Five Ways to Calm a Growling Dog

Dealing with a growling dog can be scary, especially if you don't know him. Growling is a warning signal that a dog is unhappy and might bite if you don't diffuse the situation. To do this, you must be calm and react slowly.

Tip One: Back Away

Common sense dictates that you should increase distance between you and the dog. However, never turn your back on an aggressive dog, especially if you don't know how he will react. Back slowly from the dog, careful not to make sudden movements.

A dog is often growling because of territoriality or resource guarding. If you are trying to take a resource from a dog, just leave it. If you have stumbled into a dog's territory, give him space and let him know you mean no harm.

Tip Two: Don't Make Eye Contact

Eye contact is a threatening, challenging gesture in a dog pack. If you don't know the growling dog, staring at him could be dangerous. The dog may have been abused by someone who stared at him and may respond in a defensive manner.

Instead, lower your eyes and turn them away from the dog. Always keep the dog in your frame of vision, but don't make eye contact.

Tip Three: Turn to the Side

Another threatening gesture in a dog pack is a frontal, straight on approach. Friendly dogs approach one another by making a circle away from one another and then approaching from the side.

Primates, on the other hand, tend to walk straight toward one another with their chests out, making direct eye contact. If you approach a strange dog this way, he may react with fear or return your challenge. Again, if he has been abused, this may indicate that you are a threat, and he may react accordingly.

Tip Four: Talk in a Friendly Voice

Many dogs who have lived with humans have learned to read tones. A deep, stern tone can be scary while a high, squeaky tone means praise. While occasionally a dog will stop growling if you give a stern "No" or "Stop," this can be risky.

Instead, try praising the dog with a calm "good boy." Dogs tend to respond to high, squeaky voices. If you see the dog start to wag his tail, keep going.

Most dogs who have lived in a home know certain words, such as "treat," "dinner," "walk" and "outside." Try using some of those familiar words that a dog may associate with something positive.

Tip Five: Offer a Treat

If you carry treats, try tossing one, slowly and calmly toward the dog. Don't walk toward him to do this, but toss it close enough for him to smell it. Some dogs can't eat when they are afraid, so toss a few to see if you can get him interested. Once he has taken a couple of treats, try tossing them over his head so he must turn away from you to go get them. This provides you with an escape.

Whether dealing with a familiar or unfamiliar dog when he is growling, it's important to diffuse the situation with calm, slow movements to convince him you aren't a threat. Then, you can make your escape when it is safe.