What Should You Do When Your Dog Growls at Someone?


I admit, that’s a pretty broad question to answer because dogs growl for a lot of different reasons. There are good growls, like when a dog’s having fun playing tug-of-war and there are bad growls like when a dog growls at a young child. Nobody wants their dog to growl at an innocent child and our first instinct is usually to swiftly correct the dog in order to send a message that we don’t like that behavior. I was guilty of doing that with Haley when she was younger because it’s a common human reaction, but when I stopped to think about why Haley was growling and what she was feeling, I realized that she was only trying to communicate her feelings.

A Dog’s Growl Can Mean:

  • I’m having fun trying to wrestle this rope toy away from you.
  • I’m hurting or don’t feel good and would like to be left alone.
  • I heard something outside, but I’m not sure if it’s anything to be worried about.
  • I’m unsure of the person that I see walking up the driveway.
  • I’m defending my yard or my spot on the couch.
  • I’m worried that you might take my food or toy away from me.
  • I’m scared, stressed or uncomfortable in this situation.
The last two reasons, fear and possessiveness, are the ones that usually cause that knee-jerk reaction inside of us to issue a correction. If a dog is fearful or aggressive, you’ll often see other body language signals before you hear a growl. For a lot of dogs, a growl is the last warning sign before they could be provoked to bite or attack, especially if they feel cornered and can’t retreat. It’s a vocal warning, a heads up so to speak, so the last thing you want to do is correct a dog for growling and possibly silence their early warning system. If you know when your dog is fearful or uncomfortable before they resort to a bite, you’ve got the best chance to desensitize them through counterconditioning.

Haley’s Fear of Little Girls

When Haley was young, she had a fear of small children, especially little girls. I think part of her fear came from an encounter we had with some very pushy and aggressive little girls that approached us in the park during her socialization period. Not long after that incident, she would sometimes emit a low, quiet growl when kids would approach her. It’s not a good feeling to have a dog that growls at kids. I wanted Haley to feel comfortable around children and I wanted to be able to take her anywhere without worrying about how she might react to people. Here’s what I did to help her overcome that fear.

My first job was to protect her (and of course, the kids) while we began the counterconditioning process. We first visited parks and watched children play at a distance where Haley was comfortable and relaxed and she got plenty of treats and praise for her cooperation. When we would pass children on our walks, I would create more distance to keep her comfortable and again, she got lots of yummy treats and affection. We slowly decreased the distance to the children and increased the level of interaction but only within Haley’s comfort zone and while ensuring the safety of the kids. It didn’t take long before she started associating good things with the sight and sounds of youngsters and eventually she was even relaxed enough to listen and take commands from them, in exchange for yummy treats of course.

I have to add a disclaimer here. I don’t mean to imply that everything you need to know about fixing an issue with a reactive dog is found in the paragraph above. The concept of counterconditioning is simple to understand in theory, but it’s a slow process that requires you to be able to closely analyze your dog’s behavior and body language. For that reason, it’s best to consult with a professional trainer or canine behaviorist first. I just wanted to give a real example of how Haley’s anxiety issue was treated because she was initially able to communicate her fearfulness to me by growling. Here are some tips if you’re ever in a situation where your dog’s growling at someone.

What To Do When Your Dog Growls at Someone

1. Don’t correct your dog.
Growling is the best way your dog has to communicate with you and others that she’s stressed or uncomfortable. It’s her early warning signal before matters could escalate to a bite.
2. Maintain control of your dog.
To ensure everyone’s safety, make sure your dog is fully under your control and leashed.
3. Stay calm.
Dogs sometimes react to our own emotions, so it’s important to stay relaxed, move slowly and use a calm tone of voice when your dog is growling or showing signs of stress.
4. Create distance.
Diffuse your dog’s reaction by putting distance between her and the person she’s reacting to, even if that means turning around and walking in the opposite direction. If your dog is growling at you, slowly move away and give her more space.
5. Don’t pressure your dog.
Don’t pressure or push your dog to accept or approach the person she’s uncomfortable with. Pressuring a dog that’s already stressed will likely escalate her emotions to a level where she could lash out and bite.
6. Check your attitude.
If your dog is growling at you or is being possessive of food or toys, don’t make the assumption that she’s being dominant or defiant. Confronting her or reacting back with an aggressive attitude will likely escalate her reaction and diminish trust.
7. Put together a game plan.
After analyzing the situation, create a plan to help your dog overcome her issue. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional trainer or canine behaviorist that specializes in using positive reinforcement methods. They can best advice you on the appropriate course of action when dealing with fear or aggression related issues.

What If Your Dog’s Growling at Someone Outside Your Home?

It’s normal for dogs to want to protect their territory and alert you to anything unusual outside by growling or barking at the window. Most people like having a dog that will let them know if something looks suspicious. I don’t mind Haley’s growling when this happens, but the barking can get annoying sometimes. I’ve always used the phrase It’s Okay when I want to calm her down, so instead of saying “No!” or “Quiet!” when she alerts me to something, I say “It’s Okay”. This usually works pretty well and her demeanor changes as if she’s thinking “Okay, you can take care of this one if they come busting through the door”.

Sometimes it’s hard to fight the instinct to correct a dog that’s growling at someone, especially if that someone happens to be us or a small child. But when we understand that our dogs are actually trying to communicate their feelings, we should be thankful they’re giving us a heads up warning and the opportunity to help them overcome the stressful issue they’re dealing with.

Have you ever been concerned when your dog growled at someone? What did you do?

132 Comments on “What Should You Do When Your Dog Growls at Someone?”

    • I was so unprepared for Laika’s resource guarding when I adopted her. Before this all of my dogs have been happy go lucky – never growling at anyone. The hard part is realizing that any “common sense” you’ve been taught before about dog training can do more harm ie punishing the dog. I’m so glad positive reinforcement and counter conditioning are more popular these days; the methods I that were normal when I was a child would have probably made Laika even more defensive and fearful. It’s taken so much practice to break her of being possessive around her food bowl; and even now I’m not convinced she’s really “cured” since she does tend to revert if we don’t work on it after awhile. Your steps are pretty much what I did; rather than ever pressuring her or making her more uncomfortable I’d move closer inch by inch with a toy of treat – anything that let’s her know my coming near her means something fun or good is coming her way.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        I know exactly what you mean, Jen. I grew up with those same ideas about dog training which is why my first instinct with Haley growling at kids was to correct her, it did seem like common sense at the time. We’ve come a long way since then and I’m sure our dogs are happy about that too. You’ve done an amazing job with Laika’s issues since adopting her and I think it’s pretty common to have ongoing reinforcement for things like food guarding. I still carry treats with me mostly to reward Haley if we happen to run into little kids.

    • So good you remind people not to correct growling. It is such an important communication tool and can lead a person to all the great suggestions you listed.

      Honey has a play growl that she does when playing tug. We know it’s harmless. But it really startles people when they first hear it.

      But heck, she’s talking too.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thanks, Pamela. It’s funny, but I can’t imagine Honey getting that riled up and growling even though I know most dogs do. I think it’s because she always looks so sweet and composed in your photos. 🙂

    • When you do as much training and as many dog sports with your dogs as I do, you get to know them very, very well. I praise my dogs for growling at someone because I know they have a very good reason for doing it and what they have told me is exactly what I want my traveling guard dogs to tell me. If I am unable to protect them from the situation they are speaking to me about through their growl, I have trained a whole lot of counter cues to keep things from further escalating. It does take time and patience to counter condition but, especially when you find the one thing that really works to make our dog comfortable, it can solve any issue.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        That’s such a great point about being our dog’s protectors even if they’re guard dogs. What a positive way to work together as a team using a high level of communication. Thanks for your thoughtful comment today!

