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The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out on Owners That Say “Good Dog” to a Growl asked me to give you my views on the subject of growling, so I wrote an article about it. Here’s what I think. Basically, I believe that a growl is a bite waiting to happen. There – I said it. Many of you won’t agree, but it is true. To read the full article, go to: Why Do Dogs Growl?

First, let me introduce myself for those of you that don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian. I speak my mind and give you my honest opinion. I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some might say that I’m truthful to a fault. Some of the pet owners and breeders who read my columns get really angry. It is hard hearing the truth.
First, I have to say that this topic drives me (and many other veterinarians) absolutely crazy. I see it all the time. A dog comes in for a routine examination. The dog growls. The owner tries to comfort the dog and says, “Good boy, good boy.” These dog owners may be trying to help, but what they are really doing is reinforcing this growling behavior.

This is NOT okay. The correct response is “NO.”

When the dog behaves well and doesn’t growl or show signs of aggression, then you can say “good boy” because the dog really IS being good. But it should NEVER be said when the dog is growling!

This situation makes me so mad – I swear sometimes I feel like steam must be coming from my ears!

By saying “good boy” you are reinforcing the bad behavior! You are telling your dog that it is okay to feel aggression and maybe even encourage him to go to the next level – the bite!

My Final Thoughts on the Growl

A growl is not “okay” – especially when directed at another person that is helping.
To me, a growl is a bite waiting to happen. Any dog that has the dominance to growl should be addressed with caution. Given the right circumstance – a bite could occur.
As the dog’s owner, the correct response from you is “NO!” I’ve made this point before but it is so important that I will say it again. If you have a dog that growls at you or your family, it must be treated with caution. Talk to your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist.


The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can’t always say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another point of view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of and are not endorsed by