Must Love Growling Dogs
I LOVE growling dogs.
Hear me out:
A growling dog is a dog that’s saying, “hey, I don’t want to bite, please don’t make me.”
A growling dog is a dog that is actively trying to diffuse a situation so that they don’t need to escalate their behavior.
A growling dog isn’t looking to hurt your feelings or your ego, they’re just trying to communicate to you what they need to feel safe.
A growling dog is a dog who doesn't WANT to hurt you!
If you have a growly dog, I want you to put yourself in their shoes:
Can you imagine if you lived with someone who constantly pushed at your boundaries and didn’t listen to you, even if that person had a good heart and meant well? And that one day, when you haven’t had enough sleep and you’re more stressed than usual you say “hey can you please not, I’m having a rough day”: that person screams at you, or worse, gets physical with you in an attempt to "correct" your behavior?
This is what many “growly dogs” live with, day in and day out. And when finally they’ve reached their breaking point and snap? They’re surrendered to animal control, or sent to a "board and train" which will make problems WAY WORSE, or be relegated to the back yard, or tragically euthanized. All because they felt the need to communicate their discomfort and felt like they weren't being listened to.
I know it can be scary to have a dog that presents with behaviors like this, and I know how hard it can be to have a sensitive dog that isn’t as easy going as you were hoping for. So please don’t think that this is an owner bashing post. You deserve compassion too. Just as much as your dog. Living with dogs who have behavior problems is HARD.
But until we as a society understand that a dog needs to be allowed to say “no”? That a dog needs to have agency and choice in their life, and that they’re living, sentient beings with opinions and feelings that sometimes range outside of “happy/excited/people pleasing”? Until then, I will be advocating for your growly dogs. Can we teach our dogs to like stuff more? Yes. Can we teach our dogs how to cooperate when they have had a history of saying “no”? Yes. But until then the first thing you have to do is LISTEN TO THEM and respect the fact that they are emotional animals in their own right, just like us.
So, if you have a growly dog, thank them for communicating so clearly, listen to them lots, and (especially if your dog has a history of growling or other aggressive behavior) hire a credentialed behavior pro who can help you figure out what’s going on!