almost any other dog other than dogs of his sort of breed. Our vet says that this is quite normal behavior of a dog with a disability, to feel the need to show that he’s big and tough despite his missing leg. With dogs his size, he might growl once, but then his tail starts wagging and he wants to meet them and he’s quite happy to meet and greet with dog-folks his size…but absolutely wants nothing to do with any dog bigger than him…even if we’re inside our car he’ll growl. Not a vicious growl…just a little groan sort of growl. I’ve not yet once let him ‘get away’ with this behavior, but it doesn’t seem to be improving at all and I don’t feel the vet is offering any good advice other than this is ‘normal’ for his situation.

  60. Hello,
    I have a 2 year old Australian Shepherd mix that was adopted a little over a month ago. She is very sweet and plays well with most dogs. She plays similar to your dog Ace, even with dogs that are slightly larger than her. We bring her to doggy day care to get socialization, but also walk her/bring her to the dog park to get exercise. Some days she wants nothing to do with the other dogs and will just chase after a ball, but other days she loves to play with them. She is very good at listening to cues from other dogs. When they tell her to stop, she stops. She also knows when to tell other dogs to stop or if the playing has gone too far or if a dog tries to mount her. We have put a lot of effort into training our dog and making sure we are good dog owners.
    My question is not about my dog, but about a dog that is also frequently at the dog park with her owner. She is a small, terrier and communicates to my dog that she would like to play. When my dog plays with her, she plays similar to the playing in your photo of Ace. The owner of the smaller dog thinks that this is too rough. The difference in size between these two is not huge. The smaller dog is a little greater than half the size of my dog, my dog just has longer legs. The problem is that the smaller dog never tells my dog to stop. She does not seem to know how. She keeps playing far past what her owner feels comfortable with and because she is the smaller dog, it looks like my dog is being a bully. My dog will stop if I tell her to or if I grab her, but the smaller dog’s owner always lets her dog run free and even nip at my dog’s face after I have grabbed my dog to get her to stop. The owner stands around with her arms crossed and tells other people that my dog is a rescue and too aggressive. Her doggy daycare provider has been training animals for over 20 years and says that my dog’s playing is normal and fine. How can I explain this to the other dog’s owner without sounding rude or like I am questioning her own training with her dog?
    Thank you so much! Your writing has made me feel a lot better about the situation. I thought that maybe I had a skewed idea of my dog’s behavior because I love her so much, but this does not seem to be true.

    1. I guess I wouldn’t worry about it. If you pull your dog away once the other owner seems to be stressing out and her dog keeps nipping at your dog to play, the other owner is the one who needs to get control of her own dog. If she doesn’t and both dogs seem fine, then who cares? Just let her be upset.

  61. Hello… I have a lovely long-haired mini dachshund named Mathilde who will be 3 years old in October. She is ever so friendly with humans, loves to snuggle, play with our kitten Zoe (1yr) and with her other pup-friends. These pup friends vary in size/age and they all get along very well…
    HOWEVER… Mathilde is exceptionally territorial of our home and regularly runs the front perimeter fence growling/barking at dogs and their human companions as they walk by. We live close to the beach, so the human/dog traffic will only increase as the summer goes on and I worry that her behaviour will worsen in the years to come.
    While I know that ‘Tilda is a loving pup, my fear is that other people will regard her as mean/unfriendly. Do you have any suggestions to help me correct Mathilde’s very “vocal” ways?!
    *I should note that, once Mathilde has had some time to get to know a specific dog, she will not growl at them in a menacing way. Bearing this in mind, should I try to initiate a meet&greet with regular passers-by?

    Much thanks for your advice!!!

    1. You need to supervise her.mdont give her the freedom to be outside alone, barking and patroling. Give her a firm NO! Keep a leash or rope on her for more control if needed.

  62. Kayleen Johnston

    I hayve a beautiful 4 yr old ridgeback x Bullmastif. He is, in almost every way the perfect dog. However, he is very over protective/possesive of me when othe rdogs are around not only at my house but when i take him to the beach or the park.
    when i was looking after my uncles dog, Harley (my dog) will stand inbetween me and the guest dog and growl like i have never seen before, he will also stand in between the door of the house when i am inside so the any guest dor cannnot come inside. He has never attacked another dog but it is extreremly frustrating. the only way i stop it is to ignore all the dogs.
    how can i stop him from doing this????
    please help!!!!

  63. We adopted a greyhound/lab mix when she was 4 months old. She didn’t get any of the early socialization and she is scared of a lot of things although she has really come out of her shell alot since we’ve had her. She is a year and a half old now (25 lbs full grown) and lately she will growl/lung at bigger dogs at the dog park. When we first arrive and there are big dogs, she will look scared – head down, tail between her legs. Once we are in the gate and the big dogs come over to greet her, she will start growling/lunging at them as if to scare them away. The behaviour usually subsides the longer we are there and I usually start by taking her away from the group by going on a walk down one of the many walking paths. When we finish the walk, she seems to be a bit more tolerant of the big dogs. What should I be doing when she growls/lungs at the bigger dogs? FYI: She gets lots of exposure to many dogs with twice weekly doggie daycare and usually at least 3-4 trips to the dog park weekly.

  64. I adopted a 2 year old Staffie x Whippet that had been in rescue and then foster care for most of her life. Her socialising has been varied, from none at all to being used as the socialising dog at the rescue centre. I’m not sure if there was an incident there but she now has no interest in any dog, but is happy to hang around with them at the park and in houses as long as they don’t pester her, at which point she will growl and run away. I think part of the problem at the park is possessiveness with her ball, which I am working on.
    The main problem is when she is on the lead she always growls at other dogs unless I distract her and walk between them. She is however absolutely fine walking past dogs off the lead. Any ideas?

  65. Hi, I just recently adopted a terrier mix (maybe a cross between chihuahua and dachshund or mini aussie). He is a year old and is a very timid and shy guy. When he is in our house, he is the most lovable dog to people. Outside, he acts so scared of people. He growls and barks at my cat and any other animal he sees. I know since he was a stray, he might have had bad experiences but I want him to see that it is alright. I do not know if he does his growling and barking because of fear or aggression. I’ve tried redirecting him but he still barks and growls at other animals and I just don’t know what to do. He is the sweetest boy who was a stray from California and was moved to a shelter in Oregon. I just want to be able to take him out on walks and be able to meet with my friends who have dogs in peace. How can I do that?

  66. My dog is a 2 year old Corgi, and for as long as I’ve had her, she always growls when she hears any person walking near my bedroom door. She’ll lay under the dresser by my door. At first its a low growl, then as they get closer it turns from that to a bark if they open the door. And she only does this if I’m in the room. If I’m outside of it, she will stay quiet.

    It may be a little late now, but these tips are still worth a shot with her. She’s a smart dog and I’m sure with some work that we can work through it.

  67. There was a strange dog in the house the other day with my dog. I wasI tending to look after the dog for his owner while he was away, and we were discussing this. My dog and the visiting dog did the sniffing thing which went okay, but she did do a couple of what I guess we’re uncomfortable growls and they walked away from eachother. The owner and I were talking in the kitchen where I had forgotten to put my dogs food away. My dog went to eat it and still everything was fine. The visiting dog say beside her owner. My dog gave a couple of warning growls to the visiting dog while she was eating from her bowl when the visiting dog came too close. She did the turning up of the lip thing too. Anyway the third time after she did the “don’t touch my food warning, the visiting dog still approached. My dog turned around and growled towards him and got him in the submissive on the back. The offending dog yelped a little, my dog was standing over the dog at this point,but she never hurt the dog just trying to tell him “no”. I have seen her do this before when some dog keeps getting in her face. Most people think this is normal dog behavior. Some don’t. The owner of this particular dog grabbed up his dog and yelled at me. I tried to explain that this was normal and my dog wasn’t hurting his. I have 2 opinions from dog behavior people on this particular instance. One is that it is normal dog behavior and one that says it is not. I do understand that I should have put the food away and that was my fault and I feel so so bad that it happened and the owner got so mad and scared. So much so that I am afraid to try look after any more dogs. I hope you see this and can comment. Thanks so much

    1. It is normal dog behavior, but it is our responsibility to prevent these situations and to teach our dogs to be tolerant of other dogs approaching their bowls. We should also teach our dogs not to approach the bowls that belong to other dogs, as your friend has failed to do. Really it’s up to both owners to prevent these types of situations. Also, these types of confrontations between dogs often sound really bad, but really they are just communicating. As in this example, no one was hurt. Your friend did not act appropriately by over-reacting. This adds more excitement and stress for the dogs. It’s better to remain calm and then get back to normal so the dogs can associate calm energy with each other again.

