Your Pet Question:
My 14 lb. dog growls a lot. For example, if I approach him in the morning while he is sleeping in his bed, he’ll growl. He doesn’t always growl. If I call him to me he’ll stop and I don’t feel any fear, but I am just curious as to what he is saying when he does, after all he is my dog and it’s strange that he would growl at me.
Chris Brais, Lasalle, QC
The Expert Says:
Dogs growl for a multitude of reasons depending on the situation. A growl is just one method of communication that dogs use. They also use their eyes, ears, tails, body postures and facial expressions to communicate with other dogs and people. A growl is usually perceived as a warning. In this case, your dog may be guarding the bed on which he sleeps. He may be responding “aggressively”, but his underlying reason for growling may be anxiety. Do not attempt any corrective or dominant behaviour techniques when he is in a situation like this; it may only result in further escalation of his “aggressive” behaviour and you may be seriously hurt, as all dogs are capable of biting. I would recommend consulting your veterinarian for a medical work-up to rule-out any underlying problems that could contribute to anxiety, such as pain from arthritis.
Rebecca Corrigan, DVM, MSc, CVA works at Acadia Veterinary Clinic in Saskatoon, SK.