Short answer, no.
Growling is a way for dogs to communicate, and I would rather have a dog growl than bite.
When a dog growls, he’s often saying “I don’t like this” or “I’m scared.”
(Of course, dogs also growl when they’re playing and having fun too!)
Dog owners have a tendency to scold dogs for non-play related growling.
Instead, we should think about what we could do differently to prevent the dog’s need for growling in the first place.
Here are a couple examples:
1. Older dogs growling at puppies.
My Lab Ace will sometimes growl at energetic dogs that annoy him.
He’s good at ignoring youthful dogs, but if they keep nipping or trying to wrestle, he will eventually growl. It’s not much of a growl, just a slight lip curl and showing his teeth. They usually get the message. If not, he might let out a more ferocious, but harmless, snarl.
In these situations, it’s generally best not to scold the older dog. It’s the younger dog who should be re-directed and taught not to be such a pest. This should happen before the older dog feels the need to growl.
2. Dogs growling to show discomfort.
One time I was hugging and talking sweetly to a client’s 100-pound dog. The dog let out a low, scary growl.
I immediately realized what I’d done and felt horrible. I had invaded the dog’s personal space, and thank goodness he had the courtesy to warn me vs. bite.
I backed off.
So many dog bites happen when people ignore or fail to recognize a dog’s signals. A growl is about as clear as it gets, and usually it means we’ve missed prior hints. Like, perhaps the dog was looking away, licking his lips, trying to back up, etc.
3. Dogs growling due to fear.
I have to admit I have a tendency to tell a dog “no” when he growls on walks. Maybe he’s scared of tall men or people in hats or whatever it might be.
But this isn’t the best approach if the dog is reacting out of fear. Sure, calmly expressing your disapproval is one thing, but a firm correction isn’t fair. I would rather list out the dog’s exact triggers and threshold and then slowly work on building his confidence using praise.
I’m not perfect, though. I’ve told my dog “No!” plenty of times for growling.
How about you?
Are there situations where you feel it’s justified to correct a dog for growling?
I feel like I could go on and on with examples, but I’d rather hear your ideas.
Let me know in the comments, and have a great rest of the week!