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What is play growl? Is it normal for a dog to growl during play?

Dogs growl when they are having fun and this is what a play growl is all about! Even humans tend to get loud when having a good time at a party or while viewing a competitive sport cheering for their favorite team. A tug toy session  or chase might elicit one in your pooch. Play growling is a way of showing excitement not anger.

A growl is not always a forewarning of a fight:

Play growling during a play session in the doggie world is perceived as an expression of excitement by fellow canines and not any threat to back-off. However humans might not be able to differentiate between a dog’s angry rumble and a play growl.

Play growling is absolutely normal. It is your pet dog’s way of communicating to its human or canine playmate that it wants to continue playing a game that it enjoys a lot.  Therefore it isn’t something you need to be concerned about. Image - 1stpip.com

Play growling is absolutely normal. It is your pet dog’s way of communicating to its human or canine playmate that it wants to continue playing a game that it enjoys a lot. Therefore it isn’t something you need to be concerned about. Image – certapet.com

How to recognize a play growl?

A fellow dog can easily understand the difference between a play and a warning growl. However humans can look out for more overt signs to interpret what your dog’s growl exactly means. Your pet’s body language will help you to fully understand whether your dog is happy or angry. A stiff tail or one that stands vertically erect is a signal for you to back-off. Another red flag are raised hackles on your dog’s back.

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A 2010 study published in the Journal “Animal Behavior” revealed that play growls are interpreted differently vis-à-vis warning growls by dogs. An average human ear may fail to perceive this difference. Researchers electronically analyzed the three growl sounds made by canines; play growls, howls aimed at frightening strangers and growls directed towards protecting their bone. The result of this research indicated play growls to be higher pitched and shorter than warning growls. Researchers also put forth that the three growls are indicative of three different emotions experienced by dogs: Play growls mean happiness, growling at some intimidating stranger means fear in the dog and protecting the bone shows aggression in the animal.
dogs playing with eachother Prevent Play from turning into Aggression

It is important to keep a check on your dog while the two of you engage in some roughhousing: a game of wrestling, chase or tug of war. These games may give rise to a dog’s predatory character as these involve some elements of hunting and attacking. Therefore it is best to take a small break during any such activity. Encourage the dog to sit or lie down for a while before resuming play. If a dog’s growling gets deeper, it’s best to take a recess from the roughhousing. The human must at this point put away the toy and ask the pooch to ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’ and wait for it to calm down. This will prevent the play from escalating into aggression. A calmer state of the pet means you can resume the game.

If you play roughly with your pooch without a break, the latter might become fearful of you. A play growl may turn into a warning growl indicating fear and you might not even get to know about this sudden change in your dog’s temperament, it at this stage wants you to back-off. Image - 1stpip.com

If you play roughly with your pooch without a break, the latter might become fearful of you. A play growl may turn into a warning growl indicating fear and you might not even get to know about this sudden change in your dog’s temperament, it at this stage wants you to back-off. Image – 1stpip.com

Grounding the pooch between play becomes very important. Also look out for signs such as a tucked tail, dog licking its lips and averted eyes that show fear aggression in canines.

Article resource: www.pets.thenest.com


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The blog editor of Pets World is a pet aficionado and fervently follows her pet-obsession. A pet parent to animals big and small for the past two decades. The sum of all experiences gathered is an amalgamation of useful knowledge and research.

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