Behavior Mod.

What Does a Growling Dog Mean?

When a dog growls, he or she is doing so for a reason. This is a form of dog language all humans, and especially dog owners, need to learn how to understand.

For instance, often times puppies and adult dogs growl while playing with another dog or their owners, and this is very normal behavior.

However, it is those times when a growling dog means something else that we want to focus on in this article.

Most people associate a growling dog with the times they have approached an unfamiliar residence, and the dog living there barks and growls. This is the dog communicating to this person they have intruded on the dogs turf and should leave. Again, this is perfectly normal behavior from a healthy adult dog.

Here’s an important clue: what if an otherwise very friendly dog begins to growl at his owners for no apparent reason? Why has such a dramatic change in the dog’s personality taken place? These events are most likely indications the dog is injured or ill.

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39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Susan Vogt

    Jan 28, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    3 years ago, we were called about a timber wolf mix that was chained on a vacant lot. A mobile vet was called to euthanize him. The vet wanted to find a rescue. Which is where we came in. He is more timber wolf than malamute and we had to build a wolf enclosure to contain him. We also went through extensive training to handle him. In the 3 years we have had him he has made tremendous social progress although he is still an animal we treat with respect and he remains an outside animal only (he prefers that). I walk him 6 miles a day so he gets alot of exercise and mental and physical stimulation. However, tonight, when I went out to his enclosure to bring him a carrot, he stuck his head out of his dog house and started startled me by growling and snarling. I dropped the carrot and I immediately left the pen. As I stood at the gate watching him, he continued snarling and growling at me. After a few minutes I said 'Hug' and he came toward me, still soft growling, but he bumped the fence and then sat down leaning into it so that I could touch him. He quite growling, and allowed me to 'hug' (pet him) through the fence. And then he went back for the carrot I had left at his house and he came back to the gate, laid down and ate it right beside me. What caused him to growl at me in such a 'seemingly' vicious way? I had a similar situation back in Oct where he growled and stepped towards me in a threatening way, after I had given him a pumpkin. It took me 45 min to manage to get out of his pen that time because he happened to be in front of the gate. Any ideas? I am sharing his most dramatic moments. These occassions aside, he and I have had many special moments, great hikes and he wants to make good choices. So he is worth the trouble. But I need answers.

  2. Olivia Echeverria

    Jun 15, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I ran into an issue with my lil dog son today. He was trying SO HARD to get my attention. Leaning over me putting his face on my face. He obviously needed some attention but I was busy on my face and he growled at me which he has never done so it struck me as very off. Was wondering if anyone has ever ran into this and what to do.

    Its not like he was being aggressive but I dont want it to be a habit

    • michael

      Dec 20, 2016 at 10:51 am

      who knows if you will ever read this reply.. LoL. but my bullboxer does this ALL the time hwen he want attention, to play, or the “little brother” beagle steals his bone or toy.. we go back and forth , I say whats up, he says grrrr then barks.. he will then jump into my lap and stick his face on my face… no need to worry. hope this helps

  3. Paris

    May 4, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    i have a extremely kind and gentile 2 year old staffordshire. so I was watching a movie,with all three of my dogs, then out of the blue, he stands up and starts growling very loudly, i start to panic and get me and my two other dogs out of the room. he has NEVER growled like that before. then as he cooled down a bit i slowly approached him and he licked me and acted like nothing happened. i would like to know what did happen.

  4. Rebekah Field

    Feb 18, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    My nana has a chihuahua called Fee Fee. There is another lovely old dog called Poppy who is a Yorkie. When I am asleep on the couch Fee Fee jumps up and diggs under the duvet and lies in REALLY uncoftable places and when I move she growls at me. She has gone for me quite a few times. My Nan said that her former home had kids that were mean to her but I’m really nice ( Bones, treats, walks ) to her and she not my dog. I don’t want my baby brother near Fee Fee. Poppy is lovely and gentle. Fee Fee also goes after her as well. I don’t feel safe enough to sleep.

  5. Mike

    Dec 20, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I have a one year old rott (60lbs). When I’m on the floor be it prone, back, or all 4’s. Flash (the rott) will do a “Pete rose” (head first slide) and try to get under me. When he does he will then start to growl. It’s not the loudest, almost like it’s under his breathe. I would like to know what this might be about

    • Pete Szerszen

      Dec 20, 2016 at 12:56 am

      Are his front arms/paws down on the ground (sort of crouched down) and his tail wagging and curved up? I would bet he thinks you want to play (or he is trying to get you to play).

  6. Russell

    Nov 16, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I have a 3 year old mini Dachshund bitch that I rescued several months ago. Her previous (older) owner dropped dead and “Tara” was found laying next to the body sometime after.
    Because I’m also a retired older guy, we bonded very quickly.
    2 or 3 weeks back my ex-wife started spending more time here (sleeping in the spar room each night).
    Tara loves to be around her, sitting next to her and generally digging all the extra attention she gets.
    When my ex walks away or even walks toward Tara, she growls. Pretty much any time my ex is NOT touching Tara she’s growling at her.
    Is this because dogs are a good judge of character?
    I know it sounds funny, but I’ve never seen a dog act like this.

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