My dog barks and growls; what should I do?

You have adopted a charming and very affectionate companion, and you are thrilled. There's just one problem: your dog is growling and barking more than it should. So much so that your walks have become a source of apprehension. You are afraid of people's reactions, but also that one day your dog will go to the next level and bite or even attack someone else.

But why does your dog bark and growl? And how can we help?

Why does my dog bark and growl?

When a dog barks or growls, it is important to ask yourself why and in what situation these "attacks" occur. Indeed, there is a difference between a dog that barks all the time and a dog that only barks in specific circumstances.

Your dog barks:

Does your dog bark when there are a lot of people around or when it's alone? It may be that it cannot stand the loneliness or your absence. If, on the other hand, it barks when there are people around, it is probably not comfortable with a lot of commotion. Like us, every dog has its own temperament.

Your dog growls:

Be aware that when your dog growls, that is its way of giving a warning. For example, sometimes a dog growls at children. This is actually a way of warning them that it doesn't want to be bothered. In many cases, dogs that bite "for no apparent reason" are those that have already given several warnings and no longer see any other solution.

Don't hesitate to consult a behaviourist if you notice that your dog is unusually aggressive.

Your dog barks at people it doesn't know or at a particular person:

Like most of us, dogs are not necessarily comfortable around strangers. After all, we wouldn't want to be stroked by strangers either. Does your dog bark or growl when a particular person is around? Beware! Make sure that person doesn't have bad intentions towards your dog. Sadly, sometimes our companions also take a dislike to someone for no reason. Some essential oils (link) can be effective in alleviating this.

Your dog barks when it is in an unfamiliar situation:

Children shouting, the sound of a cane, so many situations that seem to arouse anxiety in your pet. This is why it is advisable to expose your dog to as many situations as possible from an early age. These situations include: 

  • putting it in the car
  • walking it through a crowd
  • leaving it alone at home
  • wearing hats, skirts, shorts, etc.
  • bringing it into contact with children and the elderly
  • socialising it with other dogs
  • ...

In short, as you can see, you should expose your dog to all kinds of stimuli! You'll thank us for it later :-)

Your dog barks or growls when you want to cuddle it:

It is often assumed that all dogs love physical contact, as evidenced by their constant licking, yet, just like humans, there are more or less introverted or anti-social animals. Don't force hugs on a dog that doesn't like them.

If your previously cuddle-loving dog growls when you approach, it could well be that it's hurt somewhere or has experienced some kind of trauma. A vet can help you find the cause of this new problem.

Remember to give your dog some space, too. Like all of us, dogs also need time to rest and relax quietly and are not always willing to give or receive affection. Create a space for your dog where it feels comfortable and can take refuge when it feels the need.

The dog barks or growls because it is ill:

A dog that is ill or suffering from a bowel problem, for example, or has swallowed a harmful food will be likely to growl or bark to express its discomfort. Again, if your dog is normally cheerful and suddenly becomes aggressive, seek advice immediately!

Your dog barks and growls for no reason:

Remember that most dogs respond to their owner's behaviour. Do you feel stressed when you meet another dog when you're out on a walk and pull on your dog's lead instead of letting them get to know each other? That's a bad idea! A taut leash sends the message: pull!

In conclusion, although dogs theoretically always have a good reason for barking or growling, it can seem to us humans that our pet is being aggressive for no apparent or logical reason.

Some dogs suffer from behavioural problems which might be caused by a training problem or by past traumas. In this case, the best thing to do is to call upon a dog trainer who will identify the problem and suggest solutions to resolve it.

So what are your own thoughts on the topic? Does your dog bark a lot? And if so, what have you done to address this problem? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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