Do we understand our dogs? Often we get what our dogs are trying to say all wrong. Many of my clients ask me what this means or what that means when their dog is displaying some sort of behavior they simply don't understand. And what is one of the most misunderstood communication displays is the dreaded growl. I have been told by many k9 guardians "there is no growling in my house." Growling is good, what is causing the growling may be a bad place by often a growl is simply a growl.
Easy for me to say right? A growl is a display or response to something that your dog either does not like, feels uncomfortable about or threatened. A growl is how dogs communicate; take that away and all you are left with is body language that we again misread often.
I have a video of a new puppy greeting an adult dog; the sound is not great but the adult is growling her head off. The thunder sound is the growling. The puppy is finding it difficult to contain herself but if you look at her body language the puppy is communicating submission; not alot but it's there. The adult is telling the puppy that she is not thrilled with this over exhuberant display of affection. The growling is nothing more than communication. But far too often the owners of the adult would scold their dog; messing everything up completely.
What you do need to do is look into the cause of a growl. Is it the approach of a stranger, another dog, attempting to take food from your dog? Then these issues need to be addressed, not the growling. Many people feel that a slap or alpha role is in order when a dog growls, wrong. This only teaches a dog not to give you a "heads up" when they feel something. This in turn is a very dangerous situation; take our dogs ability to communicate away and we are left with an unpredictable dog.