Can Dogs Growl When Happy?

Body language is the biggest giveaway as to what a growl means.
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Lucky is able to say a lot about how he’s feeling using his growl, whether happy or agitated. As a responsible dog owner, it’s your job to learn how to decipher which is which so you can react accordingly. You can determine the meaning of a growl by observing context, body language and mood.

Spotting the Causes of Growling

Growling is typically associated with aggression, but that’s not the only cause of a growl. If Lucky curls his lip, holds his tail stiff and pointed outward and fixes his gaze on another dog or person, this signifies a growl of aggression. Look at what’s going on around Lucky to determine the likelihood of aggression. For example, if he’s being pestered by another dog or has been interrupted while eating, it’s a safe bet that Lucky is ticked off and is using his growl as a warning. With sufficient practice, you’ll become an expert at figuring out how he’s feeling before he growls, enabling you to anticipate growls before they happen.

Play Growl

During play and socialization, Lucky may become highly stimulated and excited, causing him to growl. This is a classic example of a growl of happiness. Play growls are typically accompanied by a "play bow," where Lucky lowers his front legs and sticks his backside in the air. His tail will be wagging too and he’ll be full of energy, possibly running away and then returning to his playmate. A play growl is distinctively high pitched and brief.

Attention Seeking

Lucky may use his growl to get you to notice him. This type of growl sounds similar to a play growl, but Lucky’s body language will be different. Instead of exuding energy and playfulness, he’ll be alert and happy, but focused on you. He may switch between whining and growling to get your attention. If Lucky needs to go out to potty or his water bowl is empty, he may use this sort of communication to get you to help him out.

Angry Growl

If Lucky’s hackles are raised and his upper lip is curled, it’s a safe bet that he’s angry and is using his growl to say so. Dogs growl as a warning. The warning growl is much lower in pitch than the play growl and typically lasts for longer. If Lucky growls in this way, take a note of what’s going on so you can avoid such high stress situations in the future. For example, someone may have startled him while he was eating or another dog may be playing too rough.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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