Growling can signal fear in dogs. Heres how to teach pet owners to treat the fear instead of punishing the growl.
When pets growl, frustrated or embarrassed pet owners may respond by jerking their pet's leash or manhandling the dog into a controlled position. The problem: The growl shows the dog may be fearful or anxious. When pet owners punish their dog for growling, they may be able to stop the growl, but they haven't changed the pet's emotional state from a negative one to a positive one. Punishing hinders the dog's ability to communicate how he's feeling and decreases his warning signs before he bites. Sometimes just changing your approach can help. For example, distracting the dog with food rewards during vaccinations or changing the angle you handle the pet or moving from the exam table to the floor. You can also help by teaching pet owners to understand their pets' growling behavior. First, give your clients the growling handout, “The Facts About Growling.” Then discuss some behavior training techniques to replace the pet's negative associations with positive ones. Find more Fear-Free tips at dvm360.com/FearFree.
Mikkel Becker, CPDT, works with veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists to address behavior issues in dogs and cats.