I said in my last post that I was grumbled at when I tried looking at Inka’s sore ear last week.
I was happy that Inka growled at me, not only because it let me know how much his ear hurt (i.e. he needed vet visit that evening, rather than leaving it for a day or so to see if the swelling was going to subside); but also because it gave me another opportunity to let Inka know that I listen to him and respect his needs.
He growled, I stopped touching his ear. I apologised. I petted him. I asked him to sit, and compared the external properties of his sore ear to his normal ear. I thanked him, petted him again, and called the vets.
That was it.
No big worry about Inka thinking he’s “pack leader”, or “top dog” because I let him growl at me; and no thinking about how I might wrest this title from him. He’s no more leader than I am (though I suspect that some days he might like to lead his “baby sister” down a forest track and leave her there).
Growling isn’t his way, or indeed any dogs way, of trying to “dominate” someone or something. Growling is communication, and in this case Inka was saying “oww, that hurts”.
What sort of person would I be if I hadn’t listened to him, and kept looking at his ear – aside from, potentially, a person with a bite?
As it happened, once he knew I understood his ear was sore, he was OK with it being gently handled, even by the vet – who’s new by Inka’s standards, having only seen him once before – and who made him stand on the rather wobbly examination table. If he didn’t trust me, I don’t believe he would have let me, or anyone else, look at his ear; so I’m glad that we were both able to show trust in each other.
There are , or at least seem to be, many people who believe “nice” dogs don’t growl, or that their dog growling means she’s now a “bad dog”, and must either be shown he’s not the “pack leader”, or somehow told off for this unacceptable behaviour. This I find quite an odd belief, as dogs growl in many situations – when they’re unhappy, sore, when they’re worried a possession is going to get taken from them, or that they might get hurt, and of course they growl when they’re playing too.
People need to learn to listen to their dog, especially when she’s being so obvious in her communication. What about you, has your dog ever growled to communicate with you? What did she want to tell you?