If your dog has been growling when you pet it, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do about them. 

So, why does my dog growl at me when I pet it? Possible reasons why your dog growls, when you pet it, are that it is actually excited, it has an injury, it wants you to stop, fear, anxiety or that it is being aggressive. 

Since there are a number of possible reasons, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the main cause, it should become a lot easier to get your dog to stop doing it. 

Why your dog growls when you pet it

Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason. 

Injury

The cause could be that it has an injury and that the act of petting your dog is causing it to be in pain. This would be more likely if your dog has started doing it suddenly and if it has been showing other signs of being injured such as limping. In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Excitement

Sometimes, dogs will actually growl because they are excited and it might be why yours has been doing it. This would be more likely to be the reason why your dog has been doing it if it has been showing other signs of excitement. These could include wagging its tail, jumping up at you or an open mouth grin with its tongue hanging out. 

It wants you to stop

The cause could be that your dog wants you to stop petting it. This would be more likely if it also does things such as turn its head away from you and to try to distance itself from you.

Fear

The reason that it growls could be that it is fearful of something. This would be more likely if it only seems to do it in situations where it might be fearful. These situations could include when there are fireworks, when someone is around that it does not like or when there are construction works outside.

In this case, it would help to get rid of the thing that it is fearful of if possible. You could also try getting it to stay in a different room and desensitization training. 

It might also be the case that it is fearful because you have been interacting with it too aggressively. It would help to be calm with your dog and to try to use positive reinforcement training to get it to behave the way you want as opposed to using fear-based tactics.

Anxiety

It might also be the case that it has been doing it due to having anxiety about something. This would also be more likely if it tends to do it more at a certain time. If it tends to do it when you pet it when you are leaving home, it might be the case that it has some separation anxiety. 

Aggression

It could also be the case that it has been doing it because it is being aggressive and warning you to back off. This would be more likely if it shows other signs of being aggressive such as being stiff, pulling its ears back and bearing its teeth.

In this case, it would be recommended to get help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist in your area. 

Being too forceful

It might be the case that you have been petting it too forcefully and your dog is growling because it does not like it. This would be more likely if it also does things such as duck its head.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.

The body language it shows

It would help to consider the body language it shows when it growls at you. 

If it is also doing things such as wagging its tail, jumping up at you, having a wide open mouth with its tongue out, it would be more likely that it is excited. 

Whereas, if it shows signs such as being stiff, pulling its ears back and bearing its teeth, it would be more likely that it is being aggressive.  

What else happened when it first started doing it

If it did not always growl, when you pet it, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as getting an injury, becoming anxious or because you started being too forceful.

What is different when your dog growls

It would also help to consider if there is a certain time that it does it more since the timing might have something to do with it. For example, if it does it more when you are about to leave home, it could be the case that it has some separation anxiety. Whereas, if it does it more when you have not fed it yet, it might be trying to let you know that it wants food.

What to do about your dog growling when you pet it

Below are some options you have when dealing with your dog growling at you when petting it. 

Take it to a vet

If your dog has started doing it suddenly and it seems like it could be due to an injury or you cannot figure out why it has been doing it, the best option would be to take it to a vet. By doing so, you should be able to get expert advice tailored towards your dog and to rule out injury as a cause.

Get help from a dog trainer

If it seems like it is doing it aggressively or you cannot get it to stop, it would be recommended to get help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist in your area. By doing so, you should be able to see why your dog has been doing it and how to get it to stop safely. 

Avoid being too forceful or intimidating

As mentioned above, it might be the case that you have been doing it too aggressively. When interacting with your dog it would help to be calm and not too forceful.

Avoid encouraging the behavior

It could be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged the behavior by giving it things it wants when it growls. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want it to and to stop rewarding it, when it does not, until it starts behaving again.

Positive reinforcement training

Positive reinforcement training is where you train your dog to behave in a certain way by giving it things that it wants when it behaves correctly.

To use it to get it to stop growling you would reward it when it does not growl and stop rewarding it when it starts growling. 

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I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.