  68. i adopted this minpin 3 weeks ago good dog except when people come to the house he barks until they pet him the big problem is when to get ready to go he barks like crazy and trys to go after them i have to be ther to tell herstay or i dont know what she will do she grabbed my friends pant leg and wouldnt let go until i told her to stay in a firmed voice .she did but when the friend left she will grab anything and growl and shake it and her head like she fighting with it she stops in a few minute but im afraid she is going to bite someone what do i do i dont understand it help please.

  69. Glad to see you’re back! There have been many posts since May 12th when you last left responses on this site, so glad you’ve answered the most recent couple of questions but a lot of us have been waiting for answers to the other posts…hope you have time to get to them soon 🙂 Thanks.

      1. Hi – I rescued a small chihuahua jack russell cross from a rescue group who got him from a backyard breeder. He is very anxious around strangers and other dogs. I’ve had a professional trainer in, and the advice was that if a dog is approaching and Felix growls, to give him a light poke (with a claw hand) on the neck and say ‘bah!’ (we found he ignores treats as a distraction – or eats them but goes straight back to looking at the other dog – as he is obviously focused on the situation). I’m finding the little poke does not stop him and I’ve been socialising him and doing this at the weekly local market for over 6 weeks now. I am careful to not allow large, lunging dogs to approach him (scare me too!) but even when he has a small, friendly dog greet him and things look ok, he always seems to need to eventually let out a little warning growl. He is not tense, his hackels aren’t up and his tail is not erect and wagging angrily, he just lets out a little growl. When he doesn’t respond to my ‘bah’ etc this is enough for me to end the greeting and move on to avoid trouble (and the owners of other dogs often get nervous if Felix growls). Should I continue with this training ‘poke’ (as trainer suggests, but doesn’t know if he’ll ever break the habit) or should I accept he will never be friendly with other dogs and not ‘push’ him to meet them? I know distraction is a great tool, make the dog focus on you, treat/praise etc so they ignore the other dog, but that ends the meeting with the new dog and I would love to see Felix have faith in, and possibly fun with, another small friendly calm dog. Thanks so much for any help. All the answers you provide to people help me with my dog training, but I wonder if you have further alternate advice about correcting a dog when it growls at another dog. Your time and effort helping out dog owners is most appreciated by all. May you always receive generous advice and support in other areas of your life (un-dog related) when you need it! 🙂

  70. Hi Lindsay.
    I adopted a 2 year old Staffie x Whippet that had been in rescue and then foster care for most of her life. Her socialising with dogs has been varied, from none at all, to being used as the socialising dog at the rescue centre, to living in foster car with 2 large Lab x Rotties.
    I’m not sure if there was an incident at the centre or foster home, but she now has no interest in playing with any dog, but is happy to hang around with them at the park and in houses as long as they don’t get too close or pester her, at which point she will growl and run away.
    I think part of the problem at the park is possessiveness with her ball. How can I sort this out?
    When she is on the lead she frequently growls at other dogs unless I distract her and walk between them. She is however absolutely fine walking past dogs off the lead, again as long as they don’t get too close or pester her.
    Any ideas?

  71. I have a pit bull/ lab mix that is 3 years old ( female) and just adopted another full pittie (male) that’s a year old. Our male has never had a “family” before, so he’s not well socialized. They play all the time, but then play escalates to fighting…we’ve had to take one to the vet for stitches. What’s happening? They act like they like each other one second and the next they’re fighting without warning. Also the pit/ lab mix is very possessive of me and won’t let our male near me without getting defensive. How to fix this? If it matters, they are both fixed.

    1. I would check out the possessiveness posts I linked to in my response to the commenter after you.

      As for the playing that leads to fighting, try to keep their excitement levels under control. Stop them from playing before the intensity escalates into a fight. That might mean not allowing them to play tug or not allowing them to wrestle. You can try distracting them before that point or teach them to sit and lie down on command so you can direct them when their excitement levels escalate.

      Personally, I have a no playing in the house rule for my dog unless I am the one to initiate the play.

      You could also have the dogs drag their leashes around at all times for at least a few days so you can get control of them easier. Only when you are home to supervise, obviously.

  72. I have two dogs: a 2yr old male mutt and a 1 year old rottie. I have had them both since they were very young. I also have 3 children. They are 4,6,and, 8. The issue is with the rottie. Two things: my daughter thought it wise to try to rub the dog’s chin while the dog was chewing gum rawhide. And the dog bit her! Second, if she is sleeping and the children pet her, she growls!
    I care for her but my children come first…. Can this problem be solved?

  73. My 1 1/2 year old pit mix has never had any problems with other dogs until recently (following a serious illness that involved several hospital stays with invasive procedures). He does not show ANY signs of aggression towards our other dog, or the dogs at his doggie daycare. However, he has suddenly become a nightmare on leash – Pulling and lunging at other dogs and growling/showing teeth. I am completely shocked as he has always been so sweet and friendly. I’m terrified to take him out anywhere because if there is an incident with another dog our county animal services do not have a good history in dealing with pitts. Not sure what to do!!!!

  74. Hi there! I have 2 Australian Shepard sisters who are recently fighting each other. They are almost 2 years old and our alpha dog just passed away. However, I have had a hard time figuring out the dominant sister. The assuming subordinate still puts up a fight at times. She growls over her food even when the other is showing no interest. She used to growl/nip at me as a baby but I have since fixed that. I have read that I should let the dominate one remain so over the subordinate one, but the subordinate one still struggles for dominance. They are both good for me, just not so much with each other! What should I do? Thank you!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How are their obedience skills? Do they sit and stay no matter what? Do they come when called no matter what? Do they walk on loose leashes? Do the barge ahead through doorways? I would work on their overall obedience levels individually and together. This will help add more overall control to the household. Also work on commands like drop, leave it and watch.

  75. Hi! I have read most of the comments and articles on toy aggression and have certainly seen where i am lapsing as the pack leader. I have three dogs a fixed female pit mix 6 1/2 years old. A fixed boxer 5 1/2 years old. These two have been together for about 4 yrs. I recently adopted an 8 week old male pit. He is now 11 weeks old. Commands for him are going well. He is bell potty trained and is learning NO. My female, GOJO is as always been slighly toy agressive. I say slightly because I can redirect her easily. With the new pup though I am having an issue because I am leaving toys readily available for him to chew on opposed to my furniture. So will be using some of the tactics I have read here. My many comcern is this…..when the new pup, Brik and my boxer, Gunner are playing, Gojo will lay away from them uninvolved and growl softly. No one is near her or bothering her. Its like she doesnt approve of their play time! She plays with the pup as well with no issues. Why does she growl when the other two are playing. Should I be concerned. I usually give her the “leave it” command which for us means, not your concern, ignore it, Which is the same command I give when we are walking and we see something I dont want her to pay attention to…….other dogs, people, cats, squirrel……etc! Any thoughts of why and suggestion to deter. I dont really want to redirect the others dogs as they arent doing anything wrong.
    Thank you!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Have things been getting better? My uncle has three cairn terriers, and the oldest one will always bark and growl while the other two play. She will not actually bite them or do any harm. She seems to be just saying “Hey! Cut that out!”

      I would keep working on Gojo’s overall obedience and reward for long down/stays, “watch me” and commands like that.

  76. Jessica Figueroa

    My dog is 11 months old and has started becoming aggressive at the dog park and on walks. At the dog park he can be playing and all of a sudden is growling and acting like he going to to go after another dog. He has never bitten another dog though. On walks he tries lunging toward other dogs and he barks and growls. But the dogs are completely random. I asked our trainer and she said she thinks he does this if he makes eye contact with another dog. Also, in our weekly training class the trainer recommended the Gentle Leader and my pup HATES it. He seems to shut down as soon as I put it on. The trainer keeps telling me to be consistent with the gentle leader and to gently pull up on it. I understand I have to be in control but I just can’t torture him like that anymore. I am thinking of trying the no pull harness. Also in training my pup seems to lunge and growl at the other dogs in class but when my pup is in day care he doesn’t have any problems. Any suggestions or advice?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would stick with the Gentle Leader too, but if you are uncomfortable with it, you could try an anti-pull harness. I have more control with the Gentle Leader, but I know others prefer the harness.

      Are you sure the daycare is being honest?

      Or, could she be responding from tension from you?

