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Want to get your puppy's growling under control? Here's how from a Houston dog expert

Tex's trainer helps us understand why dogs growl

HOUSTON – When puppies are being handled, they often growl, which many people think is an example of bad  behavior. But is that really the case?

Puppy expert Stephanie Bennett, owner of Believe in Dog Training, visited the Houston Life studio with a rottweiler puppy named Hank, to help us understand growling, a perfectly natural dog behavior.

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Growling is not a “bad dog” behavior.

“For whatever reason, we have been though that this is a bad thing or an aggressive thing or a personal insult, or something like that. But physically what it is, it’s just communication. (…) Dogs only have a few ways to communicate with us and growling is usually one of the very first,” said Bennett.

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Dogs will growl if they are threatened or uncomfortable.

“There are many different reasons why a dog may growl, we talk about it mostly for fear. We have a lot of dogs that are fearful, and they will communicate fear with a growl a lot of times,” Bennett said.

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Don’t punish a dog for growling.

“Punishing a dog for growling is like taking the batteries out of your smoke alarm. You are taking the warning away. Every single dog has a threshold. I don’t care what kind of dog it is or who it is.  If I hurt you or scare you enough, you will feel like you need to defend yourself and if I take away that growl, now I have a dangerous dog. A growl is not dangerous, a dog that doesn’t communicate at all is a dangerous dog,” Bennett said.

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When a dog growls, we say, “Thank you!”  

“Thank you very much. Thanks for telling that this is making you uncomfortable, so let me figure out what I can do to help you with this,” said Bennett, who uses little treats to communicate to the puppies that it's OK to feel uncomfortable, but that they can tolerate it.

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Train the dog early. Puppy training is important.

“Knowing what makes them growl as a puppy will help him become more tolerant as an adult.  Going to the vet, getting his nails trimmed, looking in his ears, you know the vet has to squeeze, do all of these (things). He may communicate, but he is going to be used to it,” Bennett said.

To see Bennett’s complete interview, watch the video above.