If your dog growls, when someone comes near you, 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 to get it to stop.
So, why does my dog growl when someone comes near me? Possible reasons why your dog growls when someone comes near you are that it is being protective, it has learned that the behavior is rewarded or it is fearful.
Since there are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it, 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 it to stop.
Reasons why your dog growls when someone comes near you
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.
The cause could be that it is being overly protective. This would be more likely if it shows other threatening body language signs, when it does it, by doing things such as snarling, showing its teeth and being stiff. It would also be more likely if it tends to do it more when the person approaches in a more aggressive or direct manner and if it is a person that it has not met before.
Encouraging the behavior
It could also be the case that your dog has learned that the behavior gets rewarded. If you tend to give it things such as extra attention or treats, when it growls, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
The cause might also be that it is fearful of the person. This would be more likely if it also shows submissive body language such as hiding behind you, making itself appear smaller and hiding its tail.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.
What is different when your dog does not growl
If your dog does not always growl, when people go near you, it would help to consider what is different when it does not growl. For example, if it only growls when strangers go near you, it would be more likely to be due to thinking they are a threat.
What else happened when it first started doing it
If your dog did not always growl, when people used to go near you, it would also 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 learning that the behavior gets rewarded.
The body language it shows
It would also help to consider the body language it shows when it barks. If it shows positive body language signs such as having its tongue out, wagging its tail or being relaxed, it would be more likely that it is doing it more due to excitement. Whereas, if it shows signs of aggression, such as snarling, being stiff and showing its teeth, it would be more likely that it is doing it due to being overly protective.
What to do about your dog growling when someone comes near you
Below are some options you have when dealing with the behavior.
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you encourage the behaviors you want to see by rewarding them and discourage unwanted behaviors by not rewarding them. To use it to get your dog to stop growling at people, you could reward it when while it is not growling at people and stop rewarding it when it starts growling.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it could be the case that it has learned that the behavior gets rewarded. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want it to and to avoid rewarding it when it does not.
Train it to associate other dogs with rewards
One option you have is to train your dog to associate other people with rewards.
To do this you would start giving your dog special treats when you are approaching other people with it and stop when your dog begins to growl at them. By doing this it will learn that growling around other people results in it not getting rewards.
If your dog becomes overly aggressive around other people, it would help to get help from a professional dog trainer. By doing so, you should be able to get expert advice tailored to your particular dog and see how to get it to stop safely.
Redirect its focus
It would also help to redirect its focus towards something else when it seems likely to start barking. Things to redirect its focus towards could include a toy or to perform a command such as to sit. Doing this should help to get it out of the habit of barking when it sees other people.