Top 3 Reasons Why Dogs Growl at Family Members and How to Stop it

Growling is a behavior that is usually associated with aggression. Because of this, it can be worrying when a dog starts to growl at specific family members. Here are the reasons for this behavior and ways to minimize it if indeed is a sign of aggression.

1. Dog hasn’t warmed up to all family members

Just because a dog is comfortable with one family member doesn’t mean he would be comfortable with everyone else in the household. It could take time for dogs to warm up to people. A lot depends on the dog’s personality.

Some dogs, especially rescues or adopted dogs, may only growl at a certain individual because the appearance of that person reminds the dog of someone who caused a lot of stress and trauma. Growling and barking are common signs of fearful dogs.

2. Dog is protecting specific family members

Dogs may growl at certain family members because he is being possessive of the main “pack” leader. For example, is there only one person in the family that feeds the dog? Or is there only one person that takes the dog out for his favorite walks? The dog might value this person more than anyone else in the houshold.

The growling and barking, for example, could happen if the dog feels the family member is approaching the “pack” leader in an aggressive or unusual way. It’s very important to share responsibilities to prevent this behavior from happening.

3. Bad history with family member

In the worst case scenario, the family member who is being growled and barked at might have something to hide. The family member may have punished the dog or acted in a way that they shouldn’t have in front of the dog. When there are multiple individuals in the household, it’s important that everyone is aligned on how a dog should be treated. Punishment is never the answer to fixing bad behaviors.

How to stop a dog from growling at family members

This all comes down to the cause of the growling. Getting a dog behaviorist on board may help you find the answer faster. In some cases, it’s just a matter of handling time and responsibilities. If you brought the dog home recently, make sure he is given plenty of time to acclimatize to his new home.

If your dog isn’t new and has never barked at family members until now, it might be worth checking in with the vet. Sudden changes in behaviors could be a result of underlying health problems.

Last but not least, education is important. If you have family members who aren’t familiar with dog care, make sure they are educated on the basics. This includes how a dog should be trained if they exhibit incorrect behaviors like soiling and chewing non-food objects.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian when in doubt.


  • Peggy Wilson | 03/11/2023

    we had 2 terrier mix male dogs that came to our house in July and would not leave. they have been to vet had shots blood work and been to groomers. this morning my adult son who lives with me was rubbing the larger one and he jumped up on his knee and put his feet on his shoulders. he has done this many times. when my son went to get him down the dog growled at him. my son without thinking hit him. the dog jumped down went behind my car, they were in the garage, and as he passed the other dog he growled at him. what is going on with this dog?

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