Growls and Barks and Whines, Oh My! Part 1

What’s All the Noise About?

Most dog trainers appreciate a dog that wears his heart on his sleeve and lets you know what he’s thinking with his vocalizations.  On the other hand, your average dog owner isn’t tuned into the subtle meaning behind dog sounds, and often wants their dog to “just be quiet”.  Why?

It’s simple.  To the average pet owner, a dog that makes noise is at best, a nuisance, and at worst, a threat of aggression.  In this 3 part series, we’ll look at the reasons why a dog might be noisy (or communicative) – and how to interpret this for your best interests – and the dog’s.

A struggle or a game? It depends on how you train it.

The Tugging Terror

If you’re playing tug-of-war with your dog, and he starts growling as he yanks like a maniac, do you think he’s threatening you?  Chances are he’s not mad, he’s excited! Giddy like a born predator getting to practice an innate skill. Tug of war is a fantastic energy-burner for dogs. It mimics an ancient tradition of tearing apart a fresh kill with a pack mate (don’t worry, you can keep it on the stuffed animal level).  If you practice rules of politeness and safety, tug can be a cooperative game that builds your bond while teaching the dog obedience and self-control. 

Good rules for tug include:

  • Dog “outs” (releases toy) on command
  • No mouth on skin or clothing, ever
  • No taking the toy from your hand without permission, ever

It’s true you should avoid games that get your dog over-aroused if you’re not going to teach and enforce the rules.  That will end up rewarding a dog for being out of control. But, if you practice games with rules while your dog is growly/playful/excited, it makes it easy for him to show manners during times of high arousal.  Plus, you get the added benefits of big-time energy release and the two of you having fun together. Giving your dog a chance to “go nuts” with you and his toys makes it less likely he’ll do so on your furniture, yard, and neighbors.

For more on how to teach your dog the rules for tug, read the article here called Tug of War – The San Francisco SPCA.

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