          • Sometimes it’s easy to misinterpret growls so I always observe their body language too. It’s also interesting to watch two dogs playing together and growling, sometimes the play escalates and gets more serious until someone has had enough or a little scuffle breaks out. It reminds me of two guys teasing each other and until the teasing gets too serious, lol.

    • Thank you for this post, because my Mom has said she needs to start working more with me on some issues I have with people while walking. Your post came just in time and is loads of help.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Maybe Koda’s just a little apprehensive at first until he figures out if they’re friend or foe. Haley does that sometimes if someone new comes to the house but she relaxes as soon as she hears us greet them with a friendly tone of voice.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thank you, Rose! It’s always good to have a growl warning from our pups before they might go off chasing after a cat too.

    • You have some really great tips here! It’s definitely a natural human instinct to stop your dog from growling. Mila has been barking at more dogs lately when we go for our walks. She’s just over a year old and I’m unsure why. If I don’t correct that behavior, she’ll just keep barking and barking. 🙁

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Have you tried training Mila on the “Quiet” command? It’s easier if she first knows the “Speak” command, but it works really well for Haley when I want her to stop barking. I haven’t written a post about that yet, but I’m sure some of my dog blogging friends commenting here have some articles on the topic if you visit their sites. I’ll add that post idea to my “towrite” list!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        I’m glad the article was helpful. I’d love to hear back on how things go with Kilo if you decide to try some of the tips!

    • Our Jack was really uncertain when we first got him – a year in a shelter will do that. He has never growled at us, but he has growled at people in our home that approach him too quickly or put their hands on his without an invitation. He has also growled at other dogs when they get in his face. I’ve learned that Jack has boundaries for people and for dogs and I make sure everyone respects them. He’s mellowed a lot in the 3+ years we’ve had him, but I’m still aware and cautious for his sake.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        It’s great that Jack is able to communicate so well when he’s uncomfortable. Just like people, dogs have their unique personal space range and it’s thoughtful that you make sure people understand and respect his space.

    • Harley has never growled at a person – just not in his nature. He’s growled at dogs before – but generally this has been during one of our walks, and we’re never really that close to the other dog. I too like when he alerts me to a noise’s heard especially at night. I do the same – I tell him “it’s okay” and stroke his head letting him know I appreciate him, and he can stop the behavior. Great post, I’m sure it will help many people gain a better understanding.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        It’s nice having a dog that will alert you to something at night. There have been a few times though when Haley alerted us to something in the middle of the night and I would have sworn there was a boogie man right outside the bedroom door. I guess she heard something that really scared her on those few occasions but it’s kind of hard to go back to sleep after that, lol!

    • Great post, especially the part about not training the early warning system out of your dog!

      My dogs make all sorts of vocalizations. Knowing my dogs (and my breed), I know they are not growls but people not familiar with my dogs ask why they are growling. Cardigans were bred to be all-around farm dogs with guard/alert dog as one of their duties. I never discourage my dogs when they are telling me about something the see or hear.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        I didn’t realize Cardigans were so vocal. I love the way they look but I haven’t spent any time around either type of the Cardigans. I’ve heard they have great personalities and are very loving. It’s one (or two) of the breeds of dogs I’d like to spend some time getting to know. I’m glad you stopped by today, Taryn!

    • I always acknowledge our pups’ barking at something or someone by thanking them ~ I DO want the pups to “talk” to me & let me know if something out of the ordinary is going on somewhere around the house or on our walk.

      While it’s usually a squirrel or a bird, you never know when it’s going to be an actual burglar or criminal individual with bad energy around them, or if the house is on fire, so I always check when they alert bark, and then tell them “Thank you, that’s enough” or “quiet” once I’ve checked things out.

      Both pups did growl at a group of little kids (& moms) the other day on our morning walk, waiting for their school bus in our neighborhood. They usually don’t do that, and I believe I was actually the reason they did growl..

      One of the moms who was standing there with the kids is incredibly annoying to me (she has several large dogs who she keeps exclusively in her back yard, yelling at them at the top of her lungs whenever they bark because, guess what, they’re BORED!) Sigh, that’s a whole different topic, but anyways, when I saw her, I thought to myself “Oh no, not HER” – and the pups must have picked up on my irritation! I tried to be as calm and composed as possible, and just continued walking, looking straight ahead. As soon as we passed them, the pups were their normal, relaxed selves!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        It’s funny how that happens sometimes, isn’t it? I read somewhere that our bodies give off a scent when we’re stressed or anxious and I keep wondering if that’s what they pick up on or is it subtle changes in our body language or tone of voice maybe. I guess it could be both or maybe dogs are just a good judge of character.

    • Wow, I am totally okay with this wordy Wordless Wednesday post! My Luna hardly ever growls – it’s only when she is playing that she lets a little growl out, and even then, it’s very rare (but cute).

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        That does sound cute! I think Luna may be in the running for the sweetest, most well-adjusted dog award of the day here, lol!

    • Rita has been known to growl (and bark!). There are some dogs she doesn’t like and also certain people. Great post to let folks know about these things! Growls can definitely be an early-warning system, so better to let a dog growl and get his/her point across than have things end up with someone getting bit!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Yes, when I first started correcting Haley for growling, she would curl her lips instead when she was stressed. The lip curl wasn’t very obvious to notice when wrangling a dog and kids trying to encroach on her space. Now I’m really happy if she ever growls!

    • Thank you for this great article. I will be sharing this because it is such an important topic with helpful tips. I especially appreciate your tip to not correct your pet because it is an early warning signal.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thanks so much for sharing the article. I feel it’s an important topic to help prevent dog bites and help those pups that are dealing with fear or aggression issues. It’s a win/win!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        It’s great Teddy lets you know how’s he’s feeling. Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by today. 🙂

    • I agree that desensition is the best way to teach your dog to accept situations that they are uncomfortable in. Too many people handle these situation the wrong way, by getting as reactive as their dog (pulling on the leash and yelling at their dog to stop) which unbeknownst to them just makes the whole situation worse. Or they do the opposite and don’t guide their dog at all, leaving the dog to handle the situation themselves. Thank you for putting this info out there.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        You’re right, Anne. I didn’t realize when Haley was younger that she probably felt she had to handle some of those stressful situations herself since she was out in front on our walks when kids would approach. I quickly learned to keep her closer and put myself between her and whatever she felt threatened by. That really helped her a lot.

    • This is such a great article! Excellent information on how you worked with Haley to help her overcome her apprehension about little girls, too. I only heard Spencer growl one time in his whole life – when my niece (who was around 5 at the time) unbeknownst to us had managed to corner him in his crate and he felt like he had nowhere to go. We pulled her away pretty quickly and had the talk about respecting dogs’ space, and I was very thankful for the growl and that that’s all it ended up being. Thanks again for the great info, I’ll be sharing it!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thank you very much, Camille! That’s a great example of how a growl and your quick action probably prevented a bite. It’s wonderful that you talked with your niece about dogs and their space too. 🙂

    • Thankfully, I’ve not had much trouble with Sinead growling at me or at others in my home. But, she does have a tendency to growl at strangers from time to time, and it seems totally random. I wish I could spot what makes her growl 100% of the time (training would be so much easier!), but I haven’t spotted it yet.

      The one thing I’ve had to try not to do is reassure her. It’s tempting to pet her and say “It’s okay” or some such, but that rewards her growls. I’ve had to just keep moving without really addressing the issue at all, and then working on training when she’s not so excited. It’s hard to do that!

      Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        I wonder what it is that triggers Sinead’s growling. There could be so many things, from the way someone looks to even the way they smell, I guess. At first, I would say “It’s Okay” to Haley too, but I noticed it had no effect on calming her when she was really fearful. I hope you can figure out one day what’s triggering Sinead. Maybe it’s something simple like people wearing hats or sunglasses. Thanks for visiting today, Jean!

    • Great tips.

      We do discourage growling. Chessies are smart and will take over if you are not assertive so from the get-go we let them know what is acceptable and what is not. If they learn growling will get you to change your behavior, they will do it every time. Same if they learn it will get them treats. That is why we say, they are not a breed for everyone.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        I’ve really enjoyed learning more about Chessies from reading your blog over the last year. I’m glad you make the point about the breed not being for everyone. I think a lot of people assume they are very lab-like because of their retriever name and they look similar to labs.

    • I like your real-life example with the kids. I get a lot of questions from people about how to get their dogs to stop lunging and growling and freaking out when they see other dogs on walks. Assuming the dog is reacting out of fear, this is a good method to use for them as well.

      My last foster dog (Lana) was somewhat leash reactive, but with her it was more frustration/excitement and I think also wanting to make sure the other dog knew she was “in charge.” She would bark and growl and pull. With her, I did tell her “no” calmly and then tried to distract her with treats and reward calm behavior, like sitting and looking at me. We moved closer to the dogs when she was calm. But that’s a little different because she wasn’t fearful. She was overly confident in herself. 🙂

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Lana looked like such a sweet girl, but I remember you writing about how she was kind of pushy or bossy with Ace. I wonder how she’s doing with her reactive issues now that she’s in her new home. Hopefully, the new family will continue working with her and helping her to be more relaxed around other dogs.

    • Great topic. Fortunately my Sadie and Jake haven’t growled at anyone…yet. I’m pretty sure I would have handled it wrong. I would tell them to stop and pull them away. Now I’m better prepared. I’ll plan on calming them first. Probably have to walk away and access the situation. Thank you.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Yes, it’s pretty hard to fight that instinct to correct them when they growl, especially if it catches you off-guard. Thanks for stopping by today, Alice! 🙂

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thank you, Beverley. It does take a lot of time and even now, I still reward Haley when she has interactions with some kids. It’s kind of funny, after we walk away from meeting children, she’ll look up at me with a smiling face as if she’s thinking “I was really good, wasn’t I?” Yep, she gets a treat, lol!

    • Not correcting the growls was something I really had to learn with our first dog, Kaeto. He had minimal socialization when we adopted him and was really just a mess. He had been corrected for growling which led to him skipping the growling stage completely. I learned to be thankful for his growls so I could make him more comfortable. It was a huge learning curve for me, but I’m thankful he was able to teach me. Fantastic post.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thanks, Kelsie! You have best attitude by being grateful for what Kaeto taught you. It always amazes me, the gifts our dogs bring into our lives.

    • Great post. Muffin is nervous of children and I am gently trying to increase those positive associations. I will no doubt be rereading this one.

      Also we have nominated you to participate in the 8 photos of happiness challenge. Stop by our blog for details.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thanks, Fiona. I hope the tips are helpful for Muffin. Haley’s come a long way from being scared and somewhat reactive around little girls to enjoying spending time with little ones and even giving them kisses when they walk in the door. Thanks so much for the nomination, it sounds like fun and I really liked seeing your 8 photos of happiness!

    • my 6 month chihuahua /terrier has always been people friendly and still is. She does bark when someone comes to the door , near car so forth, i believe its normal and just being protective and aware. However, we are in public she goes up to people and other dogs fine. she goes to daycare every now and then and boarding, has been for months, suddenly one of this young worker girl there says that my puppy growled at her when she tried to take her out of the room, she then waited till she calm down and wanted to leave on her own. Here is the thing we just took her weekend before and she has not done any of that, all the other workers love her and she gets along well with her and the other dogs there, in fact they say my puppy is very friendly and submissive life of the party go happy and energetic lol, so why did that happen she just suddenly growled out of nowhere not in a very big way, but that concerns me, as if that girl did something that my puppy didnt like, idk, what is your take on it???

      • Hi Kini,

        It sounds like your pup is really well adjusted and gets along great with people and other dogs so I can understand why the report of her growling at one person was surprising. I think I would talk to all the other workers at the daycare to double-check and ask if she’s ever growled at them. If it’s only the one person, maybe that worker has a different manner of dealing with dogs. For example, maybe the other workers happily call her out of the room versus taking her out without verbal encouragement. If she’s having lots of fun playing with the other dogs and the young worker abruptly removes her, maybe she’s unhappy about leaving because it means the fun is over.

        If the growling only occurred one time, I wouldn’t be too concerned but if it’s a new behavior trend in her, the workers at the daycare center should be able to help shed some light on what’s triggering the growling.

        Your dog sounds like she’s well adjusted and socialized because she likes playing with other dogs and meeting people, but when dogs are between 6 to 12 months old, they’re going through a maturity phase that can be challenging, similar to how teenagers test and challenge their parents. It’s possible now that she’s 6 months old and starting into that phase, the growling is her way of asserting herself.

        It’s just something to be aware of if you notice her changing or becoming a little more difficult to deal with in the next six months or so. Don’t worry though, it’s a normal phase of their development and it means you may need to reinforce training, do some more socializing and nip any problem behaviors in the bud.

        It sounds like your pup’s off to a great start and if you think about it, stop back later and let me know how things are going. Have a happy new year! ?

    • Excellent post! This is something that I have to constantly remind myself – to not correct the growling since they are trying to communicate. Thanks for outlining what to do too. Counterconditioning does take a long time, but it’s totally worth it!

      • Yeah, the counterconditioning took a little while with Haley but you’re right, it’s definitely worth the time and patience to help them overcome any fear or aggression issues. I remember how stressful it was when Haley was younger and I’m so proud of her being able to gain some confidence to be much more relaxed around any little girls.

        • That’s great that it worked out for you! I think the worst part of counterconditioning is how people react to your dog while you are trying to help them – like, ‘Oh, that’s a mean dog.’ Boo.

    • Hello,

      A really nice young lady that I recently started dating has two dogs that growl at me while she has on me on speakerphone at her house. I have never met the animals, and I do not understand.

      Has anyone ever heard of this before?

      • Hi Dale, That’s probably not a good feeling when starting a new relationship, yikes! I wonder if they growl at any other male voices on speakerphone or if they have issues with men in general. It’s probably just a new sound they’re not familiar with and you’ll have a very different experience when meeting them in person. Of course, it probably wouldn’t hurt to bring along some tasty treats for them when you meet them for the first time.

        I wouldn’t worry about it unless they growl at you in person but if the new lady in your life is concerned, she could give them some positive reinforcement when you’re on speakerphone, like treats or a belly rub to make them more at ease. ? Good luck with the new relationship and thanks for stopping by and visiting us!

    • Hi there!

      I was worried about my 2 yr old mastiff (Chaos) who really is a gentle giant, but now that I’ve read your post I feel I have a better understanding! He always growls when someone enters the house or hears something during the night, but today when my kids were waiting for the bus my neighbour was walking towards my kids and he started barking and growling like I never heard him do before! So I was like “calm down” he didn’t really listen to me but that’s ok he stopped when he realized who it was ( I think)!

      I think he was just worried,,,,and I love him for that! You have know idea how your post made me realize that growling isn’t always a bad thing! And I think I understand him better! He’s not actually growling at the person but at the situation! ?

