A great way to get a dog to stop growling at a family member is to have that family member take the dog for walks, give it treats, and play with it. The endorphins produced during exercise can help your dog associate the family member with happy feelings instead of fear or uncertainty.
Dogs can make a wonderful addition to any family. Dogs provide companionship, teach responsibility, and have even been shown to prolong your life!
But if your dog is growling at a family member, this sense of companionship can quickly diminish. Continued aggression toward a specific person or group of people can create a stressful situation that will need to be resolved as soon as possible.
Dog’s growl for many reasons. Maybe the dog is in pain, protecting their food, or is afraid of something. Growling itself does not cause physical harm, but it can be a precursor to more aggressive behavior down the line and create an uncomfortable living environment.
The good news is there’s still time to stop growling before it escalates to more aggressive behavior like biting or a full-on attack.
To stop growling, you have to find what that source is. It’s important to identify why your dog is growling at your family member so you can put a stop to it.
Why Is Your Dog Growling in The First Place?
Growling is a warning sign from your dog that something is upsetting him and he’s feeling uncomfortable. Aggression, regardless of species, is often caused by pain, fear, or anxiety.
The source of aggression can be especially hard to pinpoint in a rescue dog because you don’t know what kind of life experiences they’ve had before meeting them.
The situation or known experiences your dog has had might give clues as to what factors into the aggressive behavior.
Your dog may growl at your family member if he perceives them as a threat. The growling behavior, in this case, is a defense mechanism.
It could be the dog is triggered by the family member because of their physical appearance, demeanor, or their behavior toward the dog. Dogs sometimes react negatively toward men because men are larger than women with more masculine features, like a deeper voice.
The person could actually be antagonizing the dog or acting aggressively toward the dog’s owner, which would warrant the dog to growl. Maybe one of the reasons you brought a dog into your family was for added protection. Then it should be no surprise when a learned behavior like guarding and defending translates to aggressive behavior toward people outside the immediate family.
A dog may growl or snap at a family member if they get too close to your dog’s food. This is called food aggression, and it’s a common form of aggression in dogs.
Dogs can be territorial over resources (in this instance food), for several reasons. Maybe this behavior is caused by a past experience where the dog wasn’t given a lot of food, or he was in an environment where he had to compete for food with other dogs.
Regardless, it’s critical to mitigate food aggression because your dog might act territorial around other things, such as bones or toys.
Your Dog is in Pain
If your dog is growling at you or a family member and this behavior is not typical, the dog may be in pain. When dogs are in pain and irritable, they can lash out with aggressive behavior.
Pain makes us grumpy! Dogs feel pain just like people, but they growl and exhibit other aggressive behaviors since they can’t verbalize their pain with words.
If you approach your dog or touch him in a spot that hurts, he might growl at you because he wants you to back away from him. Don’t take this personally, but take it as a sign that your dog needs to get checked by a veterinarian.
Poor socialization in puppies can lead to growling and other aggressive behaviors as adults. If you fail to expose your dog to different people when he is young, he will not respond well to new people he meets as he grows.
Social interaction at a young age is crucial for a puppy to build confidence and develop good socialization skills. Taking your dog to parks or other populated areas and regularly introducing him to new people is a great way to socialize your dog and teach him to be friendly around unfamiliar people.
Does your dog struggle to have positive interactions with your children? Young children are often the source of triggering bad behavior in dogs through no fault of their own.
Children have not yet learned how to read body language or social cues to understand when a dog is uncomfortable.
Toddlers can pull or tug on the dog, much like a toy. This can trigger the dog to growl, signaling he wants to be left alone. But your child most likely can’t discern between normal and aggressive behavior, and they might even interpret the growling as playing.
If the dog is growling and acting aggressively toward your child, the stakes are especially high because small children are defenseless against a dog attack. Immediate action needs to be taken.
How to Stop Your Dog From Growling at Family Members
Correcting aggressive behaviors will take effort and continued practice, but it is possible! After you’ve identified the source of aggression and your dog’s triggers, the next step is to figure out how to eliminate those triggers or change the way your dog responds to them.
Avoid situations with the family member that may trigger aggression. The family member may have to change the way they approach your dog. They should not antagonize your dog and should avoid triggering behavior like yelling or making quick movements.
Facilitate positive experiences between your dog and the person he growls at. Encourage the family member to give the dog treats, toys, and lots of praise in a positive tone of voice.
Physical activities like taking walks and playing games are also a good way to build a relationship with your dog. The endorphins produced during exercise can help your dog associate the family member with happy feelings.
Positive reinforcement of good behavior is very important in training your dog. With any improvement in behavior, make sure your dog is getting lots of praise. This will build your dog’s confidence and reinforce good behavior.
If a resolution cannot be found at home, you may consider seeking professional help. A reputable dog trainer will have experience identifying triggers and correcting unwanted behavior. They’ll be able to show you training techniques you can practice in your own home.
Should You Keep an Aggressive Dog?
If corrective training isn’t working or aggressive behavior is escalating to nipping or biting, you may weigh the option of getting rid of your dog.
Perhaps there’s a more suitable home available for your dog that has more time to spend on training or doesn’t have the same kind of triggers in the household.
For example, if your dog is triggered by young children, a better home might consist of only adults.
Deciding to re-home your dog is a big decision that can’t be taken back, so make sure this is the best option for you and your dog.
Past negative experiences can shape your dog’s behavior and contribute to growling, but it does not have to define your dog’s future. Evaluate the situation, set a course of action, and stick to it.
Continuous training and positive reinforcement of good behavior can train your dog to coexist with your family members and create a happier living environment for everyone.
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