Social rank is a big thing to a social pack animal. Leaders eat what they want and get the better sleeping quarters. Lower ranking members would not challenge the leader for food, or act aggressively towards a higher pack member by trying to move the leader out of his bed.
If your dog growls at you when you go near his food bowl or if the dog is laying in your bed and growls when you get into bed or if it growls when you take toys away, that dog is either fearful because of how it was treated in the past or it does not respect your position as a higher social rank.
If a dog that has not been mistreated by family members but growls at the wife or children it sees itself as a higher rank. Growling is the dogs warning or challenge. It’s often accompanied my other subtle body postures that most owners miss. Some people think growling is a bad thing, I don’t. Growling is a signal that there is a problem of some kind and I need to find the solution.
Look at it like this. Some dogs don’t growl, they simply strike (bite) with very little warning. Would you rather have a dog that growls or a dog that strikes? In my opinion, people who administer unfair corrections for growling are making a mistake. They are setting themselves up to get dog bit. What they should be doing is thinking about why the dog is growling and then come up with a solution to stop it in the future.
Is the dog is growling over food? Then it should be fed in a crate. Is it growling when you take toys away?
Then it should not have toys. Is it growling when you come to bed? Then it needs to be on leash in the house and it should go in a crate at bedtime. Does it growl at guests? Then put it in a crate when guests come over. A little common sense goes a long way in figuring out a solution. And each of these solutions does not involve a fight with the dog. We say they are just examples of controlling the environment that the dog is allowed to live in.