How to Train Dogs to Growl Instead of Biting

Train Dogs to Growl Instead of Biting
Train Dogs to Growl Instead of Biting (Image:

Dog bites are by far one of the most common emergency room complaints. Hundreds of people get bitten each year, many of them resulting from negligence and ignorance of basic dog behaviors. Dogs normally growl before biting, indicating they are unhappy before they lash out. Training your dog to growl instead of biting is a fairly simple exercise and can help keep you and your family safe.

Things You'll Need

  • Collar
  • Lead
  • Treats

Place a collar and lead on your dog. It is much easier to train a dog with a collar and lead, as it makes the dog much easier to contain to a small area and gives your dog a measure of confidence knowing you are at the end of the lead.

Choose the command you will be teaching your dog when asking him to growl. It can be as simple as the word "growl" or any other phrase you choose. Short, one-word commands work best as they are easiest for your dog to understand. You can use any word you like, as long as you use it consistently when training the growl.

Find an object your dog really enjoys and let him play with it. Hold the end of the lead gently and allow the dog to enjoy his favorite toy without interfering. This gives the dog time to get interested in the toy and take possession of it, claiming it as his property.

Stand in front of your dog and reach slowly for the toy. Watch your dog closely to gauge his reaction to your approach. When your dog begins to growl quietly, stop reaching for the object and stand quietly. This removes the threat that you are going to take away your dog's toy, and he will again become interested in it and ignore you.

Give the dog the command you've chosen for growl and slowly move toward the toy again. Repeat the command as you hear the dog begin to growl, so he associates the command with the action of growling. You must use the same command every time you ask the dog to growl to prevent him from becoming confused during your training. Use a gentle, upbeat voice to let your dog know you are happy and that asking him to growl is a wanted behavior.

Stop your approach and reward the dog immediately with his favorite treat when he growls. Give him a treat quickly so he associates the act of growling with a good reward. Let the dog relax and enjoy his treat without interference.

Repeat this command and reward system until your dog is growling on command with no need for treats. As your dog learns to growl on command, you can give him fewer and fewer treats, instead using a praise command such as "good boy," encouraging him with your words rather than food rewards.

Work with your dog in small, short sessions. Dogs have short attention spans and learn much better in three or four 15 minutes sessions per day than they do one long marathon training session. If you notice your dog becoming distracted or looking bored, stop training and allow your dog some down time to prevent burnout.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be careful when training new dogs to growl. Some dogs can strike out without warning, making them dangerous and difficult to train.
  • Never physically punish your dog for inappropriate behavior. Hitting or striking your dog can hurt and frighten him, making any normal training routine difficult.

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