      When dogs are aggressive on the leash, it is often from the excitement of seeing other dogs and then frustration because they can’t get to the other dog. Off leash, these same dogs do just fine.

      You may appreciate the book Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell. It’s a positive approach to training dogs with leash aggression.

  77. Hi Lindsay,

    I have a 16 month border collie, who has recently developed a bit of agression towards other dogs, especially when on the lead. She will growl and snap at other dogs when both are on the lead. She also gets agressive if she is off the lead and another dog is on the lead at the park. Previously she would happily play with any dog at the park, but she is now occasionally snapping at dogs that are just trying to play while both dogs are off the lead. She has never shown any hint of biting, but her reactions to other dogs are becoming more unpredictable.

    Any suggestions that will help make her a very sociable dog again?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve seen this behavior in quite a few herding breeds.

      I recommend obedience classes so she can practice working around other dogs while she is on the leash. I also recommend building her obedience skills in general so you can always put her in a reliable sit/stay even with distractions. That of course, involves starting without distractions and slowly adding more and more challenges.

  78. Hi Lindsay

    We have a 15 month old Flat Coated Retriever x Newfoundland dog. He is extremely bosterous in the house & has started to run off whilst out on his walks. He has also started having a bit of a growl & a grumble at other Male dogs (larger ones anyway) when we meet them on our walks. He also lays down everytime a dog is approaching us & won’t budge until the other dog has gone past. Is this something that can be fixed with some training for him to gain confidence around other dogs, as I believe this is a form if submission is it not?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sometimes lying down like that is a submissive/fearful position. But some dogs will crouch really low and then get ready to pounce at the other dog to initiate play. Is that what your dog is doing? And does he stare directly at the other dog or look away?

      You can definitely work with your dog to change the behavior. Are there any group obedience classes you could attend? This is a great way to get the dog to practice working around other dogs.

  79. He does stare directly at the dogs as they approach and then does pounce as if he wants to play. But just recently after a little sniff and getting to know one another he has started growling and giving a little snap to the other dog. Other Male dogs do seem to be the problem for him.

  80. I have a 6 month old Boston terrier and live in my parents house with their year old goldendoodle. The two of them love each other, play, growl, bark, and cuddle together. However my Boston always seems to need to be alpha. He will take toys away from her or try and sit in the lap of whomever is petting her at the time and she is very submissive. He does this with my brothers lab as well. Occasionally his growl or bark sounds a little snappier than I would like, do I need to worry about him being overly dominant?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It sounds like the other dogs put up with it OK, but the Boston is also controlling the humans. For example, when you want to pet the goldendoodle, you should be able to do so without the Boston getting in the way. Keep him out of your lap and tell him “no.” Tether him to a chair or put a gate up if needed. Better yet, teach him a solid down/stay command. You should be able to pet whatever dogs you want. The Boston does not get to decide.

  81. Hi ive just bought a 10week old shar pei !! We have cuddle him a little for 5 days .just took him vets and he groweld and went to snap at her ! And she was very worried bout this as we have 2 kids 5 an 16 month now he is very gud with them both !! We r toilet trannibg him at the mo witch is going gud !! I want him to sleep in our bedroom in his bed . And my two friends cone around and he growel at first friend for a while and my other friend not so much ..need a little help cuz we have few friends come over and we have few bbq when weather is nice and want my dog to b a part of it

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I highly recommend you take the dog to group obedience classes. This is so important for learning about training in general and socializing the puppy to different people and dogs. More than likely, especially at that age, the puppy is growling out of fear. I’m not sure where you got the dog, but I’m guessing the puppy was not exposed to a variety of new people/dogs/places.

      Best of luck to you.

  82. I have a 3 year old shih tzu, he was neutered at 18 months. He growl when he wants us to play with him or he wants to draw our attention to something. No aggression what so ever, even when he was attacked by another dog.

    Recently for some reason he growls at other dogs, and only certain ones not all of them. I am wondering what I am doing wrong, if a dog barks the other side of a fence we walk past he wants to get away. But with most dogs he is fine and wants to play. Why is he doing this??? Why now??

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s hard to say why he has changed. My dog became more confident as he got older. In this case, I’m wondering if your dog is acting out of fear. If it’s a problem, you may want to consider hiring a trainer or attending obedience classes. Some dogs tend to get reactive when they are on a leash but are fine when meeting dogs off of a leash. Is that the case with your dog?

  83. HI Lindsay,
    I just adopted a chocolate lab. He came from a house with just one dog and he was not socialized beyond that one dog, that house and he was not neutered. He is two years old and just recently (one week ago) was neutered. He is completely friendly with people. I have not seen any signs of aggression with handling, toys, or food. I took him to meet a dog I knew to be a neutral dog and he showed toy/territory aggression, which I was not surprised since he was not socialized outside of his housemate. When he blew up over his toy the other dog corrected him and that seemed to neutralize the situation. We distracted them by then taking them outside and they began playing in the yard with each other with no problems, but we left the toys inside. I was going to introduce him to different dogs that I know and also take him to a dog park to learn. Do you think that is a good idea, do you have other ideas?

    1. Just my two cents – I’d avoid the dog park for a long while. I find that it can be really overwhelming for dogs with so many other dogs around. And with so many dogs around, even calm dogs can sometimes show odd behaviours. Also, you can’t trust that your dog won’t have a really bad experience there; some dog owners pay no attention to their dogs at the dog park, so you could find yourself in a bad situation. Also, people sometimes bring their aggressive dogs and let them off lead, so even if you’re keeping your dog away, again you could be setting up for a bad experience. Dog park would be my last activity. Sounds like you’re doing great with everything though!

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I agree. Don’t go to the dog park for awhile, not until you know him better. Get friends to go on walks with you to give him a chance to interact with one or two dogs at a time. Then, after a walk, let them play a bit in a yard if that is possible. I also suggest group obedience classes so he can learn to work around other dogs comfortably.

        After you have seen him do OK with a variety of dogs in more controlled settings, then the dog park might be an OK option. Personally, I would never bring a dog to the dog park that shows any kind of possessiveness over toys.

        Keep working on slowly introducing him to one dog at a time and work on his overall obedience skills and confidence and I’m sure you will notice a big difference.

        1. Thank you both for responding, you have confirmed my thoughts and hesitation about the dog park. I will stick to my plan of introducing one dog at a time. I am signing him up for obedience class, not because he really needs it but more so for him to be exposed to a group of dogs but in a controlled setting. I will speak with the trainer before hand so we can be properly prepared going in. I worked with him last night on the leave it command and he was getting it, he was a little slow to understand because I think my timing was off! Its always the owner, rarely the dogs fault LOL! Anyway, this morning when we were coming back from our walk he wanted to bring his ball in the house – I said “leave it” and he dropped it! He is so smart and sweet. I am very encouraged to see his progression with this. Thanks again this is a great website!

  84. diana fournier

    I foster rescue dogs. My current foster is a 4 yr old male neutered lab. Just before he came to me, he was attacked and left physically scarred by another dog. He now has fear aggression, giving off a vibe when he meets other dogs and they all growl at him, then he growls back and gets ugly. I know its not right to punish him for growling, as he’s already uncertain, but I dont know how to help him get over this. It happens with EVERY dog he meets. It’s been suggested to have him wear a muzzle so he knows he can’t bite, therefore won’t growl at new dogs but I’m not sure this is the right approach. Help?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You could try a muzzle when you do close introductions to other dogs. For now, I would probably get the dog into some obedience classes just so he can get used to being around other dogs in a controlled setting.

      Another idea …

      You want him to have positive experiences with other dogs, so when you are out on walks, I would bring his favorite treats and get just close enough to other dogs so you can give the treat before he starts to show fear but the other dog is actually in sight. Then, with time, you can slowly decrease that distance. You may be starting with several yards away, and that’s fine. You want to slowly increase his comfort level and slowly make him associate positive things (treats) with the approaching dogs.

