My Dog Growled At Me

Nothing quite gets your attention like hearing the grumbling of a dog’s growl.

However, is that growl out of excitement, fear, anxiety, or something else in their environment?  Dogs use growling as an effective way of communication in all of those scenarios.  The key is being able to identify between a playful growl and an aggressive one.


You should never punish your dog for growling.

Growling is an essential part of a dog’s language.  When dogs growl, they are trying to communicate their stress about something happening in their environment.  That could be them guarding a toy, seeing a stranger, or even just excited to see someone they know.  When we punish a dog for growling, this cuts out this line of communication.

When you punish a dog for growling, you are only eliminating the growling behavior, not the actual issue.  If your dog feels like they can not growl, they will go to the next best option: snap or show aggression.  For example, if you punish your dog for growling when you reach towards their food bowl, the growl will disappear, but they will still be resource guarding the bowl.  Without the growl to communicate, they could escalate to the next form of communication, like snapping or biting.


There are two types of growls to identify: happy growls and warning growls.

You will hear happy growls in situations where they are roughhousing with a playmate, when they’re getting pet or scratched, or just excited to see someone.  You can tell if it is a play growl during these instances based on their body language.  It is generally a playful or excited growl if the dog is loose and wiggly.

When a dog gives a warning growl, they are telling you that they are uncomfortable, and the growl should be taken seriously.  Dogs will give a warning growl in situations involving things like resource guarding, stranger danger, feeling cornered, or feeling stressed.  Dogs use these warning growls to communicate to you or another animal to “back off” because they are uncomfortable.  If their body language is stiff, ears back, giving a hard stare, or freezing, then this indicates a warning growl and is serious.


What do you do when your dog gives a warning growl?

First, it is important to identify the reason for the growl.  For example, are they growling because you reached for their toy?  Are they growling because another dog is approaching?  Once you identify the trigger, you will help set your dog up for success.

Once the trigger is identified, you will begin working to counter-condition the situation or change their environment.  It is important to help your dog become comfortable with the situation causing them stress.  You will need to manage their environment to help them overcome what is causing them to growl.

If you can eliminate the cause of the stress, that is an excellent place to start.  For example, if your dog is growling when you touch their feet, do not touch the dog’s feet until you can adequately counter condition that scenario.

Next, you would want to use a behavior modification program to address their growling.

Working with a certified professional dog trainer or behavior consultant who uses LIMA training methods is recommended.  LIMA stands for Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive.

Several of the trainers at Wags & Wiggles have graduated from Susan Friedman’s online program.  She is the inventor of LIMA, which Wags & Wiggles follows as a company standard.

Once the growling has been addressed by using a behavior modification program, you will need to continue to manage the situation.  Still, ideally, the dog will not feel the need to growl in that situation again.

11 Responses

  • Hi I’ve read your article on My Dog Growled At Me and thanks for the information on the two types of growling Happy Growls and Warning Growls I will remember the two types and try to address the situation pertaining to the two different types I will keep LIMA in mind Please more articles like this one Thanks….

    • I noticed your comment was a few months ago. Did the growling every escalate with your dog? My dog snapped at me today and she’s NEVER done that before. Now I’m worried she will bite someone else and I’m freaking out. There are no licensed dog trainers near me, but I really want to get on top of this problem before it escalates.

  • Antes de nada, lo principal que hay que hacer es aceptar que nuestro compañero tiene un problema y que debemos ayudarle a solucionarlo para poder tener una mejor calidad de vida. No debes reprocharte las conductas agresivas de tu peludo, la mayoría de las veces son consecuencia de inseguridad y desconocimiento.

  • Si enseñamos a nuestro perro cómo debe comportarse sabrá con certeza qué debe hacer y qué no, no se confundirá. Sabrá manejar diferentes situaciones, como quedarse solo en casa y relacionarse con otros perros.

  • Resource guard , my dog has an issue . He never does it to me . He will approach my wife with an object . Get in her lap and growl . He bit her once before on the nose when he was a pup , didn’t break the skin but it was bad . Wife hasn’t felt easy with him since . A year and half has passed since the bite . He warned but she was only cuddling him . Why he would come to her with an object and growl ? I can ask him for the same object and he gives it happily.

    • My dog is doing the same thing. If my kids (ages 14& 17) walk into the room he might get up walk across the room, pick up a bone go lay down and then growl. It makes no sense.

  • I have a 1 year old dog and he growls all the time. I am scared of him that he might just bite he growls at my other two dogs eveb when they are not doing anything. Even when im petting him longer than 10 seconds he would growl. No license dog trainer where I live. He bit me twice already and my daughter once. Please advise.

  • My dog is growling and occasionally snap/barking at us. He has bitten my partner before so I know he will bite. I have 3 children 11, 8, 2 who he also growls at and has snapped at. I can’t leave him in a room alone with them out of fear for their safety now. He will growl at any of us for no reason that we can find, yesterday for example he sat infront of the sofa where my children were sitting quietly watching tv and began growling at them. I’ve tried following the tips for backing away calmly but in that situation he had the kids stuck with no way to get away from him other than me to have to remove him from the room whilst he’s still growling.

  • My dog is 2and a 1/2 years old and has been a very good dog recently he has been mildly aggressive he sleeps in bed with me and if made a move he growls at me and my girlfriend gives him a treat when she feeds her dogs and he is growling at her and now there’s more and more battles between her two dogs and mine I love my dog and don’t to give him up but I am at a loss

  • I have a dog that started to gtowl at me and a tempted to nite. I am worried she I’d going to bite someone else. How can I stop her aggressive behavior. If it continues I am thinking of getting rid of her.

  • My dog is 7 years old and now when I move him or move him off my lap he is starting to growl at me and snip at me can someone help

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