When dogs growl
Dog bites are serious incidents causing trauma both physically and emotionally to everyone involved. National Dog Bite Prevention Week takes place annually the second full week in April. This article focuses on the emotional implications of the dog after a dog bites. As the old cliché says “don’t kill the messenger” often we are more apt to kill the growl of the dog which is the dogs way of saying I am reaching my limit or I am uncomfortable. We want to stop the dog from growling which in turn is silencing the early warning signs of trouble ahead.
Generally we don’t like for our dogs to growl most of us view growling as a sign of undesirable aggression. In reality our pet may be offering an early warning sign that they are enduring too much emotional or physical stress.
Our reaction to a growling dog is to shut it down usually with a correction — which shuts off the early warning from the dog. Correcting a growling dog is actually like turning off a smoke detector when the battery is low instead of replacing the battery. The growl just like the beep of a low battery signals us of possible disaster.
When your dog growls their stress or comfort level has become significant enough to ask for a break—heed the warning! Correcting the dog silences the early warning and creates a powder keg and could blow in the future. A better option is to be more in tuned to your pet observe for reasons the dog might be growling, is it because they are stressed and can we remove the stressor or can we be reassuring. Often taking a break from the stressor is enough for the dog to refocus and calm down. The re-directing of our pet also teaches us more about what they can tolerate and situations that challenge their physical and emotional well-being.
Holidays are always stressful on us individually and as a family. We all experience stress on one level or another and our pets are no different. When family and friends gather it is like the circus is coming to town and our feelings are often mirrored and magnified through our pets. Listen and watch for those early signs of low tolerance from Fido and make arrangements to lower their stress. Sometimes a snap or bite is the only way a dog knows how to express their frustrations.
The key to holiday party success is prior preparation for your trusted pet. Giving Fido his own space to escape and relax is one of my favorite plans. I allow Hobo the Wonder Dog to meet and greet guest but always retire him to his quite space early. This makes his world less stressful as he rests quietly knowing who is in the house enjoying his treats and safe zone. For me, I relax knowing he is comfortable, safe, and not indulging in off limit foods offered by well intended guest.
When your dog growls listen, watch, and reassure. The growl might be the only warning you get before the snap.
Life is better with a dog — woolf!
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