Humans talk, dogs bark and growl. But if your dog seems to bark at the drop of a feather, chances are you are going out of your mind wondering what you can do to stop him. But first, you need to know why he is so vocal.
There may be times when your dog seems to be barking or growling at nothing at all but know that he can hear lots of things you can’t. A dog’s hearing is 4 times better than his fellow human. He can hear things 80 feet away, while his person can hear just 20 feet away.
Why does my dog growl or bark at every noise?
Dogs growl and bark for many reasons, especially when they hear things. Here are some reasons why dogs growl.
Your Dog Feels Threatened
When you feel threatened you probably go into fight or flight mode. Same with your dog. Unfamiliar sounds can put him into this mode, which he verbalizes by growling or barking. The doorbell, a strange voice, another dog barking or growling, a sudden loud noise – these are just a few of the things that can provoke your dog’s guarding and fear instincts. Think of unusual, new, or overwhelming sounds and then think growling dog.
In conjunction with the growling, you may see changes in his body language, including the following:
- Balance changes
- Raised hackles
Your Dog is Generally Anxious
An anxious or fearful dog will react to stimuli his more confident cousin won’t. When an anxious dog growls, he tells someone or something to back off. In addition to growling at noises, these dogs can also react to a broad range of stimuli, such as having their nails cut, going to the vet, being bathed, and more. He will exhibit the same body language as the dog that’s threatened.
Your Dog Wants to Play
Often, in response to a fellow canine’s bark or growl as a play invitation, your dog will respond in kind. He will growl and bark, but his body language will be different. He will:
- Bow in play
- Bounce around
- Lay down
- Turn around
Your Dog Is Frustrated
One instance when pups feel frustrated is when they are hemmed in, and in this case, we’ll say hemmed in on the leash. While strolling, you come upon another dog on a leash who starts barking. Your dog will probably feel frustrated and begin to bark and growl in response. In a case like this, it’s best to make sure there is ample distance between dogs to avoid any aggressive behaviors.
- Some body language of a frustrated dog include:
- Pull at the leash
- Lunge at the barrier (crate or leash)
- Become hyper
Your Dog Hurts
Although not an explicit reaction to noise, a dog in pain may growl, whine and/or bark. Most dogs bear pain heroically, but sometimes it may be too much. Your dog may seem fine until you touch the afflicted area when he will then growl. Having no previous sign he was in pain, you may be shocked by his growling. Other dogs in pain will growl when you just approach them. Besides growling and maybe snapping at you, the main indication that your dog hurts is a distinct change in his behavior.
Your Dog is Territorial
A dog guarding his territory may react to any number of things, including noises and sounds. Dogs are wonderful at making sure their home and people are safe, so a strange noise outside may elicit growling and barking. He may also become territorial when an unknown, to him, person enters the house. Some signs of territorial behavior include:
Growl at windows and doors
- Bark at fence lines, especially if there is something on the other side
- Act unfriendly to guests
- Be aggressive to anyone or anything he perceives to be invading his territory
Your Dog Resource Guards
Again, not a reaction to noises, but another thing that provokes growling and barking in dogs is when they resource guard. What this means is they feel they “own” their bed, a toy, bones, and sometimes people. The guarding behaviors can be ugly and include:
- Freeze and stare when you come near the coveted item.
- Growl and bark when you approach
- Snap and show teeth when you get too close
Why Are Some Dogs More Reactive to Noise?
Just like humans, dogs have different personalities and varying behavioral tendencies. Some of the behaviors above make a dog more prone to be growlers and barkers. These include:
- Your dog is intrinsically anxious, nervous, and stressed, making him more prone to be reactive to everything he hears.
- Your dog is an extreme guarder who perceives everything and anything to be a threat.
- Your dog becomes excited when he hears a car or other familiar sound.
- Your dog joins the chorus of all the other barking dogs in the neighborhood.
Should you stop a dog from growling?
Not that you even could, but you never want to punish a dog to stop him from growling. This would be akin to someone punishing you for talking or laughing. The good news is, there are other ways to handle growling to reduce it.
How do I get my dog to stop growling at every noise?
One of the most effective ways of dealing with a growling and barking dog is to ignore the behavior. However, if you live in an apartment or other place where his barking will bother people, this is not a viable solution.
Another technique is that instead of stopping your dog from growling, redirect him. In other words, you need to take his mind off his reason for growling and direct it to something else. You can take him for a walk, or start a game of frisbee toss, or some other things he enjoys. The only caution here is if he associates the new activity with his growling, it may end up reinforcing the behavior.
Counter conditioning is another option. Here, you make or play some kind of noise and when he doesn’t react, you reward him. Gradually increase the volume of the noise and each time he doesn’t react, he gets a treat. You need to be diligent with this by doing the training daily.
Finally, if all else fails, employ the expertise of a trainer who can work with you to identify your dog’s underlying issues and develop a plan of attack to address them.