There's nothing like relaxing after a long day by curling up on the couch and watching TV. Unfortunately, if Fido is afraid of the TV and constantly growling at it because it upsets him, watching your favorite show can be less than pleasant. With some training, desensitization and positive reinforcement, you can teach your dog that the television isn't something to fear, but rather something to enjoy with you.
Determine and Remove the Trigger
Some dogs will only react to certain types of television programs, such as shows featuring animals or loud sounds. Your dog may perceive these things as real dangers, not understanding that the people or animals on the screen won't hurt him. If only a few programs set off your pooch, crate him when you watch them so he doesn't become upset. If your pup only seems to growl at the loud sounds the television produces, try watching TV with headphones on, so that your pooch won't hear them. Removing the stimulus should stop the growling.
Desensitize and Countercondition the Dog
Feed your pooch a series of yummy treats while he sits several feet away from the TV while it's off. The treats prevent Fido from growling and eventually he'll start to associate something he likes with the TV. In subsequent sessions, turn the TV on and keep the volume very low. Raise the volume a very small amount during each session and move your pup closer to the TV. Keep each session to at least 10 minutes or more and vary the times of the sessions each day. Between sessions, keep your pup away from the TV or cover it up until he's completely comfortable with it both on and off.
Redirect Your Pup's Attention to Positive Activities
While watching TV, if your pooch starts growling, redirect his attention to an activity that will prevent his aggressive behavior and keep him occupied. Play a game of fetch or provide your pup with a chew toy to occupy his attention. Feed him his breakfast or dinner in front of the television while you're watching it. The food will distract him from his growling and positively associate the TV with a pleasant activity. Give him a puzzle toy filled with something like peanut butter or cream cheese, which will keep him too busy to growl, just before turning on your TV. A good dose of vigorous exercise prior to television viewing will tire him out so he'll be less apt to growl.
Ignore the Growling, Don't Punish It
If you yell at your pooch or punish him when he growls at the TV, you will negatively reinforce this behavior. Scolding could escalate the situation and cause him to bite you out of fear or arousal. Don't turn off the TV because this will teach him that when he growls at a TV program, you'll make it go away, reinforcing the behavior. Don't comfort your dog if he begins growling at something on TV, because this too will send him the message that his growling is OK. Instead, ignore him and keep your distance from him when he's growling to prevent the aggressive behavior from escalating.