Growls can stand alone or be used to modify barking sounds to add a degree of threat. Below are 5 different ways a dog may grow and what the dog means by that growl:
1. Soft, low-pitched growling: “Beware!” “Back off!” This is used as a threat and usually causes the listener to move away, giving the dog more space.
2. Low-pitched growl-bark: This is a clear growl that leads to a bark. It means “I’m upset and I’m ready to fight!” This is a clear warning that pressing the dog will lead to aggression.
3. Higher midrange-pitched growl-bark: “I’m worried [or frightened], but I will defend myself.” This is the threat of a less-confident animal who will, however, most likely fight back if pushed.
4. Undulating growl: This is a growl that goes from low midrange to high midrange with a kind of a semi-bark often added as the pitch rises. It means “I’m terrified. If you come at me, I may fight or I may run.” This is the fearful-aggressive sound of a very unsure dog.
5. Noisy growl, with teeth hidden from view: “This is a good game!” “I’m having fun!” It is usually part of the play sequence and may be tucked in between a series of stutter-barks. It usually indicates intense concentration, as in a tug-of-war or play-acting aggression.