Communicating with Your Dog

Milo - back on the porch

Dogs have only a few ways of telling us what they want, need, or fear. They can bark, growl, whine, or yelp, and that’s about it. Great orators they are not, so it’s up to us to read their behavior and know what they’re talking about.

When a dog growls, they’re usually letting us know that they don’t like what’s going on around them. Maybe someone they don’t know well is getting too close, or maybe the dog thinks that it’s food is being encroached on, or maybe they’re just trying to protect their favorite chew toy. The point is, when you hear a growl, you should stop whatever it is you’re doing and determine what is causing the dog’s reaction.

It’s unfortunate that many people’s first reaction to a dog growling is to punish the animal. They don’t have our capability of speech, so as stated previously, dogs have only a few ways of telling us something is wrong – a growl is usually just a dog’s way of saying, “Hey, I don’t like that. Back off.” If not observed or respected, a growl can possibly turn into a bite, so pay attention and do not immediately punish when you hear your dog growl. Try to find out what it is they don’t like and work (possibly with a trainer) to acclimatize your dog to the source of his/her irritation or perhaps accommodate them by removing said source.

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