Have you ever spotted your dog getting super angry when tired or sleepy? Does that scare you to the core, and do you think his next step could be getting at you and biting you? Well, growling is one of the major ways a dog communicates to express several emotions, from fear to anger, excitement to annoyance, and so on. So, when he is increasingly tired, and he growls at you or the people at home, you would need to identify the cause.
The sooner you understand the reason why your dog growls mostly at bedtime, the better it will help you to address the issue at the earliest. This would even help you curb aggressive tendencies in your dog. Read on to learn why your pet may growl when tired and the possible solutions.
When Do Dogs Growl?
Dogs could growl for many reasons, from being happy to being displeased. It is the tone, intensity, and the dog’s body language that may help us understand the reason why he is growling. For example, your dog is grinning submissively, giving a play bow, and emitting a soft, low-pitched growl. Then, it means he is happy and inviting his mates to play.
On the other hand, when your pet has stiffened his body, has a serious expression, and emits a high-pitched, loud growl, the reason could be a lot more serious. It may mean he is stressed, angry, agitated, or in pain. Let us know some of the reasons why a dog may growl:
1. Out of Fear
A scared dog would express his dismay by letting out a growl. For example, many dogs with stranger anxiety could get anxious when encountering strangers. They would express their discontent by growling as a warning sign for that unknown person to back off.
2. To Protect Their Territory or Possession
Growling to defend their domain or territory is a common trait seen in dogs. If he sees a mailman or someone unknown to him at the door, he perceives the other person as a threat or intruder. He understands that the stranger does not belong to his territory and lets out a growl to warn him of the same.
It seems the dog intends to say, “Hey, stay out! This is my area; you aren’t allowed in”. Similarly, if you have many dogs staying together, there may be a fight for possession. Like, when your one dog goes on to grab your other dog’s toys, the former would be met with an angry growl.
3. In Pursuit of Play
This one has a positive touch, the outcome being soft growls rather than harsh ones. When dogs enthusiastically indulge in play, they would grunt, growl, and grumble in a jolly manner. It seems they are having fun. When one is patting or pleasing the other in the course of a game, then, too, they will growl to express their contentment.
4. When in Pain or Other Physical Discomfort
They may have had an external or internal injury and are in pain. To top it all, people at home may constantly check on them, perhaps out of concern. But, too much care is adding to their misery. This sometimes gets too difficult to handle. The reaction would be a high-pitched growl to express their annoyance and discomfort.
5 Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Can Growl When Tired
Whenever you find your dog extremely tired after a long day, he shows his exhaustion by growling loudly. The growls might be so intense that it may seem his target is you, and he would have his teeth on your body in no time. Well, there is no denying the fact that a sudden growl from your dog could be scary. Yet, there isn’t much to panic about.
Analyze the reason why your dog is growling, and keep a check on his body language as well. Once you figure out why address it to help your dog feel better, here are some of the probable causes for your dog to growl when tired.
1. To Show that They are Extremely Tired
An adult dog needs about 12 to 14 hours of sleep every day. For puppies, the number is higher, around 18-20 hours. Good sleep contributes to sound physical and mental health. If he is exhausted yet not getting the amount of sleep he should get, then for obvious reasons, your dog wouldn’t be in a good mood.
The outcome would be a dissatisfied dog expressing his displeasure through growling, snarling, and even being happy. Not disturbing them now and leaving them alone to get their share of rest would perhaps be helpful.
2. Because of Their Guarding Behavior
Suppose your dog is about to fall asleep or has already fallen asleep on his rug or your bed or sofa. Now, you want to move him from there to his crate. That’s going to be a challenge. Your dog would consider that his comfort zone and show his unwillingness to move from there by growling.
This can even happen if you sometimes share your bed with your dog. Suppose they don’t like your cuddling and jostling them while sleeping; they would growl. If you ask them to get out of bed, they would also react by growling and snarling.
3. When Moved or Disturbed After They’ve Fallen Asleep
This is closely similar to the above point with a little difference. Your dog may not have the urge to guard his territory, yet moving or disturbing him when he is fast asleep could leave him startled and bewildered.
4. They are Possibly Dreaming
Your dog is tired and resting. He has just entered the world of dreams. It wouldn’t be unusual to see your dog making many sounds, like growling, whining, and barking. If you see your dog paddling and making soft noises, it indicates he has a good dream.
