The dog growled as the woman approached. The woman was the canine owner's friend; but as she got closer the growling got more serious. This is when the owner said "stop it" in a very harsh manner, pushing him several inches. I heard her explain then "oh he's fine, he just like to talk." Hmmmmm. Let's have a look at this.
The dog was sitting with it's owner at an outdoor cafe. They were sitting enjoying the day until the woman's friend arrived. This other woman had on a very large brimmed hat and had a leg brace. Nothing strange, right? For us maybe but the dog saw things quite differently. As the growling started the owner had gotten mad, scolding and even pushing her dog; a clear sign to the dog that all was not well. Having lost his ability to communicate he was then on pins and needles. I watched him watching the hat wearing lady. His eyes were wary and ready for anything weird that she might do. Not a good scenario.
"We don't allow growling at our house." "My dog is not allowed to growl."
How many times have I heard this? Too many times.
When a dog growls and we quickly stop it by scolding our dogs; we ultimately cut the lines of communication. We remove the "heads up" that a growl gives us. A dog learns to not to growl; which in turn can be a very dangerous situation.
Dogs are not allowed to communicate? Too many humans don't want any type of growling. Why? Because they think that growling is aggression. Growling is not aggression, growling is a means to avoid aggression. It is a communication given by a dog to express their feelings. It can have many meanings but if you don't allow it then you basically silence your dog. If you don't know how to read body language; then you are my friend, are up sh&ts creek without a paddle.
Of course there are times when growling should not be allowed. My JRT Jessie loved to bully Luke when he was younger. She loved to growl and snap at him for nothing, that was stopped. But even growling within a pack is important; it is that "heads up" that you need before any problems arise.
If your dog growls, listen. Stopping a growl should be done by addressing why the growl is being used. Sometimes a dog just needs space. In the above scenario, the woman with the hat could have simply taken it off. It was very clear that the dog saw it as a threat. Helping our dogs does not happen by shutting them up and not listening to them. Yes they do have opinions, emotions and feelings.
Don't silence your dog from communicating; it's not fair and can be very dangerous.