What is a dog conveying when he growls?

Just as different barks can mean different things, growling isn’t always a sign of aggression. Sometimes, growling can also be a way of expressing playfulness. You’ll probably be able to tell what type of growling your dog is performing by judging the situation carefully.

Most likely, you’ll be able to tell the difference between a friendly and unfriendly dog. As always, you’ll need to carefully watch the dog’s body language in order to safely evaluate the situation.

Here’s a brief rundown on the differences in growls:

  • The threatening growl: This is the most common type of growl that occurs when a dog is feeling uneasy or a little insecure; this is the most common reason for a dog to growl. Sometimes, a dog can be threatened just by the size, posture and body language of an approaching person. If you think this might be the case, just approach the dog very slowly, calmly and gently. If you’re a taller individual, you may want to squat down when approaching a threatened dog.
  • The angry growl: This growl happens when a dog is disrupted or unhappy about an event. For example, you may encounter this type of growl if you try to sit in your dog’s favorite chair while it is sleeping. Similarly, you’ll probably be received with this growl if you ever try to take a piece of food away from your dog.
  • Playful growl: This is often heard when you’re playing games with your dog like “tug of war” or when you’re in an intense game of fetch. The playful growl is often accompanied by mouthing, chasing, paw-raising or soft bites.

A growling dog can often worry an owner who might be afraid of having a super-aggressive dog on their hands. While this is usually not the case, if your dog does seem to be growling a lot, have a veterinarian check them out, because it could signify a medical problem. However, don’t ever punish a dog for growling. If you have children, always instruct them to stop whatever they’re doing if the dog starts to growl.

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