My dog gromt at the food bowl, when he has a bone, when he has a toy…
His food bowl and toys are the most common ‘possession’, but we also regularly see dogs guarding a child, woman, crate or even a couch. Some dogs make an art of it and even guard a stick or pinecone during a walk.
When your dog growls, you will often also see a stiff posture, a bulged, arched neck, a stare, and hear a low growl.
If you try to grab the ‘possession’, then a growl and a swipe will follow.
And we humans really don’t like that…
What should I do if my dog growls?
The question that is asked at least 10 times a week in all kinds of dog groups: my dog growls at his food bowl, my dog growls when he has a bone, my dog growls when he has a toy, what should I do?
The advice is really very different, from ‘oh, don’t do anything’ to ‘if your dog growls, grab him by the scruff and show him around the room’.
Great, even more confusion for the owner, who then probably tries to ignore it for a week and when that doesn’t help, proceeds to ‘tack that trade’.
In the meantime, your dog no longer knows why his master shows such unstable behavior and he will improve his defense tactics even more.
Read; your dog growls even more fanatically, or your dog stops growling, but may start to bite instead of growling.
Why is my dog acting so ugly?
We humans are taught from toddlerhood that sharing things is twice as much fun. And yes, we humans also get a good feeling of sharing, that’s just how we learned it.
If you didn’t teach a child to share, he or she would also defend what is his or hers.
Ever seen 2 toddlers with toys? Lots of screaming ‘that’s MINE!!!’, hitting each other, pulling the hair? Never? I recommend a 2 week internship at your local childcare facility. By comparison, your dog growling seems child’s play…
Has your dog ever growled at you or anyone else in your family when he has a bone, toy or bowl of food? Tell us how that went in the comments.
Is this normal?
Puppies in the litter are just like that; mine, mine, mine, eat as much as possible, grab a toy and turn away from the other puppies with it, guard his toy, guard his bone.
With a dog child, this is not to learn to share, but to learn to defend. And learn that if someone is defending something, you should leave it alone. Because for your dog, sharing is not useful, but unnecessary and unnatural.
Rule 1 in a dog’s life; what you have, you can keep! So your growling dog is not unkind, he is just a dog. Also in their mutual language to growl means; Hold on, I don’t want to bite you. So if you start punishing the growl, your dog will skip that step.
Do I have to be okay with the growling?
Yes, actually, because when your dog growls, he’s actually saying very clearly that he doesn’t want to bite you.
And no…because the fact that your dog is growling at you does indicate that your dog doesn’t trust you completely. And that’s a shame.
Doing nothing about it may lead to biting and nipping later on. You can teach your dog that there is no need to guard things: you can keep what you have, no one is going to take anything from you.
If there is no cause, there is no effect.
Does my dog have no respect for me?
We often take the growling a little too personally. ‘Help, my dog growls, that’s not allowed, is it?
Does he not like me, or does he not respect me at all?´
Your dog growls because he is a dog. Growling simply means: I really don’t like what you’re doing now, stop it, because I don’t want to bite you. Not allowing your dog to growl would be the same if you were never allowed to say when you don’t like something.
As a boss, I should be able to take everything away, right?
Well no. Just because you own your dog doesn’t give you the right to take everything from others. Compare it to a situation in the workplace.
You, the boss, feel like coffee. One of your employees just got coffee and takes a sip from his cup. You walk over there, take the coffee and drink it. So….that’s nice. Or you walk to the office, take the half-eaten ham sandwich from your secretary’s hand, yet another free lunch. That’s how it should be! Or not?
Taking something from someone else is never really conducive to the mutual relationship.
With dogs, everyone has the right to defend what is theirs. It’s that simple.
The fact that we humans still continue to take away is a form of abnormal behavior for your dog.
What should I do if my dog growls?
Now you can of course say; never take anything away. But it may be necessary at some point.
Suppose your dog is eating and you see a sharp piece of plastic between his food.
Or your dog has grabbed something to eat that is dangerous, such as leftover grilled half rooster (dogs can eat half a rooster, but not if it’s been heated).
A toy can also break in a way that you think should be thrown away for the safety of your dog.
The easiest is of course if you can start with a puppy, but this is also easy to train with adult dogs.
This also applies if your dog already shows aggression with, for example, a bone, a toy or his food bowl.
My dog bites when I want to take something away
Did you know that most biting incidents in the house occur in combination with possession aggression?
And that it usually happens because the boss thinks ‘go ahead’?
Perhaps you as the owner can take something from your dog, but that becomes an increasing danger if someone else comes near your dog when he has a bone, toy or bowl of food.
Although you would get the possession aggression completely under control with training; NEVER let children take anything from your dog. Taking something away remains an unnatural event for your dog and therefore always carries an extra risk of biting incidents. Especially because children often cannot read your dog’s warning signals properly.
In the dog cinema in our LOCA community there are several videos about dog behavior
Do you need help?
Would you like help in recognizing stress in your dog, learning to understand your dog better, raising your puppy, or training your adolescent or rehomer? At LOCA we have a wide choice of courses, and a very nice community with many educational videos, articles and the possibility to receive individual guidance for all dog problems!
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