  85. My parents have a pitbull that has twice attacked my parents other dogs. He had always been great with his sister, they were adopted together from the same litter. He has never shown signs of aggression towards her but as he ages he becomes more moody and recently he was upset because he could not get out the yard to attack the trash truck. He lashed out at her! We avoid letting him be outside when the trash truck comes through because he will bark and get stressed out that he can’t get to it. He is never agressive towards humans both times he is remorseful or rather down perhaps because we had to separate him from everyone or one time had to hurt him to separate the dogs. My parents have resorted to only allowing him outside with constant supervision and if we let his sister out one of us is out there with them. Otherwise he now is confined to his large kennel (15′ x 15′.) We all hate it but he just seems to be getting worse. He also got into the house (2 yrs ago) and attacked my brothers dog and that was horrific! It took a water hose with the water at full power up his nose to make him let go of her throat. He has had obedience training (since he was a pup) and he is already 9 yrs old. My parents have resorted to scheduling time outside for their 3 dogs because they don’t want to give him up nor do they want him to hurt any other dogs. Is there hope for him or is it just going to get worse? He is an absolute sweetheart to us but the liability tied to a dog who’s dog aggressive will be way too costly for us too handle. HELP please!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I am of course making assumptions here, so I might be wrong. I’m guessing the dog is not getting proper exercise or structure. I’m not saying that if you increase his exercise and add more structure to his life (through a consistent routine, leadership, advanced training) the problem will go away. But I’m thinking it will get worse the more he is confined.

      Would it be possible to hire a trainer to come work with you on the issue?

      If not, I think it’s important that he gets out for some long walks at least a few times per week, ideally every day. I think it’s important to keep up the obedience work with him, too.

  86. I rescued my dog a 3 y/o shiba inu over a year and a half ago. When I first got her she was always on guard, skittish and not trusting of us. Within her first 6 months, we signed her up for a basic obedience class where she was highly stressed out (very heavy breathing, tail drooped), would cry, and had to be separated from other dogs. In the end, the instructor decided it would be better for her to have classes alone. At the time, not knowing how my dog would be around other dogs, I let her get close and sniff a few dogs in the neighborhood. This resulted in her lunging and pouncing on top of these dogs much smaller than her (and not in a playful way). She didn’t bite them but it was quite alarming. Another time, in attempts to socialize her, I took her to meet my sister in laws dog, a shiba inu half her size, at her house. My dog didn’t really care for the other dog. They didn’t play but basically just cohabited. We decided that it would be ok to have them become more familiar with each other so my sister in law brought her dog over to my house one day. This was a big mistake. My dog was on high alert, followed the other dog and eventually snapped, attacked and bit the other dog. This literally happened within 2 mins. I was mortified. That was about a year ago. Since then my dog has had no interactions w/other dogs. She’ll see them on walks, become very curious (no growls or lunges) and I will pull her along her way. She’s definitely opened up to us a lot more and we feel like she trusts us now. She even cuddles with us and that took about 8 months for her to do. I would like to try again to socialize her but am unsure as to how given her history with other dogs. I understand that shiba inu’s are very possessive (perhaps why she attacked the dog that came into our house?) and can be prey driven. What would you advise? I feel like by not socializing her she will never know how to appropriately act around dogs.

  87. I have two dogs one flat haired retriever and one golden cocker spaniel . The retriever I got from the pound a year ago and is a gentle giant, he is my sweet heart, the spaniel I recued a few weeks ago from a kennel. I know they were using a pack style of discipline in the kennel and I also know they got hit if they fought or stepped out of line. I am trying to teach him discipline with kindness, I am firm but kind. I never hit him, and treat him with the sane respect as my other dog. But he growls at my retriever, he is such a sortie he let’s him, he has now bullied my retriever out of his favourite chair and keeps claming it as his own.when he does this I take him off. I allow my other dog on first and then I let him sit beside my retriever.
    One night he snapped at George and me. It frightened me a little, but I stood up to him and put him outside the door for one hour. He knew he did wrong I could tell he was sorry.
    But he still bullies my other dog. I want him to know I’m alpha dog, not him or George , and I do the discipline not him. How can I let him know this? He is a good dog apart from this, and my other dog likes him a lot, he gets upset when I have to discipline charley even if he’s being bullied. What do I do ?

  88. Hi there, I have a 5-yr old, 80-lb yellow lab who has had anxiety issues since the day my fiance and I got her (when she turned eight weeks old).

    We have two major issue with her:
    1) She does not get along well with other dogs (especially small dogs and hyper puppies). She is fine with docile dogs like greyhounds and old dogs but when she encounters any other kind of dog, she and the dog will sniff and it will invariably turn growly and nasty. She will at least gives several calming signals to puppies (turns her head) before she gets growly and sometimes snaps. Even though we tried to socialize her at a young age, she never really got along with other dogs. When other dogs tried/try to play with her, she interprets it as aggression and gets aggressive back.
    2) Lately over the last month or two, she has been barking and demanding to come into our bedroom and sleep on our bed at 6:30am (although it sometimes happens in the middle of the night). Although it can servce as a nice alarm clock, we need sleep. Should we just ignore her? Command her to go to the couch? Soothe her? (Note: we have tried all of these and none seem to work although maybe we are not persistent enough). Also, she does not normally sleep with us. When we go to bed every night, we let her on the bed initially for 5-10 min and then send her out. She has free reign of the apt during the day and will lie on the floor, couch, futon, or bed.

    And I get that her behavioral shortcomings are related to our shortcomings as owners. We need some advice, please!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Some dogs just will never be great with others. One suggestion I have is to take her on some walks with one other dog at a time so they are walking parallel, with no pressure about head-on greetings. This will give her some time to slowly get used to the other dog. After a walk, she might be comfortable with some mild sniffing or playing or just angling out. Do you know of any mellow dogs who could be a good match?

      Here is a great post from another blog about slow introductions:

      For the crying in the morning, I recommend moving her from the situation. So, if she cries at your door, move her to a crate or another bedroom and close the door. Teach her that crying does not get her attention. It gets her further from you. Then, completely ignore her, which may mean you need to wear earplugs for awhile 🙂

      If she is crying because she needs to go outside, then you may want to get up and let her out before she starts crying.

      1. Hi Lindsay,

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate it and will heed all of that advice.


  89. We have a Yorkshire terrier who is nearly 5 years old. When she was younger and we used to go out for walks if other dogs approached her, she used to drop onto her back and was quite submissive. In the last year or so if we meet other dogs, she has a little sniff puts her nose to theirs and always ends up snarling quite aggressively at the other dog!! I can only put this change in behaviour down to when we had children, I don’t know why she is doing this and don’t know what to do to make her stop!! Help!! X

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s hard to say if she is insecure or simply defending her family. It helps a lot to avoid head-on greetings entirely between dogs. So, if she interacts with a new dog, encourage them to walk side by side first or nose to butt 🙂

  90. Lindsay Stordahl

    Personally, I prefer to distract the dogs once the play starts to escalate. I notice that corrections will add to the tension, but whistling or saying something like “look here!” and then rewarding them will help decrease the excitement levels. Then you can have the dogs work on sits and stays and reward them for calm behavior before letting them interact some more.

  91. Hi Lindsay,
    My 3 year-old bull terrier shows toy possession/obsession and some aggression with other dogs, but only some of the time, so the distraction tactic hasn’t really worked for her because it is so sporadic. She reacts more to other dogs coming near her toys or will go and take what she considers “hers” from another dog rather than simply growl when other dogs are around. It’s just a very quick response when she does it (as if she’s stealing the toy) so I don’t have time to correct her right away other than to take the toy away from her. She doesn’t show aggression toward people and knows “leave it” and loves to fetch, I just worry that she will steal a toy from the wrong dog. Is there a way to PREVENT her from stealing others’ toys?

  92. I have a male cockapoo dog who has just turned 2 and he seems to be growling a lot at a few dogs when I take a walk down the valley. I had an incident one day where a lady had a go at me with her dog who was on the lead. She told me to put my dog on a lead and get him under control. He sniffed the dog and started to growl and snap but the dog did nothing wrong it was my dogs fault really he started it. I gave him a tap on the nose and told him ‘no’. I then gently clipped him in the lead and walked on. He also growled at another dog who was very bouncy and was climbing all over him, he flipped around and gave him a snap. Again I tapped him on the nose and carried on but I did apologise. He also growls at men but I think it’s a sign on him being very scared. He also hates children and goes to snap at them, we are very worried of what he will do to them. He does play growl with his friends when we go on walks but i think thats perfectly normal and has never bit any dog. He is a lovely dog to be around at home no problems he is one of the best well behaved dogs I’ve known at home. We are not sure what to do Really? We need some advice thanks.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would definitely hire a trainer to help you if that is at all possible. Even a one-time consultation would give you some ideas.

      From what I can tell, your dog is showing you that he is uncomfortable in these situations for whatever reason. I would definitely keep him leashed and keep introductions to new dogs and people slow and relaxed. You should find the point where he becomes uncomfortable (maybe it’s when he’s one foot away, maybe it’s five feet) and slowly work to increase his comfort level from there. For example, if he is showing good behavior within three feet of a dog, you would reward him but don’t push it further. Then the next time you might go a little closer.

