Is A Growl Always A Signal for Aggression

Take a look at this video.  To someone who doesn’t know Sophie and Kibbles, they may think that they are engaging in aggressive behavior.  The truth is, however, dogs communicate in a number of sounds including barks, howls, growly noises, trills and yips.  As important as the noises a dog makes is their body language and eye positions.  Notice that neither dog has their hackles up.  Hackles are the hairs along the dog’s backbone start from neck to tail.  The semi-submissive behavior of Sophie flopping on her back and using her front paws to engage Kibbles also tells me she was just vocalizing and not being aggressive.

Kibbles, on the other hand, just looks a little confused.  At first he is tentatively engaging Sophie.  He is a puppy afterall!  As the video progresses you can see him getting more emphatic with his play.  At :55 or so the playfulness between the two changes.  Can you spot the difference?  One push too much from Kibbles sends Sophie into a more defensive growl and gives Kibbles a warning that he is being too boisterous for her.

I find the vocalizations of my dogs very interesting.  Bailey, for instance, trills a lot and whoos me.  She talks back a lot!  To the other dogs, she gives a lot of warnings to stay away from her tennis balls.  Viola, my elderlab, thinks that by barking at all the other dogs, they will get off the couch and let her take their space or, by barking at us we will read her mind as to what she wants! Phoebe, my yellow lab, is a groaner and a sigher.  She lets out the most satisfied groans when we scratch at the right place.  She also howls at sirens both in real life and on the TV.

What sounds do your pups make?  Do you recognize a playful growly noise as opposed to a warning growl?

2 thoughts on “Is A Growl Always A Signal for Aggression

  1. Cookie the Beagle

    My sister loves to growl and give me the death stare when I try to steal a bone/toy from her…. she also makes the same growl and death stare when strangers try to pet her. As for me, I seldom growl but I do whine and make a lot of pitiful noises when my humans are eating…… 😀

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