How to Approach a Fearful Growling Dog

by Amy Hunter
    A fearful, growling dog may attack or retreat.

    A fearful, growling dog may attack or retreat.

    Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

    Before approaching a dog that is growling and appears fearful, assess the situation to determine if you are doing the right thing. If it is a strange dog or appears injured, call the number for your local animal control. If it your or a friend's dog who is behaving this way, you should still use caution. Dogs who are frightened behave in unpredictable ways, and you can easily make the situation worse by being impatient or aggressive.

    Step 1

    Squat down, facing sideways, so you are not facing the dog directly. Position yourself far enough away from the dog so he doesn't retreat or attack. As soon as you see him make a move or escalate his fear behavior, stop and squat down. You don't want him to feel like you are cornering or chasing him.

    Step 2

    Extend one hand, low to the ground and with your palm up.

    Step 3

    Call the dog gently to you. Don't raise your voice in either a commanding or excited way.

    Step 4

    Wait for the dog to come toward you. This requires patience, but is more effective and much safer than trying to capture the dog.

    Step 5

    Gently stroke the dog under the chin or on the upper chest. Do not pet the top of his head or grab for his collar or neck as soon as he is within reach.

    An Item You Will Need

    • Treats


    • Depending on the dog's level of fear, you may be able to speed the process along by offering him a treat in the palm of your outstretched hand. If he is too nervous to get close, toss the treat toward him, but hold your ground. When he picks up the treat, toss another, a little closer. Repeat until the dog will take the treat out of your hand.

    Photo Credits

    • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Amy Hunter has been a writer since 1998. She writes about health and lifestyle issues and enjoys writing about hiking, camping, trail running and other outdoor activities. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento Parent," ASPCA's "Animal Watch" and other print and online publications. She is the author of "The History of Mexico" and "Tony Gonzalez: Superstar of Pro Football," aimed at young-adult readers.

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