|Dogs communicate in many ways that are too subtle for the average human to notice. Yawning, lip licking, and looking away are a few signals of anxiety or discomfort. Unfortunately, we don’t always respond appropriately to subtle signals, so dogs sometimes find themselves having to escalate to a growl.
Growling is a clear message that a situation is uncomfortable. It’s also an indication that a bite could happen if things don’t change. Consider it fair warning. You can train your dog to react better to the situation eventually, but for now, say thank you and stop whatever it is that made the dog growl. Punishing growling suppresses the growling, not the anxiety, and eliminates a useful warning signal. So don’t punish growling.
Irith Bloom is the owner of The Sophisticated Dog, a company offering pet-friendly training services to clients in Los Angeles.
August 3rd, 2010