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growling dog

Why Does My Dog Growl When I Pet Him? 


Why does my dog growl when I pet him? A dog can begin growling at any age. It’s usually a combination of genetics and weak pack leadership that creates this. Some dogs are genetically pre-disposed to being more adversarial or difficult for owners. Some dogs are easy, gentle and would never growl or bite no matter now weak pack leadership is. This is why I think it’s a combination of both that creates this growling issue for dog owners.

It’s important to know that usually growling does not get better in time. It must be addressed and understood from a balanced dog training approach. Sometimes a dog is sick or injured and sometimes it simply needs more space than you are giving it. Other times it’s a behavioral issue that will spiral out of control. This is when a dog thinks they run your house. This is usually because a person has not enforced any rules. How long it takes to train a dog depends on many factors.

I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland Oregon.  I help people with serious behavioral issues, basic dog training and rehabilitation. If you’re struggling and would like to do a Zoom consultation with me, click here.

Here are my thoughts on too much affection or petting with your dog. 

Is Your Dog Sick or Injured?

Before you get into my other tips below, get this sorted out. Take your dog to the vet and see if there is anything alarming them to illness or injury. Sometimes dogs growl to protect an area of their body that is in pain. Check out this blog on identifying pain in dogs

Understanding Dogs

Coming from the animal kingdom, dogs rely on instinct to make decisions and they are always ranking everyone around them to see who is a strong leader or a softer weak pack member.  


The Importance of Energy

They see too much soft nurturing energy as weak.  If you have an easy happy go lucky dog with no behavioral issues, a lot of affection might be ok.  However, if you’re struggling at all (which is the majority of dog owners), cutting back on unearned affection could be a game changer.  


Dealing With a Growling Dog

If my dog growl when I pet him, I have a bigger problem on your hands.  It’s important to understand dog psychology and how dog’s think.  Some dogs will growl when you pet them because they may not respect you.  

In addition, many dogs just don’t like to be pet that much or at all.  It’s important to respect their space and not overwhelm them with petting.  A growling dog is warning you to stay away.  I would recommend you consult a professional balanced dog trainer if you are struggling with this.


reactive dog training portland

Rules and Structure for Dogs

My advice to a client in this situation may be to find some moments to correct the dog for something and begin a dog training process where you are enforcing rules and structure.  You have to become a leader to your dog which means you need to stop sharing soft energy all of the time.  If you cut out the affection, and they still find moments to growl at you, it needs to be corrected in a fair and humane way.  Defiantly consult with a trainer at this point.  

You need to share affection in proportion to how much you share rules and are buyable as an authority figure or leader.  If you want to be able to share some affectionate with your dog, you might have to be more intense with them, more serious and more no nonsense about rules.  Again, keep in mind, you may also have a dog that just doesn’t like that much physical affection.  


Improve Behavioral Issues In Dogs

When you are trying to turn some behavioral issues around, getting very serious, quiet, and calm is super helpful.  It doesn’t mean being cold, it just means being present without needing anything from them.  And I know you got a dog so that you could love it and show it affection, but if you are struggling, there is another value your dog is presenting to you.  That is the value of channeling your inner strength, learning about dog psychology and being of service to them and what THEY need.

Summarizing, Why Does My Dog Growl When I Pet Him?  It can be illness, injury or issues with the leadership or energy you are sharing with your dog. You may also be giving your dog too much affection and he is tired of it. It’s unfair to correct a dog for that, if the solution is to stop smothering your dog so much with affection and emotional needs. Be stiller and calmer. Look within for self-soothing instead of to your dog if you are getting growls. 

If the growls are in the arena of aggression or pre-curses to dog aggression, it needs to be corrected. Seek the advice of a balanced dog trainer. I am a dog trainer in Portland. I help my clients with these issues. 

Tips for a Growling Dog

  • When you have a dog that growls when you pet him, take this very seriously!  
  • A growl can lead to a bite.  And dog’s are serious liabilities.  A biting dog is a big problem.  
  • Many people that have adopted really difficult dogs unknowingly and learned how to handle it, have been appreciative of the experience and the lessons it has brought.


Personally for me, when I adopted Honey Bear the pitbull in my early 20’s, I did everything wrong.  She was having issues because I was not a strong pack leader.  It reflected back to me my codependency issues and showed me that I needed to do a lot more work on myself spiritually and emotionally.  Dogs are always our teachers.

If you have a dog that growls when you pet him or her consider a consultation with me!  If you are interested in my services scroll through my website.  I do offer board and train programs in Portland Oregon.  I also help people with e-collar training in Portland in addition to basic dog obedience.


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