Why Is My Puppy Growling? What Should I Do?

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You don’t have to be a dog owner to know how a growl sounds – it sounds like you are in big trouble!

While being faced with a growling dog is rather scary, can you imagine being scared of a puppy growling? 

Most first-time owners don’t know that puppies can growl, let alone that their growls can sound so menacing and scary.

So the first time you hear your pup’s growl, you can be very surprised. 

Puppy Growling - Golden Retriever play growling at older dog with swimming pool in background
Puppy Growling? Understand What Your Puppy Is Trying To Say

Although most people link growling with aggressive dogs, you shouldn’t jump to any conclusions and assume that your puppy is showing signs of aggression.

In fact, there are many different reasons why puppies growl. As an owner, you have to figure out what is causing your puppy to growl and address that issue. 

In this article, I will explain why puppies growl and help you understand what your puppy is trying to say.

Continue reading to learn different types of growls and what they mean. 

Why Do Puppies Growl?

While it may be unsettling to hear, growling is a normal form of canine communication. Just like people, puppies and dogs use their vocal abilities to express their needs and feelings.

Growling, howling, whining, whimpering, and barking are different types of vocalization puppies use to communicate their wants and needs with their owners. 

Besides vocalization, your puppy will also use body language to communicate with you. Understanding canine body language can be rather tricky, especially if you are a new dog owner.

And if you are unable to pick up on these subtle cues, your puppy might feel the need to growl every once in a while just to get their point across. 

For the first couple of days after being born, puppies know only how to whimper and whine and they use these vocalizations to communicate with their mother.

But once puppies become more mobile and start interacting with their environment, they learn how to growl and bark. 

By the time you bring your new puppy home, they will be old enough to know how to growl and will use this type of vocalization to communicate with you.

While most people associate growling with aggression, dogs and puppies growl for many different reasons.

The most common reasons puppies growl are pain, fear, possession, territoriality, playfulness, and possession aggression.

Why Is My Puppy Growling?

Growling is just one of many ways that puppies and adult dogs communicate. Therefore, you will need to understand what your puppy is trying to say in order to meet their needs and respond accordingly. 

If you are a first-time dog owner, you might have a hard time understanding your puppy’s growls, at first.

But with time, you will learn how to distinguish a playful growl from a fearful growl and will know exactly what your puppy is trying to communicate. 

The only way you will ever be able to address and correct this unwanted behavior is to understand why it is happening in the first place.

So, instead of trying to teach your puppy to stop growling, you should find the reason why the puppy is growling and address it.

Your puppy will most likely stop growling altogether as soon as the underlying issue has been identified and dealt with.

Here are the most common reasons behind puppy growling:

1. Pain

Both puppies and adult dogs may growl when they are in pain. Your puppy might be sick or have an injury that is causing them pain, especially if they start growling when you reach for a specific part of their body.

Some puppies don’t even want to be touched when they are in pain and may start growling louder, since they are afraid of feeling any more pain.

If the pain seems like the most likely reason for your puppy’s growling, don’t try to poke and prod in an attempt to identify what’s wrong.

Trying to diagnose your puppy at home can make things way worse and cause even more fear. In this situation, your only job is to figure out why your puppy is growling and take the necessary steps to resolve the problem.

The best and only thing you can do for your puppy in this situation is to take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Your vet will examine your puppy, diagnose the problem, and talk with you about possible treatment options.

Bear in mind, your puppy will probably start to growl even more during the exam and might even try to nip at you or the vet.

It is completely normal for puppies to growl and whine while they are in pain. However, the growling will stop completely as soon as your puppy starts to feel better. 

2. Fear

It is very common for young puppies to growl when they are afraid. If your puppy typically growls at specific people, strangers, or in unfamiliar places, they are most likely scared.

Furthermore, certain sounds such as fireworks, thunder, or extremely loud music can cause a puppy to be afraid and start growling. 

Fearful puppies use growls as a defensive mechanism to intimidate the threat into leaving them alone.

So, if your puppy is, for example, afraid of strangers, they will start growling as soon as they see an unfamiliar face approaching.

The stranger who initially wanted to pet your puppy will back off as soon as he hears the growling and continue walking without giving your pup a second glance.

The best way to resolve fearful growling is to find the cause and remove it from your puppy’s life if possible.

So, if your puppy starts to growl whenever a stranger wants to pet them, start telling people to not approach, or even avoid taking your dog to crowded areas.

Starting behavior modification is the next thing you should do in order to relieve some of your pup’s fear.

If your puppy is afraid of strangers, you should try socializing and exposing them to a variety of different people and situations.

Enrolling your pup into puppy kindergarten class can also improve their socialization skills and make them feel at ease around strangers. 

Try to eliminate as many stressors from your puppy’s life as possible and use positive reinforcement training to ease your pup’s fear.

And if your efforts seem in vain, you should consider enlisting the help of a canine behavioral expert or a certified dog trainer.  

3. Possession

Also known as resource guarding, possession aggression can be another reason why your puppy growls.

Puppies who exhibit this type of behavior will have a strong urge to protect their resources such as food, toys, territory, or other objects.

If your puppy has possession aggression, they may growl, snap, and even bite if they think that someone will take their things away.

Most puppies with this problem have a strong need to guard their food, but make no mistake, your pup can get overly protective over anything they find valuable.

For example, some puppies will growl over a seemingly unimportant item, such as a ball of paper, with the same intensity as they would over a full bowl of food. 

Growling is just one of many signs of resource guarding, and your pup might also snap and bite when someone approaches or tries to take away their possession.

