We woke up this morning to a black haze on everything. The winds kicked up yesterday sending all the settled ash from the roof tops, trees and wherever else it had settled to the air one again. My backyard is an ash graveyard; blackening the dogs feet which in turn blackens my house. What a huge clean up and then I turned on the tv. to hear about a raging fire once again in Malibu. Not a good year for California.
The dogs are not having their run this morning, the air is not good and they would all come back little ash dogs. So they will be grouchy and I am grouchy because I just cleaned all the freaking ash off of everything. Being that we are all grouchy I thought I'd discuss growling.
What exactly is a growl? Right from dictionary.com (to utter a deep guttural sound of anger or hostility) Although this definition is close it is not entirely correct. Dogs can growl without being angry or aggressive, a growl is a means of communication to convey an emotion. Are there such things as happy growls? NO, a growl is a growl and a growl means to stop, it is meant as a warning. Dogs do make happy noises but they are not growls.
So what is your dog saying when they growl? They may be saying "don't even think about taking my food, this is my comfy spot on the couch, I am uncomfortable with your proximity to me or stop, just stop whatever you are doing that they don't want you to do. A growl is an insight for you; a heads up for what may be around the corner.
Far too many people react to a growl with their own aggression. Yes, it is our nature as humans when threatened to protect ourselves. But, this can be damaging when it comes to our dogs. What if our dog growls when a person who is not in their pack approaches to touch them? A typical reaction might be to slap or yank on the dogs collar; then maybe a severe scolding, right? Your behavior has now proven to your dog that people are really bad to have around, they create a very negative association.
What should occur is that you see that your dog is uncomfortable with strangers being very close. A dog who is uncomfortable with strangers coming close is not rare; everydog has their comfort zone just like we do. I have a rather large personal space and although I will not growl at someone who enters it; I will definitely react by stepping away. If a dog feels that they cannot move away, they may threaten the person not to come any closer.
So a growl lets you know you have work to do. Instead of teaching your dog that they receive a scolding each time they growl, work at making them feel comfortable around people so that they don't feel threatened. Make sure people do not approach your dog until they feel comfortable in this situation.
When a dog growls, whether it is at a human or another dog; they are telling us something. It is very important that dogs be able to growl at each other, but growling is as far as it should go. Just this morning my beyond perfect Tilley growled at Jessie in the kitchen. I was cleaning up the kitchen and heard her growl. This let me know that Jessie was trying to take Tilley's food, (a head's up).
Should I have scolded Tilley for growling? NO, Jessie got scooted away past the poodle bowls and I kept a closer eye on her. Tilley was doing her job, and because of it there was no need for a fight.