      Thank you,,, Jennifer

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hi Jennifer! I’m so glad you found the article helpful. It’s pretty unnerving when that happens and you did great by staying calm. I just realized the counterconditioning link in the post had changed so I updated the link if you want to check that out or if you feel Chaos is becoming more reactive to strangers.

        Here’s another tip that might be helpful: Over the years, I’ve worked with Haley on barking at strangers (or delivery people) coming to the door by first telling her “It’s okay”, meaning I’ll take control of the situation. If she didn’t relax or calm down, I would sternly tell her to go lay down in her bed. She eventually learned that “It’s okay” means to relax and back off a little bit. It’s now a command I use all the time in different situations, from barking at strangers to when she gets scared by an usual or loud noise. After giving the command, it’s amazing to watch her body posture go from one of high alert to a calm, relaxed state.

        Thanks for stopping by the blog and for your kind comment! ?

    • Hi! I think you offer some good advice for the problems listed, however my problem is somewhat different. We have a 67 lb shelter dog who is about 3. We have had her since she was a few months past 1 yr old. She is very scared of new people and children to the point we cannot have anyone over to our house. She is very aggressive and barks the entire time anyone is in our home. You cant even carry on a conversation she is so loud. We have 3 friends that she will “allow” in the house but that took months to achieve. Its no problem to get her to kennel, she feels thats her safe place but she will not stop barking! PLEASE! HELP!!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hi Evelyn, I can imagine how frustrating the barking must be and I’m sure you would like your girl to be comfortable and relaxed around guests. It’s awesome that you adopted her, gave her a loving home and are trying to help her learn to be calm and well adjusted. Since she’s very aggressive and barking at guests, it’s probably a good idea to have some help from a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement techniques and also has experience working with aggression issues.

        It’s good that she has a safe spot in her kennel where she feels some security, but because she’s barking excessively, she’s obviously still very uncomfortable with the situation. A good trainer is well worth the cost and they can help pinpoint the type of aggression, whether it’s from fear or protectiveness, etc. It might be a slow process of desensitizing her in order to help her accept guests, but it’s also very rewarding to help a dog overcome an issue like this.

        I would love to hear back later about how she’s doing and I wish the both of you calm and happy days ahead. ?

        • Thank you so much for your response!! I have considered classes for her but I live outside a med sized city and I don’t have access to much in the way of dog trainers. Do you have any suggestion for how to find/choose a trainer?

          • Chasing Dog Tales

            Sure! You’ll want to look for a trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques and also one who has some experience with working with aggressive dogs. A good trait to look for is a trainer who listens to you and takes some time to observe your dog before coming up with a training plan. Because every dog is different, the trainer should be patient and flexible instead of having the philosophy that one method cures all aggressive dogs.

            Probably the best clue to knowing whether you’ve picked the right trainer is to take note of how your pup responds. If she’s making progress you’re on the right track, but if her fear or aggression gets worse, another method or trainer would be in order.

            I’m excited that you want to look into training and I hope you’ll soon be able to have a whole house full of guests and you can all enjoy each other’s company. ?

    • Hi,
      I found your advice very helpful after worrying about my Staffie, Bo,
      growls at people who want to greet him. Also, he is very frightened of children and growls a low and continuous growl when he is in a situation with them.
      We have only had him from last February. Apart from the growling, he is a sweetheart and gets along fine with other dogs and our 12 year old Staffie bitch.
      Because of his size, it really puts people off him.
      Im going to try the techniques to calm him that people have written on this page. Slowly but surely…thanks alot.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Thanks, Lisa! I’m glad you found the article and comments helpful. It can be pretty stressful when they growl, especially at children. It took quite a while before Haley felt more comfortable around kids, but taking things slow and working at her pace really helped her be more comfortable and less fearful. We all learn a lot from each other, so I’d love to hear back later about how things are going with Bo. ?

    • Hi
      We have recently had a new addition to our home a lovely (large!) Rottie x Doberman girl called Sadie. She is two years old and has led a very sheltered life. She had never been walked. She had grown up with three smaller breed dogs and when we came to the house to pick her up she was a sweetie curling up between me and hubby, showing belly and licking us.
      Fast forward a few weeks at our home, she is slowly adjusting to walkies every day. The main problem is her growling and barking at everyone who comes into our home, she’s fine at first and will wag her tail but after a minute or so she starts growling. What would you recommend?
      Thank you for the informative post!

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hi, Caroline! Sadie sounds very sweet and she probably just needs a slow transition while adjusting to her new life with you. It’s interesting that she seems fine at first when guests come to the house but growls after a short time. Does it have to do with them getting closer to her or trying to pet her?

        As long as she’s not aggressive and approaching them (she’s acting more fearful and retreating), I would try having your guests give her lots of space and see if she will approach calmly on her terms when she’s ready. You can even have your guests have some treats or yummy food to reward her if she approaches nicely.

        If she seems aggressive or defensive and wanting to approach guests while growling, it’s best to work with a local trainer that uses positive reinforcement methods to evaluate and work on her aggression.

        It can be stressful when your dog growls at someone, but since dogs often pick up on our feelings, it’s important to stay calm and not correct her for growling. Look for clues about what might be causing her concern about the guests and also what works to lesson her stress (such as creating more physical space between her and the guests).

        It sounds like Sadie’s doing great and adjusting well. Hopefully, this is just a small bump in the road and with your help and patience, she’ll soon be calm and relaxed around your guests. Thanks for giving her a great home! ?

    • Hi I have a young lab boy – 8 months. He’s doing really well with his training but has occasionally let himself down by barking. I think when he is unsure. For example my elderly parents visited and he barked at my mum when she came in the door. Today he barked at a group of children sitting in long grass in a field. Should I say it’s ok and justify his behaviour to the target of the barking? Or tell him no?

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hi Tracy! Barking is pretty normal as long as it’s not an aggressive type of barking while bearing teeth. When Haley barks defensively at someone (like when a stranger comes to the door), if I tell her “It’s Okay”, I expect her to stop barking and relax and she’ll back off and let me handle the situation.

        When I was training her for this, if she didn’t listen when I said “It’s Okay” in a soft reassuring voice, I would make her go lie down in her bed or I would physically block her and make her leave the room. She learned pretty quickly to relax and quiet down when I gave her the “It’s Okay” command and I use it often if she’s ever unsure about someone or something. I’ve also allowed her to bark on a few occasions when someone suspicious was close to the house.

        It might take a little time at first for your lab to catch on, since he’s going through those difficult adolescent months, but it’s a great way to communicate and reassure them when needed. Good luck with the training! ?

    • Thank you for your article! I am currently reading everything on this subject.

      We have a new rescue – she seems to be an Anatolian Shepherd / Sloughi or Saluki mix. She is about one year old and was tortured, when she lived as a street dog for maybe her first 3 or 4 months, then she was neglected by her first adopters (not fed enough, no training, no walks, no socialization). When we got her, she was fearful of everything.

      She adjusted fine in our house and loved my husband to death. She now goes on walks, to daycare, has obedience training and sometimes private lessons.

      BUT – here is something that is getting worse and worse:
      She growls at men, in the beginning a few weeks ago, she growled at some men wearing baseball caps, now at any men in any situation – it is clear, she would bite.

      It sounds scary to me – a lot. To the extend, that I might show fear myself, and if it just coming thru my pores…..

      She is VERY strong. I cannot just let her go…. so I correct her and usually take her out of the situation. And I did not know, that I am not supposed to correct her, which might appear like punishment to her and might make it worse.

      To be honest – I am confused. I am not supposed to stop it? For instance with a slight correction with the prong collar or with the e-collar? Treats or toys do not work, when she sees a strange man. She loves food and treats, but not in these situations. And never, when she is fearful.

      She is not showing teeth. No ears tucked back. But stiff and growling really bad and staring at the men ….. Is this even fear? Or is it being protective of me? She does the same to strange men, when my husband is around, who is more confident than me.

      I am at the end sometimes – ready to give up on her. This just stresses me out. We already spent a lot of money on trainers over the past 8 or 10 weeks, since we got her . And everything else got better, just growling at men got worse. That is why I am so desperate now and almost hopeless.

      If we would give up on her, there might not be much left. I doubt, that she would get the ok to go to a home…….. if a man would evaluate her, she might even react the same way.

      I tried cueing her on treats, getting closer slowly and trying to give her treats, having the men give her treats (she would not take anything), Having her sit and shaking hands, small talk, showing her – everything is ok. Nothing worked, it is getting worse. When a man rings the door, and I look, who it is, she goes into full-blown aggression.

      If it is the 16 year old neighbor boy at the door, all aggression is gone and she kisses him and loves him. He looks like a grown man, so what is the difference? Same with one of my co-workers. Just loves the guy with kisses. Those are bout the only exceptions, when she is not growling.

      We are so lost …. I have never given up on a dog, but I have never had one, that is so unpredictable and so aggressive towards men. Sadness is creeping up – what can I do? This is so confusing and it seems, we have nothing left or do we?

      Any advise is appreciated.


      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Oh Suze, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this and I can tell how much you love and care for your girl. She’s been through a lot and with being tortured and abused, it’s going to take some time and patience to help her regain trust and confidence, especially with men that are strangers.

        Her growling might be getting worse because she feels a little protective of you. Maybe she was abused by a man and now that she feels safe with you and your husband, strange men threaten that safety and security. That being said, it’s pretty normal for most dogs to bark and maybe growl when the doorbell rings or the UPS man shows up at the door.

        It’s a natural instinct to want to correct them when they growl, but when she’s tense with a stiff body and an intense stare, the pinch from a prong collar or sensation from an e-collar will likely make her reaction worse.

        It sounds like you’re on the right track with desensitizing her with treats or toys, but if they don’t work, it’s probably that you’re too close to the man or she’s already escalated to a point where she’s no longer interested in the food. It’s nearly impossible to lure them with food once they get over that threshold. When you’re working on this with her, the goal should be to prevent any reaction or growling before it starts rather than trying to distract her with food after she’s already worked up. If you have a busy park nearby, that’s a good place to work on experimenting with what distance she’s comfortable with and will take food or treats and slowly work towards decreasing the distance.

        If Haley gets too worked up barking or growling at the window or door, I make her go lay down in her bed before answering the door. Whether it’s the increased distance or that she feels I’m in control of the door area, it helps her de-escalate the tension and she’s relaxes quite a bit.

        I think the key here is working slowly at a pace she’s comfortable with but if you feel it’s not working, put the obedience training on hold for a while and work with a trainer that specializes in aggression issues instead. Be sure they only use positive-reinforcement techniques. A good trainer is well worth the money and it could save you a lot of frustration and heartache.

        It can be so stressful when helping a dog with these kinds of issues and it does take a lot of patience (as you already know), but it’s also really rewarding to see them overcome their fear or reactivity. It’s wonderful that you rescued her and have given her a loving home. I hope the tips in the article are helpful. If not, definitely try a trainer. I’d love to hear back later on how she’s doing. ?

    • Thank you so much for answering. Means a lot to me.

      Your comments make perfect sense! Of course, she would not be interested in good, when she is is in that state already….

      The worst sotuations were those encounters in public and few at home, with visitors like the roofer for instance.

      I am concerned taking her out anywhere, where men can get too close and I cannot prevent worse things from happening. I cannot ask strange men in public to give her space. But mostly, I am scared now to take her to such places, knowing het strength. I think, she needs more obedience training, she just barely knows few commands and woulf not stay put yet at all.

      As for training, we have had a special session few days ago. With a male trainer. She was very fearful, but not aggressive. She would do, what he asked her to do, but not take any food.

      This trainer is specialized in aggression and fearful dogs – he helped us snapping her out of many fears. When we got her, she would not even go outside to poop. We still train with him conquering daily fears with success.

      But maybe for the growing aggression towards men, we need to look around again, he might not be the one for this.

      Oh, forgot to mention, it seems. She has no issues with the male workers at thr 2 daycare places, we use.

      It is very difficult to actually find out, whether the root cause os fear or being protective. And if it is protection, what difference does it make as far as handling / training goes?

      Thanks again for your thoughts!


      • Chasing Dog Tales

        No worries, Suze. ? I can understand why it’s a concern when she’s pulling really hard in that state. It sounds like the male trainer has had pretty good results with her, but it wouldn’t hurt to try a different trainer for the aggression since it seems to be getting worse. I’m really curious what triggers her fear or aggression with some men but not others.

        One thing that worked pretty well with Haley when she was reactive due to being protective, was to try to keep her from being in a physical position where she might feel the need to protect me. For example, I would put myself between her and the object she feared instead of having her out in front of me. I would block approaching kids from getting to her or keep her away from the door when someone came to our house. I think it helped send a message to her that she wasn’t responsible for keeping me safe; I was going to protect her instead.

        She’s very lucky to have you and your husband looking out for her and trying to help her overcome her fears. I’m really hoping a new trainer will have some success. ?

    • Thanks for the advise on the page. Well for me it has been a struggle with one of my dogs called Minnie she always grawls&barks at my brother when he comes into the house at night yet in the day she is civil with him infact he even pats her but we all don’t know what makes her change her reaction in the night.
      I am going to try out the techniques I have read here today and see what happens.

      • That’s so interesting, Carolyn. Haley would do this too when our son was living here and he would come home at night when the lights were dim in the kitchen. I think she couldn’t see very well in the dim light so she wasn’t sure who was coming in the door. After he got close enough to her where she could pick up his scent, she would start wiggling with happiness that it was him and not a burglar, haha.

    • My 8 month old Labrador used to be totally fine outside, around people, and other dogs.
      Just recently however she’s started growling at everything, no idea why, I’m a bit sick of people telling me that “it’s not like Labradors to be aggressive.”
      She’s not being aggressive, the second she gets to the person, or dog, she licks them to death and nuzzles them.

      However, I’m a little certain this has something to do with a dog attack we recently experienced. Whilst on a walk, a dog off of the lead attacked me, my dog reacted by pinning the other down, and getting it away from me. She started to fight with the harness and the lead, then stood in front of me and just growled, whilst the other dog owner commented on how lovely and playful his dog was being….

      I really need help, people have started looking at us in utter disgust, or lurching to run away from her, which of course makes the desire to play even worse. She has a Halti, which I’ve also been frowned at in disgust for.
      I’m not quite sure where she’s got this new behaviour from, I’ve tried comforting her, telling her it’s all alright, or that the person doesn’t want to play, and giving her attention myself. But even at the sounds of strangers voices in public she grumbles a little.

      I’d really appreciate some more help, the article is great, but I’m still at an end.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Ugh, I can imagine it’s frustrating to hear those comments. Any dog or breed of dog can growl or act aggressive. I bet what’s happening with your girl is related to two things. First, at eight months old, she’s probably experiencing the second “fear period” that puppies go through during adolescence. Second, the recent scuffle with the other dog might have made her a little more reactive.

        The adolescence phase can be frustrating because they also test you quite a bit and you may have to reinforce training commands that you swore she had down pat. Luckily, this phase doesn’t last very long but it can be crazy time…think teenagers, lol!

        Here’s a link that explains the second fear period pretty well and offers some tips to get through it. It mentions avoiding traumatic experiences, but her growling may be more about the fear phase than the fight with the other dog.


        So, I think you can relax a little bit knowing that some of this is probably normal and hopefully temporary. In the meantime, use the tips from my post along with maybe some distraction techniques (like using treats and having her sit or do other commands or distract her with toys) to see if you can focus her attention on something else before it escalates or you get too close to the other person or dog.

        Please don’t worry about what other people think about using a Halti. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using one and they can be super useful, especially during this high-energy, adolescence phase. I got plenty of “those looks” when Haley was young too. Hang in there and you’ll probably see your sweet lab’s personality return soon. ?

    • Our newly adopted 5 year old terrier growls and barks at my husband when he appears from another room or from outside. She wags her tail and if he pets her head she is fine. She growls and barks at others outside when on we walk her on leash in our yard. I wonder if she is protecting me from my husband when she barks at him. He is about ready to take her back to the rescue center. She otherwise loves him, sits on his lap, plays with him, etc. Only problem is when he enters room and with strangers outside or coming to door; he is afraid she may end up biting someone. I think it is a trained behavoir from her previous elderly single male owner, who maybe played rough with her. But what shall we do???? Thanks,

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hi Daisy, I think you’re right that this is most likely a learned behavior from her previous (single) owner, but that probably doesn’t make your husband feel better when he walks into the room. The good news is, she warms up to him quickly and enjoys sitting on his lap and playing with him, so she’s not just a one-person dog. I’m thinking with a little time, she’ll get comfortable with the idea of having two people in the home that she trusts and she’ll stop growling and barking at him.

        Some barking and growling, especially at people who come to the door, is fairly normal as long as it’s just vocalizing and it’s not offensive aggression. If she relaxes after you’ve greeted your guests and eventually greets them herself, that’s a good thing. If she continues the growling or approaches them aggressively, then it’s something you’ll want to work on. Sometimes excessive barking is just plain annoying though so when Haley does this, I make her go lay down in her bed for a doggie timeout.

        A lot of what you’re experiencing may just be a some nervousness while she’s adjusting to her new surroundings but I’d love to hear back after some more time has passed to see if things are better.

        • Thanks. It sounds as if our first step might be obedience classes to reinforce her commands and teach her new ones, especially STAY. My question now is: Is it necessary/important that my husband (the person she barks/growls at and in reality her owner) takes the classes with her or may I do it. Will she accept commands from him if I share the classes with her? He will be reluctant, I know, to participate in the classes. I would probably enjoy them but I don’t want to alienate the dog from my husband. Thanks again.

          • That’s a great question, Daisy. No, your husband doesn’t have to attend the classes, but it’s a good idea to have him work with her at home to reinforce the training and also strengthen their bond. You can train her on the command, then once she knows it, just take turns giving her the command and rewarding her when she listens. Another way to build trust is to have your husband take her on walks. Your thought about starting obedience training is a fantastic idea! ??

    • Thank you so much, it’s a relief to hear that!
      I do hope she grows out of it soon, she’s the loveliest softest dog I’ve ever had.

      We did get attacked again though, yesterday. We were walking along the beach and another dog off of a lead came to bark and attack her 🙁
      I’m quite worried these other dogs are damaging her mentality in some way. She was terrified, crying and trying to hide behind me.

      But she is doing slightly better, she’s stopped growling at people so much, and now she gives growls followed by a warning bark, then just whimpering.

      • Oh gosh, I’m so sorry that happened again. That’s one of my pet peeves when people have their dogs off-leash but have no control over them, but I’m glad to hear she’s doing better already. ?

    • My chihuahua alway barks when people come to door but he stops when he knows who is is i have no problem with this im just concerned about when he barks then lightly grows at the front door or window some times he barks and growl at back dor too but we almost check every time because it is a warning but 9 times out of 10 theres nobody around and believe me we check every thing front back turn lites on too and still nobody there sometimes my cat does the same thing

      • That’s interesting, Theresa. Haley does that sometimes too and I think it’s usually something she hears or smells that I don’t notice. Their senses of hearing and smell are so much better than ours, maybe that’s what’s happening with your little guy (and cat) too. Sometimes Haley will sniff right around the crack of the door when it’s closed and I’m guessing a cat or something might have passed by or she heard something in the distance.

    • I feel bad as my Irish Setter growled at a lovely friendly man as he passed us on a track. When I think about it he was already hyper as I’d picked him up from the kennels and a dog had tried to have a go at him a few minutes before and we were both a bit worked up. Silly owner – I hope I haven’t ruined him as we were improving greatly.

      • I think you’re probably right, Jo. I bet your setter was a little tense already and it’s hard to tell what might have made him growl. A lot of dogs growl at people wearing hats or maybe it was the way he was walking or the way he looked while approaching.

        I’m sure you haven’t ruined anything and the fact that you’re aware of his mood and have been making good progress tells me your boy is in good hands. It can be embarrassing when that happens, but it’s good that he’s letting you know how he’s feeling so you can continue to help him. Keep up the great work! ?

    • My dog I just got it from a shelter and my dog sadly will growl/bark at my family members even when they give her a treat I am worried about this behavior with Christmas coming up and everyone coming over what should I do

      • It might take some time for your new girl to settle and adjust to her new home. I hope the tips in the post can help in the meantime and there are also some comments from a few other readers that adopted a new dog and had some issues with growling.

        I hope you’ll notice a difference after a little while, but during the holidays, make sure she has a safe space to relax and that will also keep your guests safe in case she gets too nervous. Good luck with your new pup and your patience will hopefully pay off soon.?

    • We adopted Sade-Mae when she was 2 yrs old, she is a lg Shepard/Retrivor mix. From day one she has growled at our then 10 yr old granddaughter. Since our daughter & 2 grandchildren lived w/us at the time this was not good, however, she got/gets along just fine w/our then 6 yr old (now 8) grandson. She does have a nervious growl & sometimes bark w/everyone but will eventually calm down, in the last 2 and a half yrs she STILL growls at our now 12 yr old granddaughter. They no longer live w/us but when they visit she gives Britt hard stares, growls, follows her closly. I’m forever distracting her from Britt! She is fine w/all other females & males. She is more Shepard than Retrever by far, she is very territorial w/not only our yard ect but the nieghbors too (we live on a private rd w/not many nieghbors). We continue to work on her *greeting* ppl at the door, jumping on them ect, that is going well, but she WILL NOT stop the behaviors w/our granddaughter Britt, I had her go to traing classes w/myself & Sade-Mae, have told her ti calmly but firmly let Sade-Mae know this is not good behavior, Britt praises & gives treats when Sade-Mae doesn’t growl, hard stare or stalk her but none of it works. Any ideas??

      • Hi Jude,
        Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a dog seems to distrust or growl at one particular person and I’m sure this is stressful for both you and your granddaughter. It’s possible something about Britt reminds Sade-Mae of another negative association made long before you adopted her. I know that probably doesn’t make her feel better about being growled at, but the same thing happened with Haley distrusting young girls after a few had teased and taunted her when she was going through a fear period with young.

        It sounds like you’ve done a great job of trying to help Sade overcome her nervousness and the training class was a good idea, along with Britt giving treats and praise. The hard stares would make me a little nervous too, so I think I would try hiring a behaviorist to come to your house and work with Sade and Britt (if that’s not too much trouble for Britt to be there a few times). It really wouldn’t cost that much and a good canine behaviorist could probably work wonders with Sade-Mae.

        I’m curious what happens if Britt totally ignores Sade when she comes over (no eye contact and lots of space away from her). Would Sade still growl or does she only growl and stare if Britt tries to look at her or interact with her?

    • Mariglenn Gomez Perez

      Help . I need any advice for my dog Jacob. I adopted him from a Maricopa County animal and Control shelter . They told me . He is super shy . But he will be ok after he gets to know u . But he didn’t want to get close to my friend . Was his old owner use to beat him . To the point he doesn’t like male guy’s. Now I’m having a bit of a problem with him barking and growling at my stepdad , my sister and my mom . But he is fine with my kids and me . I really don’t want to Surrender my dog .back to the place where I got him from . My mom already told me . If he can’t get along with everyone in this house . He has to go . The sad part is my kids and me love him ???????

      • Hi Mariglenn,
        I’m so sorry things aren’t going quite as well as planned with Jacob. It sounds like he had a rough start with his first owner and probably the best thing would be to work with a local trainer that would come to your home and help with the barking and growling issue. Be sure the trainer or behaviorist uses positive reinforcement techniques and is experienced with aggression issues. It probably won’t cost that much and it would be money well spent.

        It’s really a difficult situation because I know how attached you and your kids must be to Jacob and hopefully a little time of working with him will resolved the issue. At the very least, the trainer should be able to give you an idea of how easy or difficult it might be to help him with his fear or aggression towards men.

        I really wish I could offer an easy fix here but hopefully you’ll give the trainer a shot and you’ll have many happy years with your new boy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things will work out and I would love to hear back about how things are going.

    • Hi I have an 18 week old pup who is very playful in the house and with our family. We live in an apartment and when he comes in from outside any person he sees he lowly barks and jumps behind me his tail is wagging and he will come out slowly and sniff and hand but let’s out light barks. I think I made a few mistakes after reading your post. And I will correct the ones I’ve made. People are constantly wanting to pet him and are kneeling down which probably has made him worse. He hasn’t had a traumatic experience with people we got him at 9 weeks and is fine with everyone in our house. I’m wondering if it’s a protective thing a breed thing or a nervousness anxiousness thing. He’s a Rottweiler mastiff mix. We want to do what we can to help correct it. Any other advice you can offer would be great.

      • Hi, Lacey!

        Your puppy sounds adorable and he’s probably just going through the fear period that occurs around 4 months of age. Keep socializing him with lots of people and situations, but avoid anything that could be fearful or overly stressful for him right now. Allow him to explore new experiences on his own terms and you’ll probably see this barking and hiding behavior resolve itself soon. Good luck with your new puppy!?

    • Hello! My name is Anna Morgan. I am 12 and have a Aussie puppy (8 mts), Lassie. Whenever someone comes over, she growls at them. I am worried that one day she might bite someone. Help?

      • Hi, Anna! I’m so impressed that at 12 years old you’re more caring and responsible than many adult dog owners. I can understand why you’re concerned about the growling. One thing to keep in mind, is your Aussie is going through a stage of development (between 6 months to 1 year) that can be a little challenging. Make sure she’s getting plenty of exercise and socialization and lots of training (or reinforce her training if she’s not listening very well right now).

        Besides the tips I mentioned in the post, one thing you can do is teach her to go to a certain place (like her bed) when the doorbell rings and someone comes in to your house. This sends her the message that she doesn’t need to be a protector and that you’re in control when guests arrive. If she’s calm and not growling, she can join in and greet the guests and maybe even get some treats from them if she approaches nicely and in a relaxed manner.

        It’s really hard to give a “fix” for growling from just reading a little bit about what your pup is doing and not being able to observe her in action. If you’re really concerned that she might bite someone, it’s best to enlist some help from your parents and a dog trainer. You’re very smart for wanting to get this under control quickly and with the help of a positive-reinforcement trainer, she’ll likely get over her growling issue quickly. Good luck to you and your Aussie!?

    • Our two year old Pit/Pointer or Pit/Jack Russel mix is getting worse at territorializing where he will growl. He growls when he is under our feet in front of the wood stove (very comfortable) when we have to get up for any reason. Any slight touching or releasing of our foot against his body will set him off.
      We have read conflicting views in reading articles about what to do about growling.
      One says that we should leave when he is in his space, which in this case means not to move. The other talks about him wanting to become dominant in more and more ways as he is always looking for ways to influence his control and presence, like to sit on the couch or to sleep on our bed. They discuss training him on a remote collar, first while leash walking then in other situations like our situation described above.
      Another view says to give him a treat and make him relax before doing anything.
      Our dog’s behavior is becoming hard to deal with and we don’t want to see him continue to the biting stage, etc.
      He also growls when he is eating and someone even comes close.

      • Hi Phil,

        I would think leaving (walking away or giving in to) the growling might only make him more inclined to show his displeasure when he doesn’t get his way. I know there’s a lot of debate about dominance in dogs, but dogs are opportunists (like us humans) that like to get what they want or get their way. If they’ve learned that being pushy or growling works, they’ll use it and often it gets worse the more they discover that it’s a valuable tool to get what they want. Your pup might have learned that growling works to make you back away from the food bowl or stay in place when he’s comfortable.

        I’m not a fan of remote collars for growling, because a dog can misinterpret a shock or vibration and it can sometimes escalate aggression. Instead, I would work to reclaim your space, both around your feet and warm stove and around his food bowl.

        This exercise to get your dog’s attention might work well for the food bowl issue. After having success with the exercise, use it at feeding time. You can stand between him and his bowl until he sits and looks at you, then step out of the way and allow him to eat. You can repeat the exercise by getting closer to his bowl each time, until you can stand right beside the bowl while he eats. It’s a subtle way of letting him know that you’re in control and allowing him access to the food.

        You could also set up a bed in the room by the stove so he has a place to relax instead of near your feet. It may take several times of blocking his access around your feet, but he should get the message that you’re in control of that area. Teaching the “Place” command is a good idea too, so he’ll learn to go to his bed when asked. It’s just another way of helping him learn that he can’t control your space by being pushy or growling.

        I use the same principle for teaching good door manners, which is another way of helping a dog learn to respect space.

        The nice thing about controlling a dog’s space is you don’t have a say a word or make a sound and there’s no tension between you and the dog. Just quietly block him with your body from what he wants until he sits and looks at you for permission. It goes a long way in building respect both ways and eventually he may be able to lay under your feet again and know to move when you move your feet to get up.

        Some of these tips are hard to explain in a blog comment, but I hope you get the idea. If you think you need some extra help, check with a positive-reinforcement trainer in your area. They’re usually not that expensive and can offer some great tips and advice. It’s wonderful that you’re wanting to solve the problem quickly before it gets worse and with a little patience, I think you can get the growling issue resolved. Good luck!?

      • Oops! I just realized that I forgot to link those articles in your comment, Phil. If you go to the blog post, you’ll see them.?

    • So helpful. I was getting ready to return a little guy I adopted a little over a month ago to the rescue group, I had tried everything I could think of and nothing is working. Little Charlie is driving me and my husband nuts! He is fine with me, husband and our daughters. But when it comes to our boys he barks and growls like crazy! It just occurred to me last night that it could be a severe anxiety issue. He’s scared to death! Right now the only things I can come up with is treats for the boys to give when they come in the room and either an anxiety collar or meds. I am headed to Petsmart tonight to pick up one or both.
      Does anyone have any other suggestions?

