Growling is completely natural for dogs. Almost all dogs do it, especially when something disturbs or upsets them. However, you may have noticed that your dog sometimes growls for no apparent reason. So, why does your dog growl at nothing?
Dogs have very keen senses of smell and hearing, so they may be growling at something obvious to them but invisible to you. They may have heard a noise or smelled something that is upsetting or threatening to them, but which you can’t hear or smell.
Let’s look at why dogs growl at nothing, whether it indicates a behavioral problem or health issue, and how to deal with it. Even if your dog’s behaviors might seem bizarre or funny, you should not ignore them because they can be indicators of issues that may need attention.
Why Does My Dog Growl At Nothing?
Firstly, it is important to understand that this is a common behavior among dogs, and most likely, nothing to worry about. Growling is just another form of communication for dogs, as it is barking and howling. In some cases, dogs may use growling rather than barking or howling to express a number of emotions, including fear, anxiousness, warning, and content.
However, sometimes growling can indicate medical issues with the dog, and this shouldn’t be overlooked. It is always better to know why a behavior is occurring in the first place so that you can rule out any serious issues. Here are some reasons why your dog might regularly growl at nothing.
Canine Dementia Or Cognitive Disabilities
If your dog is older, their age might lead to some illnesses and medical conditions. If your dog is growling while staring at the wall, this may be an indicator of early development of canine dementia. Dogs’ minds can begin to deteriorate as they get older, just as people do.
Cognitive disabilities appear through various symptoms, so if your dog starts growling, make sure that you check for other symptoms as well.
The most common signs of canine dementia are lethargy, shaking, difficulty navigating doors, excessive pacing, and antisocial behavior. If your dog shows any of these symptoms along with the growling, it would be a smart decision to take them for a checkup at the vet.
As your dog gets older, their eyesight might get poor. Bad eyesight can lead your pet to not see objects clearly and mistake shadows as a possible threat to them. Therefore, as they think that they are in some sort of danger, they start growling to defend themselves.
Due to their excellent hearing capabilities and acute sense of smell, dogs can sense animals nearby much earlier than you. As they consider other animals as intruders, they start growling.
For example, if there is a mouse in the wall, your dog will start growling at it, even though you cannot see anything. That is why dog growling can sometimes appear to be bizarre behavior.
Growling Before Bed When Tired
Some dogs get irritable near bedtime or other times when they are very tired. Just as a tired child can become irritable, tired dogs can get grumpy and are more likely to growl and show possessiveness of their bodies and possessions such as toys and bones.
Types Of Dog Growls
Because there are several possible reasons why your dog might growl, it is sometimes difficult to determine what is triggering this behavior. However, paying attention to the type of growl that your dog uses may help indicate the reason.
Different growls occur in different situations and circumstances. Here are some of the most common ones.
Growling While Playing
Dogs often growl when they play. While this might sound strange, a dog’s growl while playing isn’t one of aggression. Rather, this growl is one of excitement and expresses a happiness. It is also a form of communication between two playing dogs, just as people communicate while playing.
It is important to learn to differentiate the difference between playing growls and growls of aggression. Playful growling is usually higher pitched and the growls will be shorter, accompanied by jumping and other playful body language.
Even if one dog has another on their back and they are growling at each other, it is usually quite easy to tell that they are engaged in play and not actually fighting with each other by pitch and level of intensity of the growls.
Be aware that, like people, play fighting can turn into real fighting if one dog pushes another too far or one dog feels threatened. If you have any doubt whether that is happening, it’s best to break up the action and let the dogs cool down just to be on the safe side.
Aggressive growling is related to the expression of power. Dogs start growling in an aggressive manner when they want to position themselves as superiors with other dogs, or they feel threatened and want to warn that dog or person to stay away.
You should never ignore a situation in which your dog gets aggressive towards another animal or a person. If this type of behavior is tolerated, your dog’s aggressive behavior will be reinforced and you’ll have a problematic dog.
You can easily notice the aggressive growling, and it is quite different from the playful one. The growling out of aggressiveness is usually loud and forceful. The posture of the dog is also different as they raise their hackles, pin their ears back, and stiffen up when growling aggressively.
Growling As A Sign Of Warning
When the dog feels that somebody threatens their territory and place, they might start growling. That is a warning that they are not comfortable, although it does not have to be aggressive.
It is important to understand that you should not ignore this type of growling and remove everything or stop anything that might make your dog uncomfortable and anxious. With this type of growling, your dog is trying to tell you that they need some space.
If a dog is injured and you approach them, they may growl at you because they feel vulnerable and threatened. Similarly, if you approach a dog who has a bone or toy, they may growl to warn you to keep away from their possession. Always heed these warnings! Growls come before bites, and the dog is giving you adequate warning.
While possessive behavior is not acceptable, the time to work on modifying those behaviors is before a growling incident, not while it’s happening. Give the dog some space and time to cool down or move away from the possession they are guarding.
Growling Out Of Pleasure
Just as cats purr when you pet them, dogs sometimes growl when something feels pleasant to them. So, you might have noticed that when you pet your dog, they start growling softly, which might remind you of purring.
That is when dogs experience pleasure and want to tell you that they are enjoying it. The growling out of pleasure is usually very low in sound, and it can be longer than any other dog growl. That usually happens when you pet your dog around their head, or you are rubbing their tummy.
What Should You Do When Your Dog Growls At Nothing?
First, consider that this is a dog’s way of communication. Therefore, they want to tell you something. They may be anxious, bothered, threatened, or they are experiencing some kind of unpleasant feeling. As their owner, you need to try to figure out what is going on and try to help your pet if possible.
Observe Closely What Is Making Your Dog Upset
Make sure that you analyze closely everything that happens around you when your dog starts growling. Check whether some other animal might be bothering your dog, or you have taken something from them and they are now upset.
Take Your Dog To The Vet
If it is difficult for you to understand the cause of your dog growling at nothing, take your dog to the vet for a quick checkup. The vet may be able to help you and even provide an appropriate medication if that is necessary.
The Bottom Line
A dog growling at nothing is quite common, and it is usually not something that you should be alarmed by. However, make an effort to figure out the reasons why the growling arises. Whether it’s something silly that’s bothering the dog, a serious threat, or a health issue, the dog is upset enough to be growling and wants to communicate that concern to you.