Furthermore, some puppies will also fight with their siblings over various items or favorite people.

If you think that your puppy’s growling is a sign of possession aggression, you will have to address the underlying issue properly.

Instead of punishing your pup for growling, you should teach them to trust you around their belongings.

The best way to do this is to show your pup that they will be rewarded every time they drop the item they are guarding. 

4. Frustration

Like children, puppies can get disappointed and frustrated when they don’t have things their way.

If your puppy doesn’t know how to process their emotions calmly, they will likely try to relieve their frustration by growling and snapping at you.

It’s hard to resist spoiling a new puppy, but to avoid dealing with frustration growling later, you will have to learn how to say “no” now. 

Puppies use frustration growling to communicate that their desires haven’t been met.

So, your puppy might want their favorite toy and is now growling to remind you that it’s time for your daily play session.

Essentially, if your puppy is used to getting things their way, they will easily become frustrated and use growling to show disappointment. 

Obedience training is your best chance of dealing with a frustrated puppy. If you don’t know how to train your pup, consider working with a professional trainer or enrolling your pup into a puppy kindergarten class.

Teaching your puppy basic obedience commands will help you deal with their frustrating reactions when things don’t go according to their plan. 

5. Playfulness

It’s not uncommon for dogs of all ages, including puppies, to be very vocal during play.

While puppy growls can sound scary, even more so if you are a novice owner, this isn’t anything you should worry about.

Your puppy might growl at you while playing fetch, or they might growl at other puppies while they are wrestling or playing chase. 

Playful growls are completely normal and nothing you should worry about. If you are a novice dog owner, take your puppy to socialization classes and observe how they interact with other puppies there.

Understanding how puppies play and interact with one another will help you distinguish playful growls from fighting growls.

While play growling is completely normal, you can stop playing with your pup if you notice that the growls are becoming more intense.

If this happens, just take a short break and give your pup a few minutes to calm down before resuming playing.

And if the same thing happens while your puppy is playing with another dog, separate them until they both calm down.

As soon as your puppy seems calm enough, you can let them play with other dogs again. Giving your pup a time out can help keep things under control and ensure that playful growling doesn’t escalate into fighting.

We actually have an article about playful growling with other dogs and puppies. We like to call this game of puppies growling and showing teeth, bitey face.

6. Territoriality

Some dogs and puppies feel the need to defend their territory and might start growling at anyone new who is entering the property.

If your pup is growling every time a mailman or delivery person rings the doorbell, they are showing classic signs of territorial aggression. 

Puppies with territorial aggression may start growling over other territories as well. Your pup may start growling whenever someone takes their place on the sofa or sits in the puppy’s favorite chair. 

Bear in mind, a territorial puppy might start growling at anyone who is overstepping on their perceived territory.

If this is the case, they might even start growling at family members or at you. Luckily, you can get a trainer or a behavioral expert to work with your dog and help curb their territorial tendencies. 

FAQs About Why Puppies Growl

Is It Normal For A Puppy To Growl?

It’s completely normal for young puppies to growl, and growling isn’t usually a sign of aggressive behavior.

Like adult dogs, puppies use many types of vocalization, including growling, to communicate with their owners. While most people back off when they hear a growling dog, you don’t have to be afraid of a growling puppy.

Playfulness is the most common reason small puppies growl.

However, pain, fear, territoriality, possession aggression, and resource guarding can also be the reasons that can cause your puppy to start growling all of a sudden. 

What Do I Do If My Puppy Growls?

Growling is one of many ways puppies communicate, and you as an owner need to understand what your puppy is trying to say in order to react properly.

When it comes to puppies, growling is usually not a sign of aggression, but your pup may snap or try to bite you.

The best thing you can do to stop this behavior is to find out why your pup growled in the first place and resolve that issue.

For example, if your puppy growls only while playing, you can curb this behavior by stopping the play session and giving your pup a few minutes to calm down.

Please note, yelling and punishing your puppy for growling won’t fix the problem. Instead, it can make matters even worse and your puppy can end up being afraid of you.

What Are Signs Of Aggression In Puppies?

The most common signs of aggression in puppies are growling, snarling, mouthing, snapping, dominance, stiff posture, fixed gaze, and biting.

However, puppies do like to play rough, and normal puppy play usually includes growling, chasing, biting, and barking.

Since normal puppy play and aggression have some similar elements, it can be hard to distinguish one from the other, especially if you are a novice owner.

You should know that problem behaviors are more intense and last longer than normal play behaviors.

Why Does My Puppy Suddenly Get Aggressive?

If your puppy that has never before shown signs of aggression starts to growl, snap, or try to bite you, chances are that they are in pain.

Pain is one of the most common causes of aggression in puppies and can be a sign of injury or disease. If you suspect that your puppy is in pain, take them to the vet as soon as possible to get appropriate treatment. 

Conclusion

While it might sound scary at first, growling is just one of many vocalizations puppies use to communicate with their owners.

When it comes to puppies, growling is rarely a sign of aggression, but it can be a sign that your puppy is in pain. To be on the safe side, here’s what to do, and not do, when a puppy growls:

  • Try to figure out what is causing your puppy to growl
  • As growling can be a sign of pain, take your puppy to the vet
  • It’s normal for puppies to growl, so don’t punish your pup for it

Although it may sound intimidating and menacing at first, growling is a form of communication and the best you can do is to learn to understand what your pup is telling you.

Is your puppy growling? If so, do you know why?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Why Is My Puppy Growling? What Should I Do? - Golden Retriever puppy growling at older dog lying on the ground.

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