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Why do dogs growl when they play {2023}

Why do dogs growl when they play

Dogs sometimes make a growling sound when they are playing and having fun. This type of growl is known as a “play growl”. Similarly, humans may also get loud and shout when they are enjoying themselves, such as at a party or when watching a competitive sport and cheering for their team. When playing with a tug toy or during a game of chase, your dog may also make a play growl as a way of expressing excitement rather than anger.

When dogs growl during play, it does not necessarily mean that they are being aggressive. In fact, it usually means the opposite – that they are really enjoying themselves! Sometimes, your dog might even growl when they are being cuddled or patted in a way that they really like. Some dogs also use growling as a way of expressing happiness or saying hello. These types of growls are a sign that your dog is feeling content and happy.

Just because a dog growls, it doesn’t always mean that they are getting ready to fight. When dogs play and growl, it’s a sign of excitement and not a warning for other dogs to stay away. However, humans may have trouble telling the difference between a dog’s playful growl and a growl that signals aggression.

 Dogs Play Different Ways

When dogs play, they often initiate it with a quick downward dog pose or a little bow. This posture signals that they’re ready to play in a friendly manner. As the dogs become more comfortable with each other, they may skip the formal pose and just start playing by bouncing their front feet on the ground. Some common ways that dogs play include:

  • Face biting
  • Friendly growling during roughhousing
  • Wrestling with one another
  • Tug of war
  • Chasing each other

Although some of these play behaviors may appear aggressive, they are usually just part of the natural and playful interactions between dogs. It’s common for dogs to growl and snarl while playing, which may worry some owners. However, in most cases, it’s harmless and just part of normal dog behavior.

How to recognize a play growl?

Dogs can communicate with each other through growls, and they can differentiate between playful growls and warning growls. However, as humans, we can look for more obvious signs to understand what our dog’s growling means. By paying attention to our dog’s body language, we can determine if they are happy or angry. If a dog’s tail is stiff or held erect, this is a signal that they want space or for you to back off. Similarly, raised hair on a dog’s back is another warning sign.

Growls Warning 

However, there are other types of growls that have a completely different meaning. For example, a dog may growl to threaten another dog or growl when it feels trapped. Growling is also a common sign of resource guarding or when a dog is injured and wants to keep others away. In these situations, growling indicates that something is bothering your dog and it’s important to pay attention.

These types of growls can be thought of as stress growls, as they indicate that your dog is uncomfortable. Recognizing these growls is crucial, as it allows you to intervene before the situation escalates and your dog feels the need to resort to biting.

Tell the Difference How to

To differentiate between happy growls and stress growls, pay attention to your dog’s body language. If your dog is giving you a submissive grin or play bowing, then any growling is likely just part of playtime. On the other hand, if your dog seems stiff and is staring with a hard expression, the growl may be a sign of stress or aggression.

Sometimes, if you know your dog well, you can also tell the difference by the tone of their growl. A loud, higher-pitched growl may indicate something different than a soft, lower-pitched growl. However, when in doubt, it’s better to assume the growl is a threat. This is especially important with dogs you’re not familiar with, as it’s better to end a game prematurely than risk injury. It’s also important to teach young children to treat all growls with caution.

Why do dogs growl when they play
Why do dogs growl when they play

Don’t Punish Growling

It’s important to never punish your dog for growling. Growling can either be a benign behavior or a symptom of stress in your dog. If you punish your dog for growling, you’ll only suppress the growling without addressing the underlying issue. For instance, if your dog growls in the presence of other dogs and you punish them for it, your dog may stop growling, but they will still feel uncomfortable around other dogs. Moreover, the lack of growling may mislead you into thinking your dog is no longer stressed, while in reality, they may still snap without warning.

Unfortunately, punishing your dog for growling can also worsen the underlying problem. For instance, if your dog growls at another dog and you punish them for growling, your dog may think that the other dog is the cause of your negative reaction. This can intensify your dog’s discomfort around other dogs, as they may now associate other dogs with your anger.

what is meant by stress growing

Stress growls are a way for dogs to warn others to back off and avoid further conflict before resorting to more serious actions like biting. Dogs typically use growling as a means of preventing a situation from escalating and avoid attacking or biting altogether. This is why it’s essential to appreciate the value of growls in providing insight into your dog’s state of mind and giving you time to intervene and prevent injury. A dog that attacks without warning can be incredibly dangerous, so understanding and respecting your dog’s growling can help keep everyone safe.

Don’t Punish Growling

It’s important to understand that correcting or punishing your dog for growling is not a solution, as growling is either harmless or a sign of stress. Punishing your dog for growling will only suppress the growling and not address the underlying issue. For instance, if your dog growls when around other dogs and you punish the growling, your dog will still feel uncomfortable around other dogs. Moreover, the absence of growling might deceive you into believing that the situation is resolved, whereas your dog may still be stressed and may resort to biting without warning.

In fact, punishing your dog for growling can make the problem worse. For instance, if your dog growls at another dog and you punish the growling, your dog might associate your negative reaction with the other dog, which may make your dog feel more uncomfortable around other dogs. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid punishing your dog for growling and instead focus on addressing the underlying issue causing the stress.


Just because your dog growls doesn’t mean that they are dangerous, or aggressive, or even mad.


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