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relaxed dog purrs

Do Dogs Purr? What Does It Mean When They Do?

Dogs often purr like cats. But is it the same form of vocalization or something different?

Have you ever noticed your dog making a purring noise while they’re sleeping or relaxing in their bed?

Dogs do not actually purr the same sense that cats do. The “purring” sound that dogs make is actually called “rumbling” and is a much deeper sound than a feline purr. When dogs make this rumbling sound, they actually make a “burr” sound, or a soft growl, rather than a purr. 

We’ll look at some of the reasons why dogs make this “purring” sound, and what it means.

Why do Dogs Purr Like Cats?

When dogs communicate, they are not only reliant on the sounds they make, but also their posture and body language.

So, when a dog makes a purr-like sound, it can mean a number of different things depending on what is happening at the moment and how they’re feeling.

Can Dogs Purr?

Dogs are actually unable to purr, as a cat’s purring sound is not part of a canine’s vocal range. They are, however, able to make a softer, toned-down, rumbling version of a growl which sounds pretty similar.

dog purrs in owners hand

What Does it Sound Like my Dog is Purring?

Usually, a dog will make a low growl or soft grunting sound when they’re being petted, fussed over, or when they’re anticipating a fun activity such as a walk.

Many people will often confuse this for purring, but as we noted earlier this sound is actually called rumbling.

Do Dogs Purr when Owners Pet or Cuddle Them?

Dogs often make a purr-like sound when they are shown affection by their owners. This sound indicates that your dog is enjoying the attention and affection, and they want you to keep going.

Reasons Why Dogs Purr

Dogs will use their rumbling, purr-like sound to communicate a number of different emotions. More often than not, dogs make a rumbling sound as a means of communicating their happiness and contentment, however, they also use the sound to demonstrate sadness, or fear.

To understand why your dog is making purring sounds, you need to observe the situation, and your dog’s body language. Now, we’re going to look at some of the emotions dogs tend to express when they grumble.



When a dog sees their favorite toy, they know it’s time to play. When it comes to playtime, dogs are often unable to contain their excitement, so they will begin to make a low rumbling sound in anticipation.

Going for a Walk

It’s no secret that dogs love going on walks, and the first hint that they’re going on one usually gets them riled up. Even if a dog doesn’t make a sound, they’re often so excited that they’re unable to hide a low growl, which sounds pretty similar to a purr.

Treat Time

Dogs absolutely love treats, and when your dog sees you reaching for a snack, they always assume it’s for them too. When a dog is anticipating a treat or a snack, they will often make a cute “purring” noise in the hopes that you’ll slip them one.

Seeing a Loved One

There’s a reason why dogs are known for being our best friends. When it comes to their humans, dogs tend to love unconditionally and selflessly, so when they see us, they often can’t contain their excitement. A lot of dogs will express this excitement by rumbling or purring.

dog purrs with joy


Rottweilers, in particular, often display their pleasure in the form low, rumbling growls which sound similar to feline purrs.


Dogs are extremely affectionate animals, so when they’re getting pets and rubs from their owners, they enjoy every single second. Dogs will often make a low rumbling noise when their owners are stroking them, which sounds pretty similar to a cat in the same situation. This is why the low, rumbling growl a dog makes is often confused with purring.


If you search videos of “dogs purring”, most of the results will show you this happening when they’re being hugged. This is because dogs are comforted by physical contact, which is why they make these purr-like sounds.


Dogs find massaging as relaxing and as comforting as we do. So, when a dog is being massaged, they will “purr” to communicate to us that they’re enjoying it and want us to continue.


Sometimes dogs will make a low, rumbling sound when you’re brushing their fur and washing them – not every dog hates being groomed. The noises they make are often a sign of gratitude, and they tend to close their eyes and make soft rumbles when doing so.


Dogs will also make a rumbling noise as a warning sign. Pay attention to the situation and your dog’s body language to check if their rumbling is a negative reaction. What starts as a “purr” can quickly escalate to a warning growl.

It can be very confusing to a dog owner when they think their dog is blissing out with purrs but suddenly is growling because they feel threatened or uncomfortable for some reason. Heed this warning — almost all dog bites are preceded by a warning growl. It’s your dog’s way of letting you know they are being serious.

