Listen to what your dog is telling you
I had a friend of mine ask me a question on behalf of her friend's dog. She told me that the Great Dane mix was showing some signs of "aggression". He was growling at the new rescue dog they adopted, but that quickly went away. Then she said he was fine for a couple of years with no incidents. Then when the toddler of the house was about 2 years old she smacked the dog on the butt, because she was mimicking the way the mom would scold him. The dog turned and placed teeth on the child with no mark or breaking of the skin. The parents are, rightfully so, concerned with this behavior. However, they are putting ALL the blame on the dog. I told my friend that the good news is the dog could have maimed the child if he really wanted to, but since he didn't, I don't feel like they are dealing with an aggressive dog. This dog is definitely communicating with them and they don't know how to understand him. This dog is letting them know that he is uncomfortable in certain situations. He may not have liked a new dog coming into his home, and he was trying to get that point across with growling. He can't speak English and say " I'm confused and uncomfortable with a new pack member, and I need help dealing with it." Then they say that for 2 years there were no incidents. I find it hard to believe that this dog stop communicating with them for that long. They just don't know how to speak dog, so they didn't know what signs to look for. A side glance, a lip lick, or a still silence are all conversations from a dog. But people tend to ignore such subtle signs and disregard the dogs feelings. I suggested that the mom find a different way to discipline the dog so the toddler would stop copying a behavior that the dog obviously did not like. I also suggested that they really pay attention to the conversations that their dog is having with them, and respect that he does have feelings and fears and they need to help him through them.
So I want everyone to know that a growl is good! Pay attention to what is going on that is making them growl. Then you can either remove the dog from that situation or you can work on gradually and safely desensitizing the dog from whatever is bothering them.
Remember that dogs are "man's best friends" and best friends help each other though the rough times. So lets give the same consideration to our furry friends by learning to listen to what they have to say in their own way and helping them deal with their issues.