Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Dogs > Why Do Dogs Growl? 7 Common Reasons

Why Do Dogs Growl? 7 Common Reasons

Close up of angry growling dog

Dogs don’t have too many ways to communicate with people or others around them. They can reliably use body language with one another, but when it comes to communicating with people and other species, they really only have barking and growling. While growling is often seen as a sign of aggression, there are plenty of other times that a dog might growl.

Below, we look at 7 causes of growling, whether you should be concerned, and whether there is anything you can or should do to stop the behavior.


The 7 Common Reasons Why Dogs Growl

1. Feeling Threatened

A low, rumbling growl, is usually meant as a warning sign and it indicates that a dog feels threatened or scared. The growl will usually start low, but it may build up and become more agitated and sound more aggressive if the perceived threat is not removed or the situation is resolved. You need to determine what is causing this growl and either resolve the issue or put something in the way so your dog can’t see the threat any longer.

You should also ensure your dog is being socialized properly so that it doesn’t perceive everything as a threat, and you may need to enlist a behaviorist if things don’t improve.

Naughty dog barking on vacuum cleaner during house cleaning
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

2. Playing

If you’re playing and your dog starts to growl, it is likely just a sign that your dog is having fun and doesn’t want the game to stop. Other than the possibility of them becoming overstimulated, there isn’t any reason to stop your dog growling in this way. This type of play growling is especially common when playing tug of war or other tug games. And it is accompanied by playful movements such as your dog leaning forward with front legs on the ground and rear in the air.

3. Frustrated

A dog may growl when it is frustrated. This could happen because it can’t reach or get to something it wants or because it is frustrated that it isn’t getting what it wants. Frustration can, in some dogs and some cases, lead to anger and potentially even aggression so you should take action to curb the frustration or prevent it from escalating.

territorial dog growling
Image By: Agnes Kantaruk, Shutterstock

4. Happy

Some dogs growl when they’re happy, similar to a cat purring. This may happen when the dog is getting attention or affection from you and, like play growling, there’s no reason to stop this behavior. Rottweilers are especially known to do the happy growl and as long as you know that it is a happy growl, it should be celebrated and not prevented.

5. Showing Affection

Your dog may make this purring growl when it is showing affection to you. This is a low growl. In some dogs, it may be almost inaudible. It is very similar to the happy growl, and you don’t need to stop the growling. Be happy that your dog is happy.

Person trying to pet a growling puppy
Image By: Bonsales, Shutterstock

6. Being Aggressive

An aggressive growl will usually sound more like a snarl, and it will be accompanied by your dog showing its teeth and potentially snapping and barking. Your dog may also raise its hackles and lunge toward the object of its aggression. You should try to separate your dog and whatever is causing the aggression. Do make sure you don’t get bitten, and once you have stopped your dog growling, determine the cause and the trigger.

7. In Pain

Rarely, a dog may growl if it is in pain. This may occur because your dog is experiencing unexplained pain. The pain may be causing fear and they may even expect you, the vet, or anybody else that is trying to help, to make things worse.

black and white dog growling
Image By: monicore, Pixabay

divider-dog paw


Generally, you should be able to tell from the context the cause of your dog’s growling and the reason for it. For example, it should be relatively easy to tell whether your dog is growling because it is in pain or if it is being aggressive. Look for clues, determine what is around you, and see whether you can identify any triggers.

Spotting triggers can help you prevent any future growling incidents, or in the case of happy growls, you can see what gets your dog so excited that it causes it to growl.

Featured Image Credit: Ton Bangkeaw, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets