When dogs growl, it can be scary. However, when puppies growl, it can become very confusing and concerning. As a professional dog trainer, I can tell you most clients are more concerned when puppies growl than when adult dogs do it. Let’s discuss why puppies growl and how to prevent the behavior.
What Causes Puppies to Growl?
Many pet owners have a hard time telling the difference between “play” and “scared” puppy growling. Puppies mostly growl when playing; it can sound vicious, but it’s harmless. During playtime, a puppy’s body language is rounded and fluid. A puppy moves quickly, and will growl and show his teeth while playing.
A scared puppy’s body language looks completely different from that of a playful puppy. Fearful puppies will freeze, and then move backwards. Their body language becomes straight and stiff. These puppies growl because they’re scared or uncomfortable, especially when children are holding them and they can’t get away. Basically, when a puppy growls due to fear, he is begging everyone to stop what she is doing.
Prevention is Best
Puppy play growling is fun, but it can scare some pet owners. If your puppy growls while playing, just stop the game. Once your puppy stops growling, start the game again. This teaches him that growling makes the fun stop. And when growling stops, the fun begins again.
When a puppy growls while playing with another dog, it’s best to monitor their puppy play session. Watch each dog’s body language, and step in and separate dogs with an interrupter cue if body language becomes rigid. If a puppy growls while being held or when approaching his food bowl, back off immediately.
How to Change This Behavior
If a puppy is growling while being held or touched, it’s time to change his behavior. Instead of walking over and picking up your puppy, call your puppy to you and reward him with cheese when he gets to you. Choices are important to puppies too, so only pick him up if he’s comfortable. Some puppies will growl when touched because they’re scared, so it’s important to pair something good with touching.
Also, it’s best to partner with a professional dog trainer who only uses positive reinforcement methods to address this behavior. There may be other things going on within the household, so a professional dog trainer can observe and address potential issues quickly.