Here are some of the situations in which your dog may purr as a warning:

Threatening Other Dogs or Humans

Dogs will make a sound which sounds like purring when they are in a bad mood. This bad mood can be triggered when they do not like a fellow dog or another human.

When they’re in a bad mood, the rumble they make will be deeper, and they will have a much more aggressive tone. Usually, they will also bare their teeth if they feel threatened, or are threatening someone else.

Unwanted Activity

Generally, if your dog doesn’t like something, they will let you know. For instance, being touched when and where they don’t want to be, and meeting a stranger can make your dog feel uncomfortable. When they feel this way, they will express it by letting out a low growl.

Playful Warning

Dogs enjoy play-fighting with one another, and when they play-fight, they will often let out soft growls. These soft growls are a sign that they are not actually fighting, and these noises can sound pretty similar to a cat’s purr.

Motherly Protection

Even dogs have the instinct to protect their newborn pups, but it’s no surprise as dogs are known for being protective animals.

Some dog mothers don’t like people getting too close to their newborns, especially if they feel like there is any malicious intent at play. Dog mothers will give off a deep rumbling sound as a warning – they may even snarl if you get too close.


Saying Goodbye

For a dog, saying goodbye to a friend, or someone they love being around can be sad, especially as they don’t know when the next time they see them will be.

When a dog is leaving their canine friends in the park, or someone they like is leaving the house, they may express their sadness by purring or whining. Sad dogs will usually have a drooping tail and ears too.

dog purrs on owner's shoulder

Playtime has Finished

When the fun ends, dogs can be sad for a little while, so they may purr and whine to show their unhappiness. Sometimes their purring persuades us into playing with them for a little while longer.


Dogs are extremely social animals, which stems back to their wild days when they existed in packs. So, most dogs do not enjoy being left alone, especially for long periods of time. Dogs will often express their sadness through rumbles, low growls and whimpers.

Being Cooped Up for Too Long

Just like they don’t like being left alone, dogs also don’t like being stuck inside for too long either. Dogs will tend to make a low, rumbling noise to signal to you that they want to be let outside. They will also sit near an outside door to signal to you that they want to go out.

Health Problems

Some health problems can cause severe pain. Dogs may noy be able to show you their pain, but they will try to communicate it to you, by letting out a low growl or purring noise to release some of the pain.

If you think that your dog is in pain, we recommend you take them to the vet as soon as possible.


Dogs can also make a purring noise when they are feeling anxious, some scenarios which might cause your dog anxiety include:

Being left alone by their owner: Dogs don’t like being left alone, and are prone to experiencing separation anxiety. If a dog is home alone, they will often make a low growling sound with sounds similar to a purr.

They’re around strangers: The reason why dogs make such good guard dogs and protectors is because they’re often anxious of strangers. Even if the “stranger” is someone you have invited to your home, it may take your dog some time to warm up to them. Dogs will make a constant purring sound to show their discomfort.

Their home environment is new: When dogs come home for the first time, they need a while to adjust to their new environment. Dogs will often be anxious and will voice it through “purrs.”

There’s a thunderstorm: It’s pretty common knowledge that dogs experience anxiety when there are extremely loud noises, which is why they’re scared of fireworks too. When your dog is scared or anxious during a thunderstorm, they will make a low rumbling noise and will try to get close to you for comfort.

How to Comfort Your Dog When They’re Anxious

It’s important that your dog doesn’t feel alone. If you’re leaving the house for a long period of time, turn on the radio or TV for them. It’s also worth looking into doggy daycare centers, especially if you work long hours.

If your dog is anxious or afraid of strangers and other people, they will need to be trained. Slowly start to make them familiar with people who frequently come to visit your house. Similarly, if your dog is anxious as they’re in a new environment, it will take some time for them to become familiar with their surroundings – just be patient.

When it comes to thunderstorms, or firework displays, make sure your dog is inside. Try hugging them and comforting them so they don’t feel as scared. Giving you dog attention will let them know that they’re not alone.

Finishing Thoughts

Although dogs physically can’t purr, as a feline purr is not in their vocal range, they do have a canine equivalent known as “rumbling”. When a dog rumbles, they let off a low growl, which is usually expressed in a soft tone as a response to something joyful or exciting.

However, dogs can also rumble when they are scared and threatened. It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s body language and tone when you think they’re rumbling as a negative response.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor