According to the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), a British society for the study of animal behaviour, growling as a form of aggression is a part of a range of canine behaviours that dogs use to deal with life’s everyday challenges. Many of these behaviours are passive, the APBC advises, and it is only when the dog changes from trying to avoid a situation, e.g. moving away from it, to actively trying to manage the situation, e.g. with a growl, that we as owners term it ‘aggression’.
The dog of course growls for a variety of reasons; these can include fear, insecurity, guarding behaviour, offensive aggression and during play. Although all these factors can elicit a growl, to the expert, these growls are unique in their tone and pitch, representing either a dog enjoying play, or an unhappy canine. Growling often serves as a warning, and though it is often human nature to respond negatively to our dog's growling noises, they are actually providing us the courtesy of sharing the information on how they are feeling! They are expressing themselves.
As a dog owner, remember there is a valid reason for the growl; instead of punishment for the behaviour, we should provide reassurance and support for our dogs. (Although disagreements with other dogs can be serious situations to manage, recognising your dog's experience of the situation and increasing their security as an individual can improve the symptoms by addressing the underlying cause of their behaviour.)
When a dog uses aggressive growling, it is invariably because it thinks that it is under some form of threat, says the APBC. For example, the threat could be to its personal safety; the possibility of the removal of something it values highly; or the fact the dog is being prevented from doing something it really wants to do, which causes frustration.
Some dogs are born with inherited tendencies that might, if not controlled, make aggressive behaviour more likely; however, there is no reason why a dog cannot learn alternative responses. A dog that appears to be naturally aggressive is actually responding to the combined effect of the learning experiences they have had over their lifetime.
A happy, healthy dog must receive sufficient exercise, bonding time with their owner and a nutritious, balanced diet. Some dogs require a Glucosamine for Dogs supplement to be included in their diet in order to maintain optimum health and mobility, increasing their quality of life long term, and also their day to day wellbeing. After all, we all know that feeling in general ill-health can leave us feeling impatient or unhappy, even when we are around our families, in relative safety.
The RSPCA has a ‘Companion Animals Pet Care Fact Sheet’ which owners may find useful.
A range of canine supplements including Glucosamine for Dogs are available from Scientific Nutritional Products. For more information or to receive one-to-one advice specific to your dog contact our nutritional specialist Peter Fishpool on Tel: 01377 254900 or visit www.horsesupplementsdirect.co.uk to keep up to date with our educational, weekly blog!