  93. Hi, i have a 12 months pitbull/dogo/rottweiler mix ,he is not agresive but he dont tolerate stranger dogs to put their paws on his back or to aproach him while he is rolled over with his belly,he growl and snap at them but dont bite,he play a bow with them after meeting.My question is this an agresive dog display, will he fight with others when he grown up.Thank you

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      This is a difficult question to answer over the Internet. All dogs will growl, snap or bite in certain situations. It does not necessarily mean they are going to fight all the time. Your dog is probably showing other dogs that he is uncomfortable when they stand above him, which is the case with a lot of dogs. This is one reason why I do not allow my own dog to put his paws over another dog.

      That being said, you can’t control what other dog owners allow their dogs to do. You can help your dog by continuing to socialize him with friendly dogs. Try to keep their energy levels low. When dogs get excited, they are more likely to start wrestling and pawing at each other, which is what makes your dog uncomfortable at times.

      If you think you might need some help, don’t hesitate to talk with a trusted trainer in your area. Obedience classes are also a great way to get your dog used to calm behavior around other dogs in a fun, structured setting.

  94. Hi Lindsey,
    I have recently taken on a friend of mine’s dog. She is a bull mastiff with some ridgeback and some staff in her. She has a lovely nature on walks and in the house and we’ve been so impressed with how well she’s settled in considering she’s 6 years old and is now one of two dogs in our house. Our other dog is a Sicilian Hound who is a boy and currently still entire, although we are saving up to give him the snip! She has been castrated.
    Out on walks she is mostly fine, but any dog that is smaller than her (which is most), she growls at. She doesn’t growl at my other dog even though he is tiny in comparison!
    What can I do to help her stop growling? I find it quite unnerving which I know can’t be helpful to her! I’ve had a number of bad experiences with big dogs jumping on my boy, so I get nervy when I see she’s starting to get her hackles up. However, today, a big choc lab sprang at us from nowhere and she barely reacted. He was very aggressive and gave me a fright, but neither of my dogs did anything. My boy’s hackles went straight up, and thankfully the owner managed to get his dogs back, so no real harm done.
    Any ideas?
    Thanks! Caroline X

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s so hard to know. It could be that she’s picking up on something from you. Perhaps you are nervous around smaller dogs because you worry your bull mastiff will hurt them? Even if you have the slightest tension in your body, your dog could pick up on this. She may not have reacted to the Lab because she had no opportunity to pick up on anything from you ahead of time.

      Did her initial intro with your dog go OK? What do you think was different about that? Did you take the introduction really slowly?

      In these cases, it’s always a good idea to hire a trainer for help, even if it’s just one session. Or, enroll in a community obedience class just to give the dog some extra socialization with structure.

      1. Apparently she had a bad experience with yappy little dogs in the past. However, I’d really like to change it so that I don’t have to worry about her getting aggressive with other dogs. Should we muzzle her?

        Initial intro with my dog was fine as he’s not a yappy dog, although quite small in comparison to her. She had her old owners with her and I guess because they know her so well, they were probably super calm.

        My only worry with a local obedience class is that there are a lot of dogs and it’s very noisy… I guess it’s my nerves too!
        Thank you for replying 🙂

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          I think a muzzle is a great idea because it will help you feel more relaxed. Just introduce it to her slowly so she doesn’t have negative associations with it. Put it on her right before she eats for a few seconds and then take it off, for example.

          With an obedience class, I would definitely talk to the trainer ahead of time to give him/her a heads up and see if it would be a good fit. You could also go observe a class without your dog along, if you haven’t done that already.

          Those dang yappy dogs! I hope you can help her feel more comfortable around them. Patricia McConnell has some great desensitizing tips in her book Feisty Fido. It focuses on walking by other dogs on leash and how to use treats to get the dog to automatically look to you.

  95. I have a 2 1/2 year old Australian Cattle Dog and a 2 year old Australian Cattle dog, both females, both rescues. i did not adopt them together, the older dog was adopted first. when the second one came into the household they got along just fine. They do still play well together but the older one has started to growl at the younger one in different situations. I can no longer harness them in my car near each other as the older one will grow and lunge at the other. No blood is ever drawn but the younger one is often intimidated. In the house the growling can often intensify and I am at my wit’s end at how to stop it. I have tried to ignore her, thinking that if i react by shouting at her she will take it as attention. How do i stop this?

  96. Hello,

    I recenty adopted a 2 year old Chihuahua/Miniature Pinscher Mix.
    In the first few weeks I had her she never had negative reactions to other dogs on leashes or otherwise. She was very calm yet curious. I have previous experience with reactive dogs. I know it is important to not be anxious ourselves as owners and I am very concious of this. One day while out on a walk she snapped at a little girl that was trying to pet her. The girl approached calmly, hand open – palm up giving my dog the opportunity to smell her, and showing no anxiety herself.
    Despite this approach, my dog snapped at her. Ever since that day, my dog growls at some dogs. She even barked at a guy on a bike one day.
    I have been trying to create positive associations with seeing the other dogs on our walks. To encourage this positive relationship, I carry treats with me and will give her a treat and pet her calmly when she sees the other dog. If she doesn’t growl or bark I say ‘good girl’ and give her lots of pets. It seems to be working to a point. Yesterday we saw a sweet little pit breed on a leash in a pet store and they seemed fine. I asked the owner if I could pet the dog. As soon as I started petting the other dog, my dog started growling and developed a tense posture. I am guessing she is possesive or defensive of me. Should I not pet other dogs around her? It seems absurd, but I will do if necessary. Any other suggestions or insights?

    1. It does sound like there could be some possessiveness there. It could also be fear. Either way, I would make a list of everything that seems to trigger the aggression and then look for ways to begin desensitizing your dog to those triggers.

      What have you tried with other reactive dogs that seemed to work?

      1. The other dogs have been much more intense than my dog. The other dog was never able to get over his reactions. I fostered him, so I only had him for a few months, but it was the most intense reaction I have ever seen. Ella growls and barks, but if I give her treats she settles down. She was rescued from an abusive home, but the lady who fostered her didn’t see any aggression. I didn’t see any either until I had her for a few weeks.

        1. That’s great to hear that she’s able to accept treats and settle down. You could try determining exactly when she becomes aggressive as far as distance and then start working with her with just enough distance so she does not become aggressive. Then, slowly try to desensitize her by getting closer and closer to her “triggers” over time. I bet it would be a different distance for different triggers. For example, with bikes, maybe she becomes aggressive when they are within 5 feet but with other dogs it’s when they’re within 10 feet. With people it might not be until they reach for her.

          You maybe have been doing this already. Just throwing around some ideas.

  97. Hi, I have a 3year old male old staff, he has always been brilliant with other dogs but recently when im taking him out on walks he has started growling at other dogs, specifically male ones that have not been done, I don’t know why he’s started doing it as he was done when he was six months old, he has also started trying to hump other male dogs, its making me really nervous about taking him out off the lead in case he end up biting another dog even though he has never done it before.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Gillian. Sorry to hear you are having some issues with your dog. There are a lot of different things that could be going on.

      One, you said you are nervous when walking your dog. Unfortunately, when we are nervous, that often makes our dogs on edge as well. I’m sure you’re already trying to do this, but if you can remain as relaxed as possible it will only help your dog.

      Second, a lot of dogs develop frustration when they are on the leash. They want to interact with other dogs (often in a playful way), but the leash prevents them from doing so and they get frustrated and lash out.

      Third, some dogs are truly fearful of other dogs and growl because they can’t get away.

      And yet, some dogs are actually acting possessive of their owners and growl to scare other dogs away from “their” human.

      It’s so hard to say which of these is the case with your dog. Your best bet might be to hire a trainer or to attend a group obedience class so your dog can practice working around other dogs.

  98. Hi I have just rehomed a elderly lab cross, she was introduced to my 3 dogs yesterday and she was fine, but today she is very growly toward my elderly.boxer cross. Therefore I have kept my two younger dogs away a rotty and a akita cross. Things are calmer this afternoon but am wondering is there anything else I can do to make her feel comfortable and relaxed. She was around all of my dogs yesterday without a problem. Then thinking it was a good idea I let.the new dog sleep in my housemates room for some peace and quiet.. but when I put the elder ones together today was totally different. Shackleton were up on my new dog and a growl. No snapping though.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Congrats on the new dog!

