Respect the Growl…

Yesterday I wrote about how amazing Dogtoberfest was for Shayne and how amazing she did. Today I’m talking about my favorite item from Dogtoberfest. I got the most amazing t-shirt EVER and I cannot stop raving about it. It’s got such a fantastic message and one that I talk about all the time to anyone who will listen.

“Respect the growl, ask me why” is the text if you are reading on a smaller screen.

I want to wear this shirt each and everyday, I think it is such an important message that people need to be taught. Besides the “dominance” concept, growling is probably the biggest misconception I educate people about.

Growling is NOTHING to take personally and is nothing that should be ‘corrected’. It is not an insult or a reflection on the relationship with a canine. I LOVE dogs who growl at me because they are actively making a choice NOT to bite–and that’s always a good thing.

Growls are just parts of canine communication and are an important warning system for us humans who often ignore more subtle warnings. There are so many people who make the mistake of taking growls personally or taking them as an insult and end up creating a dog who is a really dangerous animal. Dogs who are punished for growling learn to stop growling but that doesn’t ever address the reason behind the growl. So the dog may still be really uncomfortable with a person near the food bowl but they won’t growl–they skip right to the bite. They no longer warn of the impending bite because it’s been punished out of their communication system but nothing has been done to make them feel more comfortable with whatever trigger.

To me, growls are like brake-lights. Have you ever been driving behind a car whose brake-lights are out? How about at night? It’s really scary because you have no advanced notice of the car slowing or coming to a stop–there is no bright light getting your attention from reading the highway sign or checking mirrors and saying “hey! slow down.” Without brake-lights we have to rely on our less than great night vision to triangulate distance and then evaluate if that distance is decreasing and how fast it might be decreasing. In other words, unless we are specifically focused on that car in front of us, we are likely not to see the impending doom of the car accident if the vehicle without brake-lights has to stop quickly. Growls are nothing more than information about (potential) future behavior if something about the situation doesn’t change.

I think all training professionals and educated “dog people” should have this shirt and wear it proudly. If more people would respect the growl, there would be far fewer bites because people would have a good warning system and would address the underlying cause of the growl, not the growl itself.

1 Comment
  1. Definitely a great t-shirt message 🙂 I have the same issue with people trying to force their cowering-away dog to go up and meet other dogs. “no, no, he’s fine!”… well… yes, he’s fine over there, really nervous, and frankly, I don’t want my dog to meet yours when he’s like that.

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