Dog Growling is not always Bad and is part of dog language

It’s not always easy to understand your dog language and dog growling tends to frighten quickly…

In this article, I tell you about the biggest miscommunication that took place between Mom and me, so that it doesn’t happen to you!

Jahan wearing his Christmas costume
Westie Jahan wearing is Christmas costume

I was a hyper-dominant little westie.

When I was a baby, a few weeks after I left the kennel, Mom wanted to introduce me to my future veterinarian. She wanted me to feel confident when I would go for vaccinations and sores.

While the vet was auscultated me, she wanted to touch my buttocks… and I didn’t want to. So I growled at her, pretending to bite her. She caressed me again to calm me down, then started to check me again; again, she wanted to touch my buttocks… I grunted again… The vet explained to mom that I was very dominant, that she was going to try one last time and would have to put me in a submissive position if I didn’t listen. Again I snarled and found myself in a submissive position. I was so angry that I screamed and fought for a good 15 minutes!

Since then, I love my vet and I even give her kisses. I’m always so happy to go see her that I cry and act crazy as soon as I recognize the parking lot!

My 1st advice: Listen to your veterinarian. If he thinks your dog should be put in a submissive position, let him do it, even if it is impressive. Your dog can indeed urinate, howl and empty his anal glands.

My education has not been easy.

The westie, like any self-respecting terrier, is a stubborn dog. Add in my case a hyper dominant temperament and you get an explosive cocktail…

After this famous first visit to my vet, Mom listened to her advice. Every time I did something stupid or refused to obey, she put me in a position of submission and then I was punished (she put me in my kennel).

This has been a very difficult and challenging time for both of us. Mom often cried in the evenings, wondering if she was going to be able to educate me. It was a real arm wrestling. As soon as Mom had a gesture of tenderness and love towards me, I would try to get over it!

My 2nd piece of advice: don’t give up! Training a hyper dominant dog can be very difficult and confidence can be slow to build. There may be a “relapse” in adolescence. But the relationship you will create is really worth these efforts!

In a future article, I will give you a powerful tip to make your dog understand from the beginning that you are the boss.

Difficulties understanding the meanings of my growls?

Looking back, Mom wonders if we didn’t have a huge communication problem…

Many terriers, but also other breeds like the Rottweiler, growl a lot as part of their dog language.

My excitement growls were always a sign to Mom that it was just play. However, it took her a long time to realize that when I grunted when she kissed me, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to… On the contrary, I love it so much that it’s my way of asking for more and saying how much I love it!!!

Let’s be honest. I forget it but Mom still feels very bad when she thinks I was certainly asking her for more petting and kissing. And she was shouting and punishing me.

When Mom pets me, I communicate a lot, both through my gestures, but also through all my vocalizations: cries, grunts, sighs, “purring” … It even seems like I’m trying to talk because my noises can be so close to “mommy” and “I love you”. If Mom doesn’t tell me that she loves me at least 100 times a day, it means she’s sick, so I know exactly what it means!

I am a growling dog, a crying dog, a turbulent dog, a joyful dog. I am very talkative with all my body and sounds.

My 3rd piece of advice: if your dog growls, observe his general attitude and the circumstances. It could be that growling is actually his way of telling you how much he loves you! It would be a shame to punish him for that…

Happy dog growling sound.

Yes, this dog growls when petted! Just like me…

Why does my dog growl at me – types of dog growls.

Mom could counted 8 types of dog growls:

  • Dog growls when playing. That means your dog has a lot of fun and want more.
  • Dog growls when petting. He is expressing his pleasure, love… and he wants more.
  • Requesting attention or asking for something.
  • Dog growling in sleep. Yes, my growls are different when I sleep. When I sleep with Mom, I also often growl like snoring.
  • Frustration. A dog who is frustrated because he can not play with the dog friend on the opposite side of the fence, or because he wants to welcome his owner but can not do it because of a fence or something else.
  • Warning growling. I am afraid of something, I feel uncomfortable and I want the situation to stop. I especially did it when I had my accident. I was suffering and was afraid to suffer more. I didn’t want Mom to touch me although I was bleeding and needed to be sent to the clinic. I warned her once and I bite her the second time. Some dogs also do it for their food, toys, belongings. I don’t as Mom taught me I had to be patient and she would always give my stuffs back.
  • Agressive growling. I never do it as I am a very kind dog and I would like everyone being my friend. But of course, a lot of dogs do and it’s the most famous growl.
  • Fight. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens to me when I am attacked by another dog. It is normal that I growl back as I want my hater to stop attacking me!!! I only tell him that, even if I don’t want to fight and run away, I am also ready to fight.
Dog growling

If you want to know more about growls, you can read this study.

How to stop a dog from growling at family members?

The only reason you should stop your dog from growling is if it does it in an agressive way at family members or for no reason with outsiders.

This is why it is so important to know the reason why your dog is doing it and to learn the different types of growls.

Only after you know the reason and it is a bad one – your dog wants to show he is the boss – you should stop him. The best way to stop him is by saying NO. This is obvious but something some people forget. I have seen many dog owners expecting their dog to do what they want although they never tell it!!! You can not punish your dog for something he doesn’t know, expecting him to guess what you want…

A firm “NO” or “STOP” should be enough to stop your dog. Otherwise, it means your dog think he is your boss!!! You can add his name to make it more impactful.

If your dog is in a testing period – he is a puppy or a teenager – and refuse to obey, you should put it in a submission position.

Dog growling for no reason.

If you can not find the reason why your dog is growling, you should ask your veterinarian.

Maybe you dog is suffering and you didn’t notice it or he has a psychological problem. In both case, you need to find and eliminate the cause.


If you have a dog that growls under positive circumstances, make sure, by observing his attitude, that he does so to show his pleasure and love.

Don’t conclude that dog growling is always negative. It is a normal part of dog language.

In my case, the fact that I am a westie contributes greatly to this habit, but also the fact that I was raised with cats and that Mom also tends to show me her pleasure in petting me by making noise.

As with humans, remember that behavior feeds behavior!!! If you behave harshly and aggressively with your dog, he will be aggressive. If you behave with softness and love, he will be the most adorable furry dog eager to cuddle like me.

If you want to read more articles about the westie and its character, or to choose your dog, check out this section.

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Westie Jahan with his Christmas costume
Dog Growling is not always Bad and is part of dog language

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