      They may be simply working out their pecking order. It’s a big adjustment for everyone. I recommend walking the dogs together or at least each of your other dogs one at a time with the new dog. This helps them associate something positive with the new dog, and it puts them all in a working, following mode if you keep them at your side.

      Definitely try to reward calm behavior from all the dogs. Don’t allow them to be pushy for attention. Always reward the calmest dog first.

      How are the obedience skills of the three dogs? If they can’t already do this, I would work so each dog will respect a down/stay command and remain staying for up to 15 minutes or so. That will teach them some self-control and it will help them see you as the leader. Also work on all the general commands like heel, come, sit, etc.

  99. Hi, We just rehomed a Shih poo. He’s 3 years old and very small (7 pds) He is extremely friendly to everyone. Even when the next door neighbor’s dog came over (a large retriever) he just sniffed and walked around him and seemed fine (although this was outside) but when our son brought his dog over (inside our house) he immediately started a very mean growling. It took a lot of ‘no’s and sternness on our part but it still took quite a while before he settled down. Our son’s dog is a Chihuahua/pug mix who is a very playful and friendly dog (and who loves me and wants to be near me when he comes over) I am the mom and the one our new dog is attached to. Could that be the reason? I certainly don’t want this to become a problem every time our son comes for a visit. What can I do?

    1. Yes, it could be related to being indoors on “his” territory or he could’ve been protecting his greatest resource – you. Here is a post I wrote on how to stop my small dog from guarding me. I’m not saying this is necessarily exactly what’s going on with your dog, but something to consider.

      Congrats on your new dog! Mostly, he may just need a bit of time to adjust to the new environment.

  100. we have a 1.5 year old golden doodle. he has recently starting growling at dogs that he encounters on our walks. we walk pretty much the same route everyday. he is such a great dog until this started happening. he shows no others signs of anger or anything else negative. only when we are with him on a leash and he encounters another dog he does not know. he growls(meanly) and even attempts to chomp. we are having a really hard time figuring this out because like we said, otherwise he is awesome..and not just to us but others as well.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Does he do OK meeting new dogs without a leash, like at the dog park? I have written a post on dog leash aggression you may find helpful:

      A tool I personally prefer for dogs with this type of aggression is a Halti or a Gentle Leader. I also recommend enrolling in an obedience class just to work on calm, good behavior with him around other dogs.


    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Your best bet would be to find a good trainer in your area and work with that person on slowly introducing your dog to other dogs in a controlled way. Obedience classes can also help. Just tell the instructor ahead of time about your dog’s issues.

  102. My wife, my four girls and I have had our Yellow lab for about a year and a half. She is spayed, about 2 years old, and very well behaved. Her name is Chloe Jo. She has an attitude that she does what she wants when she wants. She listens fairly well but only if you make her or she wants to. My problem is that we had tried to get another female, about the same size as her, a few months ago and they didn’t get along at all. We now have acquired a larger male. He is an unknown mutt. They don’t bark or fight at all, but he lays on the floor and she comes over to sniff him and say hello, he growls. He doesn’t get up or even look at her, he just growls. Both of them are fine with the kids and except for chloe running away from him when he gets close to her, everything is fine. I’m just wondering what his growling means. His body doesn’t move, his teeth don’t show, and his ears don’t go back. He just lets out some low long growls. What does this mean? And will they get used to each other in time?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How long have you had the new dog? Dogs often need a lot of time to get comfortable with one another.

      The growling is good, in a way, because he’s telling Chloe Jo that he is not comfortable with her sniffing him when he’s lying down. It’s hard to say the reason for this. Maybe she is just too playful or energetic when she approaches him. Does she leave him alone when he does this?

      If you are worried about the behavior, I would reach out to a trainer just to get some feedback.

      In the meantime, make sure the new dog gets enough down time without Chloe bothering him.

      My dog is the mellowest, sweetest dog. I know he would never bite or even growl at a person, but even he will let out a low growl when a younger or more energetic dog gets too close. He just doesn’t like to have other dogs jumping on him or even lying to close.

  103. I have a year old corgi/border collie named Bering. He is currently the only pet in our household. Bering’s mother was killed shortly after he was born and I took him home when he was 5 weeks-which I now know is way too early. He was doing great with humans and other animals until about two months ago when a dog charged and attacked him while we were on a walk- Bering was on a leash and the other dog was not and had no owner in sight. We took Bering to the vet and he said everything was fine. The next time we went on a walk, Bering started a scuffle with a dog that walked up to him (aggressive sounding growling and snapping when the dog started sniffing him). Bering now growls, lunges, and barks at about 75% of the people and dogs he sees on walks. I am now visiting my parents for the summer and Bering has become possessive over toys and bones when interacting with my parents lab Nugget. He has no problem sharing food, but the minute the two are holding the same toy or bone, Bering begins growling. If I do not intervene, Bering will start snarling and snapping at Nugget’s face. When I grab hold of a toy or bone Bering is playing with, he will playfully growl and tug but lets go when I say “drop it” in a stern voice. My husband and I want to get Bering a companion because he LOVES hanging out with Nugget when toys are not involved but we are worried about his behavior and would like to modify it before introducing a new dog into the home.

    I have looked into meeting with a trainer or a behavior specialist but have not had any success in our very rural area.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, I would definitely meet with a trainer if you can find one. I know it’s hard in some areas.

      Have you seen my post on possessiveness? That may give you some ideas to brainstorm from:

      I’ve also written some posts on leash aggression and general leash behavior. Here are some links to those:

      And finally, I highly recommend the book Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell. She goes over in detail a training plan to help dogs approach other dogs on leash without reacting. It takes a lot of time, but seems worth it in the long run.

  104. Hi there I have a dog that grows at my friends puppy don’t worry!! If the puppy tries to play and he grows hold the puppy telp him off. If that doesn’t work keep them away and keep trying it.

  105. Krista Garcia

    Hi! I have a 4 month old Siberian Husky puppy, Bane, that likes to play with another 4 month old husky/malamute at the dog park, but they play a lot more aggressively together than Bane does with the other dogs and it tends to worry me and the other dog mom. They are a lot noisier and use their teeth a lot more. Is this normal puppy behavior as well or should we intervene when they are fighting?

    I also have been having some issues with him becoming possessive over his food. I have started making him ask for his food, but I can tell he is still tense and upset that I am near his food while he is eating it. What things do you distract your dog with when she becomes possessive? I know you said claim ownership and distract them both, but Bane is not interested in toys or anything else while he is eating. Thanks!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Obviously I don’t know the exact situation, and if you are concerned it may be worth having a trainer observe them. Even one session with a train may be worth the money.

      If it were me, I would probably let them play but then distract them/interrupt them calmly before it escalates to that high level of play. That may mean they can only play for a few seconds at a time, and then you walk around a bit or ask them to sit or whatever you can do to get them to “tone it down” a bit. Then let them go back to playing.

      I have written quite a few posts on possessiveness. Not sure if you’ve seen them. I would suggest finding something he values more than his usual food (hot dogs?) and toss him those as you approach his bowl. That way he learns, oh boy! She’s coming towards me while I’m eating! That means hot dogs!

      Here are some posts on possessiveness:

  106. I have a 14 month old mix. She’s medium sized and very social towards dogs and people. We go to the dog park almost every day. She snaps if she gets humped and if she gets overwhelmed by other dogs pushing her around or boxing. She also does this with ultra submissive dogs that are super energetic and lay on their back and flop around in front of her face. She will hold them down and just do the warning snarl. I get that she just wants to not get hurt/annoyed most of the time, but just worry that some of this might need to be fixed somehow.

    Again she flirts with every person and is sweet as can be. She plays well with most dogs and ignores the rest. She never seeks the trouble.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Katie.

      It sounds like she might be normal! 🙂 It’s good that she is giving a growl if she is feeling overwhelmed, as long as it’s within reason. My dog growls at dogs that hump him as well. He also growls at younger dogs that have too energy and won’t leave him alone.

      So … one thing you could try to do is practice her general obedience like coming when called. Then when you’re at the park you could have that to fall back on. You could always call her to you and walk away from the other dogs just as a break (not a punishment). Maybe she is just a little overwhelmed.

      And with the more submissive dogs, that is normal too. Unfortunately, all that nervous energy from a dog that is ultra submissive often attracts the other dogs. I would try to call her away from them too, just to give those dogs a break!

      I wrote a post on humping that you might find interesting, not because of the humping itself but because it is about dog park behavior and energy in general.

