By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Dogs vocalize in several ways including barking, whining, yelping, howling and growling, among others. They’re all forms of communication. As a canine behaviorist, I’ve seen that the most disconcerting, however, 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 or stress. It could also be purely territorial or used as a warning along with very distinctive and accompanying 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 but still serious warning to stay away.

When a dog growls, it signifies that he/she is experiencing a problem. Try to determine WHY your dog is growling before any aggression ever takes place. Stronger leadership and more exercise may be required. But in such instances, it’s always best to seek the help of a qualified trainer or behaviorist first.