The PAWS Blog

Why Does My Dog Growl & What Can I Do About It

When dogs growl at humans or at each other, they are trying to communicate. A snarl can mean several things, but many dog owners’ first instinct is to punish their dog. This is counterproductive and could send the wrong message, causing even more issues in the long run.

One key thing to remember here is that a growl is always a response to something. Instead of punishing your dog for his reaction, take a moment to analyze the reason. Here are a few reasons your dog may be growling and how you can respond to each one:

Is He Afraid Of Something?

A dog in an unfamiliar place or faced with strangers can growl out of fear. They might also be afraid of specific people like men or children. Dogs can also get triggered by events like fireworks displays and thunderstorms. If you can pinpoint the source of their fear, you can keep it far away from your dog. If that isn’t possible, consider seeking help from a dog behavior specialist.

Is He In Pain?

Some dogs growl when someone or something touches a painful or aching body part. If you observe that your dog growls when you press a certain part of their body, it might be a sign of injury. They might also display other symptoms like decreased appetite, weight loss, or general lethargy. If this is the case, take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Is Someone Breaching His Territory?

When a dog sees someone they think does not belong in his territory, like a mail carrier or a person delivering packages, he might growl to defend his space. A dog can also growl when he perceives an encroachment of his area, even from family members. If your dog has a favorite spot on the couch and someone is seated there, he might start growling at the person.

Is He Guarding His Resources?

Possession aggression is common among dogs. Your dog might start showing signs of displeasure when someone approaches him while eating, playing with toys, or chewing on a bone or rawhide. Dog training can help your pet modify his behavior and refrain from snarling at people during dinnertime.

Is He Just Playing?

Some dogs growl playfully when they’re having fun. It often happens when they are roughhousing with another dog or playing with a tug toy. This type of growling is harmless, but you should keep a close eye on your furry friend regardless. Puppies, in particular, are prone to escalating playful growling to actual aggression.

Preventing Your Dog From Growling

When your dog growls, you might feel upset or unsure of what to do. Depending on where he does this, your first instinct might be to suppress the growling, scold the dog, or even punish him.

Disciplining your dog in response to a growl is typically not the best option. When you punish a dog for growling, you are effectively taking away their ability to warn you that they will bite. You might have heard anecdotes of dogs biting without warning. Their owners likely trained them to stop growling.

The key to correcting this behavior is by getting to the root cause and addressing it. Dogs usually bark because of one of the above reasons. If you learn how to identify the root cause and change it, you’ll see improvements in no time.


Instead of teaching your dog not to growl, identify why he is growling and address them. Speak to a professional and consider dog training sessions to help your pet learn how to deal with these triggers.

At the P.A.W.S. Bed & Biscuit, we are committed to helping your dogs become happier and more confident. We are dog behavior specialists in Mendon, MA, and we provide various in-person and virtual training services. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

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