  107. Hi Lindsay! I have a 3 year old neutered male Lab and a 5 month old female Weim. Yesterday we were at the beach. Both dogs were off the leash which is typical on our walks. We go to the beach or the dog park twice a day. We encountered a 6 month old male Lab. He was on high alert and as we got closer I noticed that although he was sitting silently his hackles were up. He approached my Weim pup. My Lab got in between them and growled and raised his lip but within about 2 seconds forcefully corrected the Lab pup. It lasted for about 5-6 second. There was a lot of growling and snapping. It was loud and intense and the Lab pup was shrieking. He was not hurt. He ran back to his owner, a lady with children. She was upset and when I approached with both my dogs on the leash to make sure her dog was ok she told me to go and that my dog was out of control. I explained that he had never behaved that way before but she didn’t want to listen. I did note that she was cradling her dog like a baby. Although this was the only encounter I have ever had with this woman.

    I thought that my dog had behaved, well, like a dog. I was surprised that it escalated quickly but neither dog was injured and when we approached the lab pup and its owners, both my dogs were calm and relaxed and wagging their tails. Especially my lab and indeed the lab pup seemed fine.

    My lab has been well socialized since puppyhood. He encounters many dogs every day and has never shown any aggressive. He snapped as a doberman once when he tried to mount him but I don’t think that was inappropriate. My concern was that he didn’t stop immediately when I told him to come but he did stop after a few seconds. He is very obedient and submissive to people. He is not timid but he is respectful of other dogs. His only issues are that he pulls a bit on the leash and can become a bit tunnel visioned when retreiving a ball.

    Is this kind of interaction with a younger dog normal behavior? I don’t think I have an aggressive dog on my hands but I am starting to doubt myself. I would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Hi Valerie. I’m thinking your Lab was asserting himself in part to protect your Weim pup but also because the Lab pup was also being assertive. If you trust your dog, then I tend to agree with you that you don’t have anything to worry about.

      What I would do, though, is try to work on getting your Lab’s attention sooner so you can call him away and avoid those situations.

      I wrote a similar post related to humping instead of growling, and it focuses on the dog parks and when to intervene. I think you’ll find it interesting. Here it is:

      1. I have a 9yr old basset hound who is an “only dog”. She has been to day camp and obedience class and overall is pretty well behaved. She definitely prefers people to other dogs – at the dog park, she spends her time trying to get petted by the owners and could care less about the dogs and she sleeps thru half of day camp. If I have her out on a leash, she occasionally will raise her hair up at a dog and I’ve never been able to identify the trigger (too large, too yappy, another female – who knows) but it’s just been the”on alert” behavior.
        Here’s the issue: my sister recently got 9 month old brother & sister hound/aussie mixes (we think) who are super friendly but are playful as is normal for puppies. We have spent many a weekend at their house; Zoe has her own bed and bowls there and she has been the beloved pet in the family for years. We made sure when they met that they were in neutral territory and the puppies loved her and so badly wanted to be friends. She sniffed and was somewhat indifferent and yet also put off by the high energy. We’ve had them together several times and the puppies try to lick her face and play and she is having none if it – she gets up on the couch or anywhere she can get away from them. If they are being calm, she will tolerate their presence and the male can curl up on the other end of the couch with no issue. However, she will growl & snarl at the female if she just walks by too closely. You can tell the puppy is upset that Zoe doesn’t like her. We spend most of the visit just watching the dogs to make sure the puppies don’t overwhelm Zoe. The bottom line is that they really need to learn to “play nice” together because the puppies are now part of the family. Any ideas?

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          I am going through something similar with my dog Ace (9 year old Lab mix) and our foster dog Lana (10 month old Lab mix). Ace is good with other dogs but will snarl at Lana if she gets too playful or just gets in his space too much. What I do is try to re-direct Lana when I know she’s bothering Ace. I encourage her to play with me, or I have her lie down and stay on her bed, which of course is challenging for her. I don’t really scold my dog Ace at this point, because I feel he is setting some rules with her, but I do call him to me if I sense he is getting tense and about to growl. I also reward him and give him some solid pats if Lana comes up and sniffs him and he allows it.

          So … I’m not saying your situation is the same, but hoping this will give you some ideas. I would also do things all the dogs enjoy together as a group like going for walks together.

  108. Hi Lindsay,

    I just adopted a 5-month-old terrier mix (maybe Border terrier). She is friendly with people, but she can be very “sassy” with other dogs. I have her in training classes, and they tell me that’s typical “terriertude.” But it still makes me nervous. If a dog takes a toy from her, she will snarl and nip them. (If I take a toy from her, she is fine). Most times playing with other dogs, she growls and snarls the entire time (some passive dogs don’t mind, but other dogs will get angry with her.) She’s only a puppy, so I am hoping to work with her. She was returned from her previous family because the kids were afraid of her, and I’m told that family did not socialize or train her in any way.

    Your advice is much appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m glad you have her in training classes. That should help, although I don’t think “terriertude” should be used as an excuse by the trainer. I think he/she should help to give you some ideas. Are there certain types of dogs (like really calm dogs?) that she gets along well with? Maybe you could set up some playdates with friends who have those types of dogs and then slowly try socializing with more varieties of dogs. Another thing that helps is to go on long walks with other dogs so they aren’t interacting face-to-face right away, just walking together as a group. Then you could allow her to play afterwards and it might go better. Are there any dog walking groups in your area?

      I’ve written a post on how to stop possessiveness between dogs at the dog park. It’s not exactly a perfect answer to your problem, but may give you some ideas:

      Patricia McConnell has written a good post on possessiveness between dogs here:

      Mostly though, I’d try to work on calling your dog to you in various situations so you can always get her attention when she needs a short “time out” from other dogs. I mean, so you can call her away before her playing or her growling escalates to a real fight. If you can build her obedience skills so she always listens to you for things like come, stay, leave it, drop, etc., that could go a long way.

      1. Thank you for your help. It’s very refreshing to read such realistic and down-to-earth dog training advice. This is my first puppy and I’ve been reading extensively about how to help her interact better with other dogs. Some books or websites are too extreme one way or another (never scold a puppy, only show love vs. always be alpha and show limited affection). Your articles are most realistic and helpful. And THANK YOU for responding to every single person! That’s so impressive and helpful. You’re doing great work!

  109. Hi Lindsay, I would love some strategies to use with Chilli, my 18month old female (spayed) red cattle dog. She has started to show possessiveness for toys, bones, food when around other dogs. Chilli’s not possessive of these things around humans – I can take a bone etc out of her mouth and she doesn’t care and I’ve never seen her be agressive towards a human. A friend who has a 6-7 month old Rotti pup (Lola) is about to move in with us and I want to get on top of this! I want to feel comfortable leaving Chilli and Lola alone together when I’m at work without Chilli starting a fight. Even though Lola is already much bigger than Chilli, she is very sweet natured and Chilli walks all over her.

    This possessiveness around dogs started when Chilli was about 12 months old, prior to this she shared well. E.g. previously she would let another dog eat her bone and wouldn’t grab at the bone until the other dog had dropped it (and without barking). Now she will either growl/snap/fight (though no blood has ever been drawn, which makes me think her bark is worse than her bite, having said that her bark is quite scary …). Or she will take the bone out of Lola’s mouth without growling and just run away with it. She does the same if Lola has her toy – she’ll either bark/fight etc or – won’t bark but will snatch it out of Loal’s mouth. Chilli seems to intimidate other dogs and I’m not sure why! Some dogs will see Chilli coming and drop their own toy (not Chilli’s toy) and run away.
    We’ve gotten to the point where Chilli will let Lola drink out of her water bowl (yeah she used to be possessive of her water bowl!) and will let Lola lay in her bed.
    She was socialised well as a pup and other than her possessiveness she seems to play well. I don’t know why it would have started all of a sudden. Her and Lola do play a bit rough, though they both seem to enjoy playing with one another.

    Chilli is obedient if it’s just us (e.g. sits on command, comes, drops toys when told, leaves toys when told, sits for her food, understands NO), but if there’s another dog around not so much – she just wants to play. She’s never been great on the leash and usually only stays for a moment when told. We also had to work a lot when she was a young pup to teach her that we were the dominant ones, not her.

