Have you ever been trying to learn a skill, and become frustrated? Well, imagine if your teacher couldn’t even speak your language. Training is complicated for dogs: It’s not something that comes “pre-installed.” There are a lot of reasons why a dog might growl during training, and very few of them are their (or your) fault.
Your Dog Might Not Know What You Want
Dogs can growl in frustration. Let’s say that you’ve been progressing through training just fine so far, but something just isn’t “clicking.” Your dog’s growl may be the only way that it can articulate “I just don’t understand.”
If this is the case, you may want to repeat other, earlier tricks first, to give your dog a “win.” You can still return to the harder tricks later, but take them piece by piece. The easiest way to train a dog on more complicated tricks is through “shaping”: incremental rewards as they get closer and closer to your goal. Getting a professional trainer for a brief session can help you learn more about how to communicate with your dog.
Your Dog Might Be in Pain
Dogs don’t show pain the way people do. They rarely show it at all. Your dog might be in pain when it’s doing some of these tricks, but might not be able to express it. If your dog seems otherwise fine but is suddenly refusing to do certain tricks that it already knew, it’s more likely to be pain. Ask your vet about the potential for arthritis if your dog is older. If your dog is younger, consider that it might have strained a muscle or bruised itself while playing.
If your dog is willing to do some tricks, but not others, it’s more likely to be that your dog is in pain. Most dogs aren’t going to simply be stubborn; they want to be obedient, as long as they can be.
Your Dog Might Just Want to Talk to You
Some dogs are particularly vocal. Huskies are well-known for trying to talk. If your dog is excited about completing new tricks, it could just be saying the equivalent of “Hey, look at me!” If your dog is growling while still performing tricks, then your dog could be doing this.
You might even notice that your dog growls frequently during play, or even growls while you’re petting it. While growling is usually a bad sign with a dog, you should be aware that every dog is unique. Some dogs will growl when they’re exceptionally happy or excited, and in this case, it’s more of a “grumble” or a “purr.” If your dog growls during play and petting, then it’s more likely that your dog is just being vocal when training.
Here’s something you should remember: Most training is designed to create a bond between you and your pet. Although some types of training are necessary for safety (such as recall), it should otherwise be a pleasant experience. If your dog just isn’t getting a certain trick, move on to a different one. You might need to return to the one you’re trying later.