Why Does My Dog Growl At Certain Strangers?

Have you ever caught your dog growling at a stranger or noticed it when it growled at a certain stranger but not another one?

This is good behavior when directed at certain circumstances because your dog is trying to communicate something to you that may present danger. Your dog may likely have noticed something you missed. Growling indicates aggression, possession, or to show defensiveness for several reasons.

If anything, this means your dog’s senses are heightened and more acute, so it can sometimes be a habit to reassure. Still, you’re probably asking, “why does my dog growl at certain strangers”?

This is exactly what this article seeks to explore. Does your dog know something that you don’t or is it just conditioning? Sit tight as we uncover the many reasons why your dog growls at certain strangers.

why does my dog growl at certain strangers

Understanding Stranger Danger

Dogs can react in different ways to different strangers.

They may growl because the person has a particular smell that is off-putting to them and may even bark at them if the person comes close.

Your dog might also not just appreciate the looks of the person. The stranger might look different, shady, and even put the dog into a short flight or fight mode which will naturally make the dog growl.

Similarly, your dog might also be growling at a stranger because of the person’s behavior. Dogs can be very observant and pick up behavior that may cause aggression in the form of barking or growling.

In some cases, the stranger might be purposely inciting the dog with aggressive behavior which can trigger growling and barking.

Why Your Dog Might be Growling at Certain Strangers

Your Dog is Afraid or Senses Fear

Most of the time a dog’s growl is mostly due to fear from either the stranger or the dog. Dogs can tell when someone is afraid or scared of them which can cause them to be more aggressive. They can even sense when a human’s heart rate increases when they get into close proximity to that human.

Dogs can also comprehend little changes we humans exhibit when we are scared like sweating, shortness of breath, blood pressure, and other chemical changes. When a dog notices all these changes, it reacts if not properly trained or given appropriate human interaction, especially when young.

When a dog growls in fear of a stranger, it equally means thedog itself is scared and the growl serves as a protective act. When this happens, try to determine the cause of the fear in the presence of a stranger so you can eliminate it.

Also, be sure to check the body language of your dog to determine why they are scared.

Your Dog is Unsocial

This is a common answer to the question of why your dog is growling at certain strangers. When a dog is bred in an enclosed environment, it sees a controlled amount of people.

Over time, such conditioning will build up emotional walls against new faces or strangers. If a stranger approaches a dog that has had little or no social interaction, it reacts because the stranger’s face, body frame, and smell are foreign.

The dog growls as a result of two reasons: the first reason is that the dog believes its territory, which is the enclosed environmen, has been breached and the second reason is that thedog isn’t used to strange faces.

The growl serves as one of its protective measures. Dogs in this situation need more exposure and time to get used to strangers. In general, dogs should be socialized with different people starting at a young age.

When dogs are taken on constant walks outside of their enclosed environment and are exposed to different social situations, it increases their confidence when exposed to different kinds of people.

Your Dog Has a Keen Sense of Smell

The strongest sense a dog has is its sense of smell. Dogs experience the world in scents, they often go about sniffing different things to capture all the scents they can.

However, with dogs, certain smells may be triggering for them. When a stranger possesses this smell on his/her person, it may trigger a reaction from the dog which might come as a growl or even as far as barking.


Nature of Training

The way a dog is trained plays a big role in how it reacts to people, especially strangers in general.

If a dog is trained to guard its owners, it will exhibit a protective demeanor when its owners are approached by people or persons it isn’t used to.

This demeanor may come as a growl and unless cautioned by its owners, the dog will not stop.

Guard dogs are also sometimes trained to be triggered by certain words and will ensure a growl or even attack any stranger once the triggering words are used by their owners.

If a guard dog growls at a stranger, the best course of action for the stranger is to alert the dog’s owner so that the dog may be kept at bay.

why does my dog growl at certain strangers

Acts of Violence Towards the Dog

If a dog is approached violently by a stranger like a thief or someone that wants to harm the dog, the dog will growl and use every means in its arsenal to protect itself.

Your dog may even be naturally friendly but in such a situation if it has keen senses, it would growl at the stranger and continue to do so as the stranger comes close before it starts barking at the stranger.

Also, if a stranger decides to attack a dog or throw an object at a dog that might cause harm to the dog, it will, in most cases, retaliate by warning growls, barking, and attacking physically.

While Having Fun

Dogs also growl while they are having fun with either the owner orplaying with other dogs. If a stranger comes close in such situations the dog growls, the dog may growl playfully while wagging its tail, or aggressively while showing its teeth.

Possession Aggression

Possession aggression can also be the cause of a dog growling at certain strangers. If the stranger is trying to take a toy from the dog that it is possessive of, it will begin growling.

A dog that is not trained will even growl at its owner for trying to take a toy, bone, or item that it is possessive of.

In that instance, even if the stranger comes close, it will start growling immediately. This is also resource guarding and is a behavior that can be trained off with some work and guidance.


While dogs will mostly growl when they are in a stressful situation, like when they are scared, or fending off a perceived enemy, they can also grow while they are having fun or guarding a beloved toy.

Pay attention to the warning signs to avoid unwanted stranger danger situations and also when to reward your dog when its growl alerts you to something harmful.

With this, you should finally have the answer to “why does my dog growl at certain strangers?” Go out there and reward your dog if it’s been doing it for good reasons or train it off if it’s bad behavior.

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