On the other hand, if your pooch growls, cries, or whines in his sleep, it indicates that he is anxious or threatened and having nightmares.
5. They May Have Become Overstimulated
When your dog has had too much to do for the day, there are chances that he could get overexcited, just as we humans do. This results in overstimulation, and when a dog desires to withdraw from all the hullabaloo and soothe himself, he resorts to activities like licking, chewing, and even growling. In fact, by letting out growls, they perhaps want to let you know that they’ve had enough for the day and want to be left to themselves.
4 Ways to Help Your Dog Not Growl When He is Tired
The reasons above indicate that dogs mostly growl in stress and anxiousness when exhausted and tired. There are things you can do to relieve his anxiety that would, in turn, refrain him from growling or using other modes of vocalization when anxious.
1. Don’t Disturb Him When He is About to Rest
How would you feel when disturbed while preparing yourself for a nap? Irritated, agitated, terrible! Right. Naturally, your dog would feel the same way when he is tired. Yet you are all set to make him do a task or complete your share of cuddles that you’ve been unable to do throughout the day.
Make sure that their mealtime, exercise, and bedtime schedules are adjusted well so that they don’t get over-exhausted. A good sleep at night with naps in between would help him stay rejuvenated.
You may have toddlers at home who often bother their pet pooch in pursuit of play. Now, the onus lies on you to train them not to disturb the dog, especially if it is tired and sleepy. If your kids desire to pet or cuddle the dog when sleeping, tell them not to do it suddenly. Instead, teach your children to draw the dog’s attention first.
Once acknowledged by the latter, they can proceed with showering their affections. Also, tell your kids to stay away if the dog is growling and not to punish or yell back at the pooch then.
2. Avoid Moving Your Dog in His Sleep
This is something that you shouldn’t even try doing. Suppose your dog has chosen a comfortable spot and has fallen asleep; let him be there for the day. However, it is always advisable to designate a place for your dog to sleep from when he is a puppy. This crate training is a must from the early days of his life. Go for a spacious crate for your dog, where he has sufficient place to move about.
Putting a crate pad inside the crate would make your dog feel cozier and more comfortable, especially during bedtime. Also, fill the crate with your favorite toys to boost him to spend some time of the day there. However, staying in the crate all day could trigger separation anxiety in dogs. It isn’t good for their physical and mental health.
Moreover, if you have to move him in his sleep, and there is no way out, avoid doing it suddenly. You shouldn’t force or shake him so hard that he gets startled and begins growling in agony. Be gentle and calm while doing so. If your dog responds to being called by his name, do the same.
A bonus will be if he is trained on commands. Show his bed and firmly say, ‘Go.’ A well-trained dog would follow your command to the tee. You could even use their favorite toys and treats to lure them. Once they are tempted, then consider shifting them slowly to another location.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement Techniques to Help Dogs Overcome Their Guarding Behavior
If you see that the guarding behavior is intense in them, then obedience training is a mandate. He should first learn to follow commands, like ‘Stay,’ ‘No,’ ‘Down,’ and so on. This makes things easier for you. Never apply force or punish your dog for his guarding instincts. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques. If he is on the bed, urge him to get down. The moment he does, he gets a treat or a cuddle from you. This would entice him to follow your instructions.
4. Give Your Dog More Downtime
A machine needs downtime to recharge its battery, and the same thing applies to humans and every living being, for that matter of fact. Your dog would certainly not be an exception. Make sure your pooch isn’t on the go all day long. Fix his schedule, so he has time to relax and calm down. In this way, he wouldn’t overexert himself and will not growl either.
Can a dog bite you when it is sleepy?
Yes, there are high chances. If your dog is sleeping and you startle him by forcefully waking him up, there are chances that he could express his agony by growling and even biting. Sleep aggression is a better term to describe this behavior, which is common in all breeds. However, greyhounds tend to display this trait more commonly than others.
When to worry about your dog’s growling?
If a dog is growling a lot, and when you notice that he isn’t the way he should be, then it could be worrisome. Perhaps, he is in pain, not feeling well, or physically uncomfortable. In such cases, consult a veterinarian at the earliest.
A dog’s growling is frightening indeed. So, to prevent the growling from turning into biting or any other unwanted behavior, controlling it in an instant is the need of the hour. Please don’t allow your dog to get tired to the point that he expresses his dismay by growling and whining. Proper training on obedience, socialization, and staying in a crate would help.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.