    Sorry for rambling on! But any strategies or advice would be greatly appreciated! I love my dog but hate how possessive she’s become 🙁

  110. Hi,
    We just adopted a 5 year old golden retriever from a family that is moving overseas and can’t take they’re pets with. just a little bit of history before I got into the reason for this post…the golden Hurley was raised with small kids, lived in a two dog home where he was the lesser dominant male of the two, raised with three cats. When we met him he was/is great, very chill and not hyper and jumpy, he sits, comes when you call him, fetches and drops the ball without instruction, doesn’t seem to have any food aggression issues, has been friendly to new people he meets, walks fairly good on a leash with minimal pulling. Here’s where it gets a little weird, I had him out on the leash the other day and the neighbours dog came over and stated sniffing his butt, he started growling at the dog.. He wanted no part in it. Then last night we took him to the dam by our house and were throwing a stick for him, he was having a blast until this black lab came barreling over with no owners, he seemed like he was a young dog, hyper and friendly, he kept sniffing our golden and our golden gave out a few warning growls and then finally put the run on the lab and laid him out, the lab was yelping but wasn’t hurt, then he came running back to us and the lab kept his distance.. Then at our home my 4 yr old son was hugging him by the back end and he let out a slight growl, he did this again when my son partially laid on him. He has also put the run on the cat a couple times and the cat has put the run on him… Is this just an adjustment phase? Is he confused as where his place is because he has no other dog in the house with us? I also noticed he grunts a lot and makes noises so I’m not sure if he is just making noises when my sons hugging on him. My husband doesn’t think there’s anything to worry about, I just would hate for someone to get bit.

  111. Great article! I have a small dog that does not like being rushed or butt-sniffed by other dogs of any size or age. She growls. I was a little disappointed that a great blog had the “f” word inserted. I just don’t see the point in using it. It diminishes your great advice. Sorry, prudish, I know. Meanwhile, I do love your articles! I am a subscriber and will continue.

  112. I’ve been having an issue lately. My English Setter, Stella, has been barking at the neighbor’s puppy. She has been socialized with other dogs and for the most part has made many friends. But the neighbors got a new male retriever puppy and they bring him down to socialize and Blue just wants to play and Stella is good until the puppy Indy seeks affection from “her” people. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s us or the neighbors, she will bark and then let out a small growl. Not sure where the jealousy is coming from or how to stop it. I just keep hoping that the more I expose the 2 to each other that she will eventually accept the puppy but so far she has not. At first, I tried to correct her from the barking/growling but quickly changed that to a re-direction of her attention. It works for a little bit but then she goes right back to the barking and growling. It’s also not an annoyance thing, she is very energetic and is usually the one pestering other dogs to play. It seems to me that she is simply jealous of the attention the puppy gets from humans, even the owners. Their previous senior dog was a good friend of hers and she was always very gentle with him and I want her to accept the puppy as well. Originally when they got Indy, I figured that she would be the 1st to accept him but that is not the case. Sometimes when other dogs visit, she will compete for attention and push them out of the way, but even when she does that she will quickly lose interest and move on. But she has never growled at any other dog or any person unless they are trespassing. She seems to know who doesn’t belong here, except for that little puppy. And I don’t want the puppy to grow up afraid of her. I hope you have a suggestion for me.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think you are doing the right thing by re-directing her attention. You might also want to keep their interactions fairly short and as positive as you can. It might also help, especially as the pup gets a little older, to do things with the two dogs that do not involve the humans sitting around. When people are sitting around, it’s easier for the dogs to weave in and out and around the people in tight quarters, “guarding” them. So if you’re walking or moving around playing, Stella might have an easier time “sharing” the space. Walks will be very helpful for this. Be careful of toys for now in case Stella tries to guard toys.

      I’m hoping all you need is time. Stella is acting how my dog Ace acted to Remy, and it was a shock to me too. Ace normally never growls at other dogs. If the puppy is still very small, be careful so Stella is not in a place where she actually feels she needs to follow through with a bite. Once the puppy is a little bigger, this is less of an issue.

      Good luck! Overall, I highly suggest slow, short walks together if possible or spreading out in the yard so the dogs have more space.

  113. I liked this article because it explained possible reasons for a dog growling. My nephews recently rescued a Jack Russell-foxterrier mix. He gets very possessive of my one nephew, as well as his toys, treats… He bit my nephew’s mother when she went to take his ball to throw it for him because they were playing. When anyone comes near my nephew, even those people that live in the house, he barks and gets this vicious deep growl and shows his teeth. He does the same when, my nephew’s partner comes to bed after his late night work shift. Any help you can give would be appreciated.

  114. Wow thanks goodness for this article! I’ve learned something new! I was at the dog park the other day with my 19 week old Belgian. He plays great with all the dogs but yesterday, I saw some stuff I’ve never seen before. He played for a bit and then he started guarding the tennis ball under the table he growled at the other dogs and ran away from dogs and people who tried to get the ball( he was super jumpy). I then asked him to come to me and to drop it, so he could share with the other dogs. But he did come, but didn’t drop it and tried avoiding me. I got alittle frustrated and caught him around the collar. And he flipped out! He growled and whinnied I asked him again to drop it and he didn’t. (He knows this command) so I had to pry it out of his mouth and as I held him I threw the ball for the other dogs. I just wanted him to share the ball with the other dogs but he wasn’t havin it! We took a one minute break and he was eager to play, right back to his old self. He also barks at kids and growls because he gets so excited! I loose control over him when that happens. (I’m still holding the leash it’s just he won’t listen). Any tips will be very much appreciated!

  115. Hi! I need some help and I’m not sure who to turn to! I have a mixed pitbull who is a little over a year old. He is usually very sweet and loves to play with other dogs. However, very recently he is starting to growl somewhat aggressively at other dogs when I take him on walks and now I am hesitant to take him to the dog park. This has happened 3 times in a row, I’ll be walking him and another person will pass with a dog, we will try to let them sniff each other (my dog will seem happy, eager and excited) and then when they get close he suddenly starts to agressively growl and bark. The first time it happened we were at an off leash dog beach and I was playing fetch with him. Another dog was playing with her owner and my dog randomly ran over to the other dog and started to really bark and growl at her (she was maybe 30 ft away initially). I’m so confused as to why he suddenly wants to do this. I know I’m not supposed to scold him for growling because he is communicating, but the other dogs have not even gotten a chance to do anything to him yet. At home he is still obedient and doesn’t growl randomly. He may want to bark at someone coming towards the house who he doesn’t know but that’s it. We do take him out of the house and I feel like he was socialized somewhat well when he was younger (he played at the dog park and beach fairly a lot, and I would take him on walks downtown). I’m at a loss and I just don’t want to contribute to the the bad rep pitbull already get…Any advice is truly appreciated!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Nikki, so sorry to hear that. It’s hard to say why he’s doing this behavior. I almost wonder if it’s related to his age/maturity. I know it’s not the simple answer you are looking for, but I think it might be best to meet with a dog trainer you trust in your area and have them observe him and you in a non-biased way. Sometimes just having someone else (experienced) observe the situation can help you realize small things you might not be noticing. Since he is normally very playful with other dogs, I would suggest you make sure you are not adding to the tension by anticipating a reaction from him or adding tension to the leash. Try to stay relaxed like you normally would and anticipate his usual, happy reactions. The book Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell is also pretty helpful.

      And here’s a blog post of mine that might help:

  116. Serina J Rieckman

    I walk a dog that purr/ growls when happy to see you. At first intimidating but when she pushes your hand for more pets, you realize she’s happy!

  117. I have a 1 year old Brussels Griffon- Huckleberry. When we go to the dog park (small town- not to many dogs there at one time) if we are on the small dog side he will constantly run the fence and bark at the dogs in the larger dog side. He will NOT quit- I have tried distracting- leaching him up and walking him around- and he goes right back at it when unleashed. If I know the large dog on the other side won’t hurt him I will take him over there and he does some better. Once he gets to know the large dog he does pretty good, but will have times where he nips and goes after the large dog. I have established a Huckleberry help group of larger dogs (nice ones)that we let them run together when they are there. Can you give me any helpful training advise to get Huckleberry over this little dog that thinks he’s big problem?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I don’t think it has as much to do with size but I think it’s the fence/barrier itself that is making him excited or frustrated. Then when he does get to go over there, he has so much pent-up energy that he sometimes nips. Just guessing, I don’t know.

      I’m trying to brainstorm some ideas for you and I’m having trouble thinking of anything helpful. If he were my dog, I would probably take him running before heading to the park to try to burn off some of the energy. Then maybe visit in quieter times and use an e-collar with a remote to correct the barking. A long leash, like you suggested, is another option but might take many repetitions over several weeks and it’s so challenging to have a long leash on at a fenced dog park.

      You might try having him on a long leash on the outside of the entire park (so he’s not in the fenced area at all) and walk along the border with him, correcting him for charging and barking and rewarding calm behavior. It just take a lot of time to change the habit.

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