By Nan Talleno
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Dogs vocalize in several ways including barking, whining, yelping, howling and growling, among others. It’s all forms of communication. As a canine behaviorist, I’ve seen that the most disconcerting – for most people and other canines alike – is growling, due to its very nature.
Growling is a way for the dog to communicate any number of things including fear, anxiety, insecurity or stress. It could also be purely territorial or used as a warning along with very distinctive body language, such as ears up, hackles up and tail erect to signify an offensive stance or ears pulled back and a lowered tail to signify a defensive and fearful stature but still a serious warning to stay away.
Growling is intense communication but not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. It’s how and why that matter. The dog is trying all he/she can to warn. When a dog growls, it signifies that he/she is perceiving an onset of a threatening situation. It’s a dog’s way of saying that if the threat isn’t removed “I need to aggress,” although the reasons vary with each individual situation. Try to determine WHY your dog is growling BEFORE any aggression on the part of the animal ever takes place.
Appropriate and responsible leadership skills, making sure the dogs needs are adequately met, along with increased exercise for excess energy to be naturally and safely depleted may be required. But in intensive instances, it’s always best to seek the help of a qualified trainer or behaviorist first.