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hey Kristine,

        It sounds like you’re on the right track and treats can go a long way in helping, along with a lot of patience. If the boys could also work on not approaching your little guy or making eye contact at first. That way your pup won’t feel as threatened. Maybe they could just drop a treat on the floor as they pass through the room, so the sight of just seeing the boys becomes a positive experience. Later, they could wait until the dog approaches them just a little bit before dropping a treat. You probably get the picture here…small steps and lots of treats! If that doesn’t work, a local dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement can probably help. Good luck and congrats on adopting your new family member!💗

    • Thanks for the article; I’m researching why my foxhound mix growls every time she sees one of my neighbors; the same person. I originally thought it was me but she sees him way before me and immediately starts growling. I have worked on redirecting her but as a hound she is very hyper focused on him when it happens and I literally have to ‘drag’ her away from the situation because he (the neighbor) continually tries to interact with her if I don’t get her away quick enough and I’m sure it will lead to a bite eventually.

      I’m not sure how to correct the behavior or if I even should. I do try to remove her from the area when I see him coming or if she alerts me to him.

      • Was she a rescue dog and had a bad experience with a similar looking man?
        Or is he full on when he tries to interact with her so she is trying to warn him away first?
        I don’t know where you live but if she did bite him would your local law mean that she would be put to sleep for being deemed ‘out of control’? If so, then I suggest that try some distraction work which would potentially save her life.
        Your neighbour sounds like an idiot.

    • My dog growled for the first time today at a pair of tourists who were taking pictures of the side of a house.

      He is very friendly with everyone he meets and for him not to like someone is really, really odd.

      As I was getting stares from people around me I told him to be ‘quiet’, although I feel bad for doing this.

      Dogs are good judges of people and I trust his opinion. He even lets me know when my blood sugar is low and he hasn’t been trained to do this.

      Once on an evening walk when it was starting to get dark he singled out a man who was walking behind me and kept running behind me on the lead so he wouldn’t come near me (I’m a woman btw) and wouldn’t stop until there was distance between us.

    • This article was really helpful. We have just adopted a six month old collie who is very frightened of strangers coming into the house. He is fine with all the family but when a stranger walks into the house he runs up to them straight away and growls and gives them a small nip. We keep him on the lead when strangers come in so that they don’t get a fright. If they walk around the room he always wants to see what they are doing and gets very worried if he can’t see them so taking him away just makes him more anxious. I have been telling him of for growling because I don’t know what else to do..? Should we ask the people who come in to ignore him and act as though he’s not there or should they try and give him a treat? We are finding it really difficult because it is preventing us from inviting other family and friends over. The problem is that he always wants to be with the strangers but always growling. Thanks

    • This is a nice article however my dog is unsure about so many people! He is a 2yo that did not have any negative experience with strangers as I have him since he was a puppy. However, when we walk out at night or in general when there are not many people in the streets if he sees someone he growls! Any stranger that walks towards us (or not) is a risk. I am trying to not correct him but sometimes I forget and might tell him in an angry tone “stop it”. The other day he made a little boy cry!!! I suspect that he is protective because he is 50% shepherd but I wish he was a little more relaxed with strangers!!

    • I have my boy Chester is 12 years old. I adopted him since he was about 3, and ever since he is extremely harmless, even if he growls. I have only heard him growl a few times and even this he does not sound too mean. I know all dogs are not like this and you give some great advice on dealing with it.

    • We adopted a 12 year old Chocolate Lab in January of last year. He was loving life and all the attention he was getting from my daughter, grandson, the neighbors and their children. In August everything changed. Now he doesn’t like most people that come on our house. As long as my grandson sits still Rebel will go back to sleep. He will bark excessively and if they walk towards him he will growl and snap his teeth at them no matter who it is. All these people I mentioned have not harmed him in anyway it’s just so baffling to us but no one can come in and take care of him for us. If we try to board him it’s the same excessive barking and growling.

    • Hi I have adopted Bulgarian street dog as a pet he’s gsd mix he’s awesome except he doesn’t like being told what to do by anyone except my self. I squeeze and love him but if for example he’s trying to root through the bin or he’s sat on the settee and someone wants him to move he makes this horrible blood curdling bark and snaps I don’t wanna give up on him so I’m asking for help. He’s great off the lead it’s just this problem apart from that he’s a darling

    • Very good article I enjoyed it. One thought, with all the on line ordering and delivery companies entering our yards and porches it would really make since to keep your pets in doors when you know there is a pending delivery. Please don’t be surprised when your delivery is delayed because your pet won’t allow entry into the yard. Thank you.

    • I’m having a bit of trouble with my 8 month old chorkie He s fine in the house playing and stuff but when he’s laid down and we go to stroke him he growls and he even bit my little brother today we only recently got him and I really don’t want to have to find him a new home I want to help him cause i honestly just think he’s scared! Also he barks and growls at dogs and if they come near him he will go to attack I’m at my wits end I want to be able to let my young nieces around him and go out for family days without having to worry about him biting people or attacking other dogs he’s so well behaved for me always by my side I love him so much just honestly do not know what to do😞

    • I realize this is from 3 ears ago, but maybe you can give me some advice. I just adopted my dog, and he is fine with my father and grandmother when I’m not around, but will growl and bark at them when I am. I’m not sure what to do to correct that. I can tell he’s probably afraid of my dad, but can’t figure out why or how to help him. Any advice?

    • I was walking my dog today who is generally very friendly to people who approach him. I always ensure that they don’t just reach out to pat him, but to comfortably let him approach them first before petting. However, when a young girl approached us he was very uncomfortable with her and so he growled in what seemed to be fear. My dog has never had an issue with children and has even played and approached children comfortably during many outings. So I am unsure as to whether or not it was because her face was concealed beneath a hood, or whether it was something else. It never escalated beyond the growl however and I was quick to control the situation by creating distance and reassuring him he is alright.

    • This attitude of “don’t correct your [vicious, growling] dog” is precisely the problem. The other HUMAN who is being growled at needs to hear you tell your dog “NO,” firmly and decisively. Not a wimpy “You’re okay, sweet wittle Fido, boy.” And then you apologize to the person (who by the way has not come near or even so much as looked at your dog). You show an appropriate level of mortification for your dog’s behavior toward your neighbor.

      That innocent person who is minding their own business, enjoying an otherwise peaceful morning walk is NOT a bad guy who you need protection from. NO, your dog is NOT an “excellent judge of character” or whatever other nonsense you may believe.

      If your dog can’t go on a walk around your neighborhood without terrorizing the neighbors, then you have an obligation to walk it in a place where there are no people. This is the basic courtesy that humans owe each other, and canine companions must be held in secondary status to this social contract.

    • My dog siggy has a lot of fear aggression and possessive aggression. She is not very good motivated however, she is toy motivated. I am just worried that that feeds into her resources guarding though. How would I approach this?

    • Our dog used to be fine with my younger sister, we are adults. But after she had what should have been a simple exploratory surgery that turned into fighting for her life 4 years ago, foxy just has not accepted her. She growls and would attack or bite her given the chance.
      My sister has recovered. And is now visiting (she moved out of state almost 2 years ago). We end up keeping foxy in her crate or away from the family for my sister’s safety who is staying with us until her return.
      What gives?

    • If you’re not sure if you can handle your dog, get a trainer! The handler can observe the situation, analyze it and help you find solutions and training for your dog. Get someone professional before your dog starts biting or fighting. If you are confident that your dog is listening to you, you can try training it yourself. Please be honest with yourself! Better to take some help than create a disaster.

    • I just adopted two boxers, 5 years old approx., both female. One is pure Alfa – Faith, she growls at my husband and Son (24 yrs), then relaxes. She growls at new people she meets, and relaxes sometimes. They are crate trained! They know a few other commands, or atleast respond to them. However walking on a leash “together” is not a great idea as everyone involved gets wrapped in the leashes. Is there anything I can do to help Faith relax a little with my husband and son?

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