Dog owners often instinctively punish their dogs for growling at them. However, growling is an important communication tool for your dog. Rather than punishing it, try to understand why your dog is growling and use that information to train your dog to perform a more desirable behavior. Dogs growl for many reasons, such as fear, play or resource guarding. Training will vary based on the motivation for the growling.
Things You'll Need
Growling During Play
Stop playing with your dog when he growls. Put down the toy and walk away.
Ignore your puppy until the growling stops. If it continues even after being ignored, put your puppy in a crate for a timeout.
Reward your puppy by continuing the game as soon as the growling has stopped. Make sure to stop the game as soon as your puppy growls and start it up as soon as the growling stops. This will teach your puppy the rules of the game.
Growling at People
Teach your dog a behavior you would prefer over growling. Punishing them will only make it worse. Instead, teach your dog another behavior that she can use to show you that she is afraid without utilizing aggression.
Teach your dog to move behind you on walks when encountering another person if the behavior occurs outside the home. First, teach this when there are no people around so your dog learns the skill in a low stress situation. Use a treat to lure your dog into the correct position by taking a step backward while holding a treat at your dog's nose and taking a step forward to be in front of your dog. Practice until your dog happily runs behind you without a treat before practicing with people. Remember to reward when you see people.
Teach your dog to run to a safe space when growling at visitors in the home. Use a crate or a bed where visitors are never allowed so she feels safe. Teach her to go to that spot and stay there until you say it is OK to leave. When you have visitors, send your dog to the spot before she even barks and reward her for staying on the spot without barking.
Growling While Guarding
Make a list of all the things your dog guards. You never want to get into a confrontation with your dog, especially if your dog is guarding a resource.
Teach your dog a solid "leave it" command. Start with low value items that your dog happily will trade. To teach "leave it", hold treats in your hand and let your dog have one while saying "take it." After one or two repetitions, close your fist and say "leave it". When your dog backs away from your hand and looks at you, reward with praise and a treat. Repeat this until you don't have to close your fist. Place the treat on the floor and practice the same way, using your foot to guard the treat. Practice until your dog will back away from any item on command.
Teach a solid "drop it" command by playing with your dog. Get identical toys, such as two tennis balls, and throw one. When your dog has it, take out the other one and start playing. As your dog starts to drop the toy it has, say "drop it" and throw the other. Practice until your dog drops on command.
Teach your dog to go to a spot and stay until released. This will allow you to send your dog away from a valued item.