It’s not OK when Fifi growls at you, but a growl is not always as terrible as you might think. A growl, after all, is a warning. Suppress the growl, and you might receive a bite instead. Plus, there are different types of growling; not all are bad.
You come home to find your favorite couch pillow ripped to shreds, and your puppy is quietly lying on the floor next to it. You pick up the pillow, shove it in her face, and yell “bad.” Your pup reacts by growling. If she could talk instead of growl, she might tell you to take that pillow out of her face and to back off. If you continue to yell, shove the pillow in her face and ignore her growl, she might bite you.
Why They Growl
Growling during a scolding usually indicates your dog is afraid or has entered the aggression zone. If you’re scolding your dog, you’re causing those feelings. Analyze your behavior before you focus on the dog’s. If you’re scolding your pup for something she did earlier in the day, she won’t understand. She’s simply reacting to the negative and possibly aggressive vibe you’re creating. In her eyes, you’re being aggressive for no reason, so she’s either afraid or will react aggressively in return. Either way, you’ll likely hear a growl. Never scold your dog unless you catch her in the act; even then, a simple “no” should suffice.
If your dog growls at you when you’re scolding her, she’s actually displaying healthy behavior. When healthy dogs are pushed, they’ll send a warning. You’re stressing your dog by scolding her. If you then punish her for providing you a warning, you’re preventing her from doing what comes naturally. You got yourself into the situation by scolding, so it’s up to you to listen to your dog’s warning and back off.
To avoid the whole scenario and save your furnishings to boot, manage things to prevent the behavior in the first place. Analyze why your dog was bad. If puppies are left alone too long, they get bored. Bored pups often are destructive. You're the human, you're in charge of your pup's arrangements, and you know these things, so it's your fault if you do not manage them properly and then find your house torn up. Tire your pal out before you leave, and give her plenty to do while you’re gone. If you will be gone all day, consider dropping her off at puppy daycare. Scolding after the fact will never accomplish your goal, and will only cause your dog to distrust you.
Dogs growl when they play. Though this is not apt to be the cause of growling during a scolding session, your puppy might think you are trying to play with her. If you’ve ever played tug-of-war with your pup, you may have heard her growl. This type of growl isn’t serious, and you shouldn’t be concerned about it.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.