If the growling behavior is new, take your French bulldog to a veterinarian for a complete physical checkup before you try to modify the behavior. French bulldogs can suffer from a variety of health issues, typically musculoskeletal conditions, which can cause pain. Ask your vet to check for problems such as hip dysplasia, intervertebral disk disease, hemivertebra and patellar luxation. French bulldogs can also suffer from breathing difficulties because of their shortened faces. If pain is the cause of the growling, proper treatment and management of the pain should help resolve the problem.
Determine what is triggering your French bulldog's growling. Small dogs such as the French bulldog may growl when they are at their food bowls, a type of guarding behavior. To deal with this type of behavior, don't free-feed your French bulldog. Instead, divide your dog's ration into several meals per day and remove the bowl after your pet has finished eating. Give your pet a peaceful, secure place to eat. Do not allow anyone, especially children, to disturb your French bulldog or enter the feeding area during meals. However, you also may consider establishing that any food is yours, you are in control, and you are sharing the food with your pet. You may accomplish this by keeping the bowl in your possession and hand-feeding your French bulldog from it. A series of training steps developed from this start may end the possessive behavior toward you, but may not change the behavior toward others. Many French bulldogs tend to be one-person dogs.
Your French bulldog may growl from fear of certain situations or people. Proper socialization with attention to creating positive associations may help your French bulldog gain confidence in such situations. With your French bulldog on a leash, bring the dog in view of the situation or person that triggers the behavior, but far enough away that the dog doesn't become frightened. Be calm, and give your French bulldog treats, then end the session after 10 minutes. Continue this type of training daily until your dog ceases to react to the situation or person with fear or growling.
Growling is a warning, and it may escalate into more serious behavior if left untreated. While French bulldogs are small and may not inflict much damage to adults, a small child who fails to heed a warning could be injured. Yelling or punishing your little dog for growling can escalate the behavior. Don't try to simply stop the growling with leash corrections or other negative training methods. This can result in a dog who bites with no warning, because the dog has learned not to growl but still fears the punishment. Consider consulting an animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist if the growling escalates to more dangerous behavior.
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