Is your dog growling? Here’s why it’s a positive thing, according to an expert behaviorist

Dog playfully barking at owner in the park
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Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated, any expert comments quoted in this news piece have been taken directly from the video cited below.

Whether it's a puppy growling when playing or your dog letting out a growl when a visitor tries to pet them, we often see these forms of vocalization as being bad or wrong.

If your dog is growling, it's understandable that you're concerned. However, before you go researching how to deal with a badly behaved dog, we have good news — growling can be a good thing. 

According to expert trainer and certified behavior consultant, Julianna DeWillems, dogs communicate through their body language and behavior. Growling is often their way of expressing discomfort or requesting space.

Check out the Instagram video below where DeWillems discusses this in more depth, or read on for a summary...

"There's something when it comes to canine body language called the Ladder of Aggression and it talks about the ways dogs express when they're uncomfortable, in pain, stressed, or scared," DeWillems explains. 

"It starts with really subtle changes in their eyes, ears, facial expression, and it escalates up to vocalization, growling, snapping, and biting.

"If a dog gets to the point where they're growling, we have likely missed a lot of other subtle body language indicating 'hey, I'm not okay right now, I need something to change about this situation."

DeWillems says that as a pet parent, growling is your smoke detector as it can be a precursor to biting. 

"In order to prevent a bite from happening, we listen to the growl," explains DeWillems who goes on to say that punishing growling is a really bad idea as it eliminates your smoke detector and fails to address why your dog is growling.

"Dogs who have been punished for showing warning signs can jump the ladder of aggression and go 0 to 100 in an instant."

This can lead a dog who would normally have growled first to go straight to biting, so ensuring your pup has plenty of safer communication options that they're allowed to use means they can express how they're feeling in a non-harmful way.

However, if you're having issues with your dog growling frequently, we highly recommend you consult with a qualified professional who will be able to work closely with your dog and provide them with some 1:1 support. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.