A friend advised you to make a point of removing the food bowl and to smack the dog if he growls. The friend said something about teaching the dog who's boss, but in all honesty, you're too scared of the dog to try this. What if it backfired? You could get badly bitten. Common sense tells you that it's best to respect the message the dog is sending out, rather than challenge him.
Happily, you spoke to a knowledgeable trainer who uses reward-based training methods. They were horrified by the idea of removing the dog's bowl as a sort of test. Instead, they explained the complexity of why dogs growl and what to do about it, so that the flashpoint of food can be avoided and the dog can continue to live with you.
Instead, it's essential to analyze why the dog is growling (is he in pain, stressed, possessive, or territorial?) and then correct the underlying problem. In the short term, how you react to the growling makes a big difference, so it's important to know what to do (and not to do) when faced with a growling dog.
This is unlikely to be a quick fix, so be prepared to put time and effort into consistently retraining the dog, improving his co-operation, and helping him overcome deep-seated anxieties.
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