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This is probably an odd question, but... When I play with dogs, I like to be a tad 'rough' (not total rolling-on-the-floor roughhousing, but during play I'll give a gentle tug to their ears or tail-- as long as I know that dog is OK with that kind of behavior). But one thing I tend to do when playing tug-of-war is growl. I was... a bit of an odd child, and taught myself how to growl and hiss when I was pretty young. I actually sound quite a bit like a dog when I do so, which has managed scared the crap out of my friends a couple times when they didn't realize it was me. I don't really growl at any other time except tug-of-war, but I'm concerned that I may be training them to growl. Though if the growling is only during tug-of-war, would they associate the two and understand it's only acceptable to growl during that one game? I don't want them to start growling at people trying to pick up their ball to play fetch. Or guarding their food bowl. Or in absolutely any situation other than tug-of-war.

Now, I've never had my own dog. This is just from playing with other people's dogs. I've caught myself doing it a couple times and asked the owners about it. They usually just brush it off and tell me it's fine, though their attitude seems more as if they've interpreted my question as me being afraid of a growling dog rather than me being concerned about giving them bad behaviors. I've been reading training books and doing breed research for about 2 or 3 years now in preparation for when I am ready for my own dog, and hopefully will be ready in the next year or two, but this isn't exactly something that comes up a lot in training books.
 

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Interesting question. I don't know what the answer is but I have my own story to add. A little while ago my bf growled at our dog after the dog continued to jump up on him and wasn't responding to commands (probably a bit of puppy zoomies). Anyway bf was frustrated and ended up growling at the dog to try get him off. The dog responded and stopped jumping up right away. I wasn't there to see it but was told about it later and bf is curious if this is an appropriate way to communicate his displeasure or if it's more detrimental than helpful. I haven't found a definitive answer on this yet, some say it will increase aggression (not that the dog was being aggressive at all) and some say it is perfectly normal way to communicate because the dog already understand that a growl is a warning.

I'm curious to see what people here have to say.
 

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Many dogs DO growl when playing to begin with. So, I don't think you growling is training them to growl. As for them understanding "it's only acceptable to growl during that one game," I don't think you can make the blanket statement that it's only ok for a dog to growl during tug, but not in any other form of play. Or in "absolutely any situation other than tug-of-war."

Dogs growl for different reasons. When they're growling during play, it will sound a bit different than a 'real' growl, and you would become accustomed to that subtle difference if you spent lots of time with the dog. But, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a 'real' growl, either. Growling is basically the way a dog has to communicate with us. Growls can mean a lot, depending on the situation. There's the play growl, as I've said. But, there are also times a dog will growl to let you know they're not comfortable in a situation:
- if you touch them and the spot you touched is hurt/injured.
- if they are sick.
- if you try to pick them up when they're sleeping they may growl because they are still asleep and it freaks them out.
- if someone they don't know/trust comes too close.
- if they hear a scary noise.
The list goes on. In the old days, growls were considered aggressive, or dominant, or nasty, or mean. But, really, it's just a dog's way of letting you know something's up. So, if you look at it that way, there's no reason to want them NOT to growl. The thing is, once the DO growl, you want to find out why, and deal with what caused it. For instance, if it's resource guarding, you'd want to work on that. But, you definitely don't want to stop them from growling because if you take away the growling, they may just jump right to snapping.

My dogs growl when playing, A LOT! And, one of mine will growl when he's sleeping (under the blankets) if the cat doesn't see him and walks across the top of him!
 

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I agree a growl from your dog is a good way for them to warn you something is wrong and you shouldn't suppress that behavior, it's also very normal play behavior. But what about a human growling at a dog as a form of communication?
 

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I growl at my dog when we play tug. She growls back. No big deal. She also knows that there are rules to the game, so when I say drop, she drops the tug toy. That's the most important part of the game.

If you really want to get a dog into tugging, reach down and give them a light smack on the side during the game. I'm not saying to hit them, it' really not much more than a touch. Also, don't try this with a sensitive/soft dog, because they might interpret it as a correction.
 

