Growling and Snarling

© 2013, Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA

Growling and snarling are a canine form of communication, a warning. “I’m uncomfortable with you. Please go away. If you don’t leave, then I’m going to leave. If I can’t get away from you – if you don’t go away – then I may BITE!” All that information with just a growl. Maybe we humans should start growling!

Flight or fight, as they say. If the target of the growling and snarling leaves, then it’s the going away that rewards the growling, not food or treats. You NEVER want to punish growling and snarling, which are warnings. If we punish the growling – if we get rid of the snarling – then we have a very dangerous dog on our hands, a dog that bites without warning.

The reason we behavior specialists use so much food or food treats when dealing with growling or any kind of aggression is because food and food treats are of very high value to most dogs – but not all, and not all the time. When we approach a growling dog, what does the dog want to accomplish with its growling? For us, the intruder, to go away. If we give the dog what it wants – our going away – that’s what rewards the growling, not food or food treats. If we stay, and instead toss the dog some delicious tidbits, then the dog starts thinking, “Hey, I like it when little Johnny or the postman approaches me! Hey, Johnny! Hey, Postman! You got any more?”

Now, what if you approach a growling dog, throw it food, and the dog continues to growl and doesn’t even take the food? That’s when it gets tricky – and dangerous. Call us today! Not tomorrow, not next week – call us TODAY!