Dogs with pointy teeth threatening to use them. This can really push our evolutionary buttons. It’s unsettling! It’s no wonder that many of us react by wanting to punish dogs for these displays so that we remain in control. We get rid of this behaviour, and problem solved, right? It can really seem that way. But here’s the thing:
Dogs growl, snarl, and snap to tell something scary to back off. It’s not a domination tactic. It’s not a sign of a bad dog. It’s just a scared dog. It’s easier to sympathize with a dog who cowers or tries to escape. But a dog who growls is just as scared. Both of these flight and fight reactions serve the same function: To increase the distance from a perceived threat.
Punishing the growling won’t resolve the fear, it’ll just get rid of the warning signs that the dog is afraid. Then instead of having a dog that politely uses their vocabulary to say they need space, you’ll have a dog that may bite without warning. Those warnings weren’t working, so why use them?
What’s the solution, then?
To teach the dog that the thing they are uncomfortable with is actually both safe and good news. Then there’s no need to growl and everybody wins. This can be achieved with the help of a competent professional trainer.
“The next time she growls, say thank you, and help her get away from whatever is scaring her.”iSpeakDog
If you’ve misinterpreted your dog’s growls, you’re not alone! That’s why an invaluable new resource called iSpeakDog launched this week. It aims to improve dog body language literacy with accurate, science-based information.
This blog is my contribution to iSpeakDog week.