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I do it all the time with Caeda....heck sometimes I chuff or bark when we're goofing around the house. She growls back during play and I'm fine with that! I have however heard her aggressive growl. It is VERY different (seriously, at 4 months and~30lbs she suddenly sounded like a 150lb Cujo!). If I heard that one during play everything would stop immediately and I'd start working on figuring out why she growled that way and what to do about it, but the play growl isn't ever an issue, some dogs are just vocal when they're having fun.
 

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I growl at Zoey all the time! I'll sit with my chin tilted down to my shoulder, eyes looking away and make a low growl. Then I'll look at her slow, she'll start her huff n' puff stompin', before you know it I have a 115lbs of zoomies throttling through the house. Then I get in trouble with hubby for shorting out the dog, lol!
 

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It's probably been a year or two since I told this story.

Shortly after we got Esther, my son and I were watching TV and Esther was resting nearby. We were still in the getting acquainted stage and, for reasons that escape me, I growled at her from across the room.

She launched herself across the room and into my lap. (She was a svelt sixty pounds at the time.) then she clamped her jaws on my right ear. I remember which ear because that's the one I can actually hear from. She wasn't biting particularly hard but she wasn't letting go, either.

I said to my son, "A little help here?" but he was laughing too hard to be helpful.

After what seemed a really long time, she released and went back to her nap as if nothing unusual had happened.

I've done a lot of strange things but, since that day, I have never growled at my dog.
 

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Jubel's play growl is different from his aggressive growl for sure. He actually has a large range of play growls as well, some of which are actually scarier sounding than his actual aggressive growl. One of his new favorite games in the evening if he's upstairs and I'm in the basement (gate in between due to the door to the basement being in the kitchen so he can't freely go from one to the other) is to bark softly a few times to signal me he wants to come down and join me. Once I come up to let him down and reach the gate he starts to slowly back up into the living room. He wants me to come play with him, a game of 'you can't catch me' which eventually results in him launching himself at me and attempting to bounce off again. As soon as I agree to engage in his game (actually leave the kitchen and come into the living room, if I don't have time to play for a few minutes I'll just say "sorry no time" and head back downstairs) the play growling starts. If I actually catch him and hold on when he launches himself at me his growling starts to sound scary as hell but he's still playing he's just not 'winning.' If/when I let him go he immediately drops back into a play bow and starts hopping around again 'evading' until he launches again. It's all in fun and a great little energy outlet if I have about 5+ minutes to spend with him at that moment. Occasionally I'll play for about 2 minutes and then just catch him and carry him into the kitchen before I set him down and he'll squirm and snarl the whole way like crazy then calmly trot down into the basement with me as happy as can be.

His aggressive growl does sound different but the biggest difference is in his body language that accompanies the growling more so than the sound itself.
 

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TMI alert...

1. No matter how practiced you are... you do not sound like a growling dog... to a dog.
2. However, you do sound strange and undefined, so the dog has to learn what your growl means.
3. If you yell at a barking dog, it may encourage more barking. If you growl at a growling dog, ditto. But you won't get them started.
4. In other words, growl all you like, be consistent in your play, and the dogs will like it. Doesn't matter who wins.

Unlike you, I do play roughly with my dogs... I adopt large dogs for that reason. If I stare at My dog (a definite canine no,no),and growl, he will stare back, growl and jump at me, just missing, then give me some wolf snarls, trying to get me to chase him. When we play tug, he will run to his tug toy ( a hard rubber bone), growl, grab it, then come to me growling like a wolf. In a normal circumstance, this would be a warning to back off, from other dogs. IN this case, his stare is soft and his tail is swishing calmly, and he's standing fairly relaxed. He waits politely for me to grab one end... then tries to yank my arm out of the socket.... MY right arm is now 3 inches longer than my left. If he pulls the toy from my hand. He'll growl and hold the toy. If I don't grab it...he'll poke me with it.
 

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I play-growl to my dogs when I wrestle with them and play tug, and they play-growl back. There is play-growling and serious growling, and they both sound very different. Nothing wrong with play-growling when you're playing with your dogs IMO. As long as they know you're playing. =)
 

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I dont do the play growl thing with my dog..
She is a very physical and muscular pup..We can wrestle and play very hard..but the moment she growls.Game over.
 
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