My Dogs Growl at My Kids – And That’s Okay

I have a confession.  Some will say that this makes me both a terrible pet owner and a terrible parent.  Both of my dogs growl at my kids from time to time.  I don’t reprimand the dogs for growling at the kids.  I’m more inclined to reprimand the kids when the dogs growl.

My dogs growl at my kids.

My Dogs Growl at My Kids... and that's okay. (Cloth Diaper Addicts)I have no crazy illusions that my dogs are perfect little puppies who do no wrong.  I know darned well that Winston the Wonder Chihuahua is pretty darned rotten.  T’akaya the Brilliant Border Collie is pretty darned awesome, but she still has her flaws.  I don’t consider that either of my dogs growl at my kids to be among their flaws.

Sometimes Norton will jump all over the bed when Winston and I are in it.  Winston will growl at Norton over it.  Sometimes T’akaya will growl when Norton climbs on her.  Those, however, are not the only reasons that my dogs growl at my kids.

And that’s okay.

The simple fact of the matter is that, quite frankly, sometimes Norton deserves it.  Honestly, I think it’s a testament to how wonderfully patient T’akaya the Brilliant Border Collie is for limiting herself to only growling at Norton.  He can absolutely aggravate the devil out of her at times.  Then there’s the fact that Winston is pretty small and Norton has no problems squishing him.  Eudora doesn’t get growled at terribly often, but when Winston has growled, it’s been because she’s been on the verge of poking his protruding eyes out.

I don’t reprimand the dogs for these things.  They have no other way of expressing their displeasure when one of the kids are being obnoxious to them.  When my dogs growl at my kids, they are speaking for themselves.  Sometimes it’s a warning to get the kids away or to stop whatever they are doing.  Other times it’s a cry for me to help them by getting the kids off of them.  (Remember, I’m outnumbered.  There’s two kids, two dogs, and only one adult when my husband is at work.)

Could I train the my dogs to stop growling at my children?  Yes, I’m sure I could.  But you know what tends to happen when dogs don’t get to growl?  They’ve lost a means of warning off a would-be aggressor and will have nothing left but going straight to biting when they can’t take anymore.  Not only that, but Winston and T’akaya love Norton and Eudora.  T’akaya looks forward to Norton running around with her outside.  Winston wags his tail when Eudora cuddles him and will jump in bed with her in the mornings.  That love means that they are far more tolerant of my children’s shenanigans than other dogs who don’t love my children.  I’d rather they learn from my dogs what they can and can’t get away with than from someone else’s dog.

Have your dogs ever growled at your kids?  How did you handle it?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. My dog growls at my daughter all of the time, when she starts getting on his nerves which is at least 3 to 5 times a day – every day. How else is he supposed to tell her to stop?
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  2. Growling is a warning. Growling is fine. Growling is like a person telling another person to stop.
    Heather Johnson recently posted…Strawberry Buttons Diaper: Daily DiaperMy Profile

  3. They are just trying to communicate! As long as it’s only growling, that’s fine! 🙂
    Abi R. recently posted…Essential Oils for Pregnancy, Labor, Birth, and Beyond!My Profile

  4. So right! This is how the animals communicate, and a warning, through growling is sure better than a bite!

  5. They are right. That maybe their way to communicate 🙂 We have no dogs at home but my son loves dog though he feels awkward touching them.
    Maye Domencil recently posted…Home Improvement Plans for 2014My Profile

  6. Fabulous point you make. That is their language. As a professional pet sitter, I’ve taught my kids just out of the womb how to respect animals. They do, and when they push boundaries, I remind them and then tell them that I can’t control their actions…that I’ve provided them with the knowledge, and that they better not mess with animals. I promise to have no sympathy, but to drive them to the hospital, if needed. That being said, I never, ever put them in a situation with a dangerous animal, or even a questionable animal. Respect works both ways. Thank you for such a great, thoughtful post.
    Kristen–well minded recently posted…wordless wednesday: shhhh…n.a.s.h.a. is nappingMy Profile

  7. What cute dogs. My moms dog was the sweetest little thing but would give little warnings to my nephew when she had enough of him annoying her.
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  8. Our dogs are really great with the kids, but one of our cats will hiss and bat at them when they get too carried away. Most of the time, the kids deserve their “warnings” since they get in her face when she is sleeping.
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  9. A dogs growl is a warning, and is the best indicator that they’re not happy. It doesn’t always mean the dog is going to bite next, however. Most dogs that live with children (of ANY species, human, canine, feline…) develop a font of patience that never ceases to amaze me. When they finally do growl, they’re stating they’ve had enough and like any sentient being, they should be respected.

    I had to respond to a message on our rescue’s Facebook page recently, where a woman was worried she’d have to rehome her dog because it was growling at her child whenever said child climbed on the dog or bothered it while it was eating. My response was (paraphrased): TRAIN YOUR CHILD not to bother the dog! is a great post by a canine behaviorist that backs this up. Take it from me, I’d MUCH rather be growled at than not. I was doing an evaluation on a dog and he went at my face twice without warning. If he’d given a warning, he might have passed his test. But because he didn’t make any indication that he was going to strike, I’m lucky that I 1) can read dog body language rather well and 2) move very quickly when I have to. I’d probably have a lot of stitches in my face right now…so I’ll take the growl ANYDAY.
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  10. We have two dogs. The smaller of the two (Peanut) is much more aggressive. I have trained my daughter to not chase/hug/kiss Peanut just in case. Peanut will run away but I do not want my daughter to chase her. I think training your kids is as important as training the dogs.
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  11. Alisha Kostiuk says:

    Our dog Boots growls at my kids all the time. He has never bit them or anything. He growls at them when thy are aggravating him. My 7 year old tends to growl back though, Boots usually looks at him like, ” Wow Kid really”.

  12. You are absolutely right, growling is a way that a dog can communicate and let you know something is wrong. I see nothing wrong with you not getting onto the dog but the child. If the dog was to growl for no reason or start biting then I feel some kind of intervention would be needed.
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  13. You make a really good point that growling is a type of warning system. Heck, I’ve been known to kind of growl at my kids! lol It is a dog’s way of verbalizing, “enough”.
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  14. My dogs are pretty tollerant of my toddler too and I feel that the dogs growling is their way of telling him to stop messing with them. They can’t tell him to stop. I get onto the dogs if they do more than just growl.
    Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Families recently posted…#ASKAWAYFRIDAY with Jodi From The Noise of BoysMy Profile

  15. So true! We have a 4 year old Corgi and we knew when we got him that we wanted kids. Corgi’s nip because they are herding dogs. From the get go, we trained him that nipping was not allowed and that his teeth hurt us. He is at the point that he gets super upset if he is playing and his teeth come anywhere near us. That being said he, like most corgis, is very food motivated which can make him food aggressive (though he has only ever growled when people get close to his food). Knowing this he is only fed when my child is separated from him by a baby gate and she is not allowed to play with his bowl (which means she wants to). He deserves to have his space and knowing how to train both animals and children to respect each other is key.

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