Dog Growls When Moved While Sleeping [Explained]

There could be multiple reasons that you notice your dog growls when moved while sleeping. Most commonly, much like us humans, they were comfortable in their position and didn’t want to get moved.

Often, pet owners may need to get up for something in the middle of the night to go to the restroom, check the house, etc. If your dog is impeding your bath and you need to move him, you may hear him start growling to express his discontent. 

dog growls when moved while sleeping
Dog growls when moved while sleeping. [Explained]

Why are they growling, and what should you do about it? Most people take growling as a sign that a dog is about to attack or that they’re being aggressive. However, that is not always the case, as growling is a form of communication, much like crying for babies. 

Keep reading to learn other reasons your dog might be growling and what you can do in those situations. 

Reasons Your Dog Growls When Moved While Sleeping

Examine how your dog behaves and their body language when you move them to determine which of these causes may be why he’s growling.

Your Dog Is Exhausted

There’s a high chance that your dog is also simply exhausted. They might be feeling grouchy if you’re interrupting their sleep because they don’t feel well-rested. 

A dog that feels fatigued will want to resume sleep and do what it takes to avoid or stop something from interfering with its goal. 

Owners can usually tell when their pets are agitated, so you might hear them growl and perhaps seem annoyed. They just want to be left alone, nothing personal!

Staffordshire Terrier sleeping
A Staffordshire Terrier sleeping soundly on the couch.

They’re Claiming Their Territory

Other reasons dogs growl when moved could be because they prefer to stay where they are. For example, if they fall asleep on your bed or on a couch that they shouldn’t be on, they might resist you moving them to another spot. 

They might like that spot and will try not to budge even if you’re insistent. If your dog growls and they look at you but don’t move, and their tail isn’t wagging, they’re likely trying to claim that territory as their own. 

brown and white puppy on dog bed
A (very) sleepy brown and white puppy nods off on a large dog bed.

Your Dog Is in Pain or Experiencing Discomfort

Your dog could be growling to signal that something is off or something hurts. When you try to move your dog, especially if they are heavy, it can cause discomfort if you awkwardly shift their body. Also, some dogs just don’t like to be touched, making them uncomfortable to get moved. 

Perhaps a dog trainer can help you teach your dog to move by themselves to a new spot if they’re in your way. It could take a couple of weeks before it sticks, but it’ll get them used to needing to move if they fall asleep in a forbidden area. 

tooth pain or dental problems
Tooth Pain or Dental Problems

Doggy Dreaming

When dogs fall into a deep sleep, it’s well within the realm of possibility that they are dreaming about something that feels real to them. Consequently, they may make noises such as growling and howling.

These behaviors and dreams typically occur when dogs are in a particular stage of sleep, referred to as rapid eye movement. Therefore, if you suspect that this is why your dog is making noises while they’re sleeping, then allow them to continue sleeping.

Perhaps you’ve seen videos where dogs are barking or even running in their sleep. Growling is in the same ballpark!

puppy sleeping on a blanket
A cute little puppy sleeping on a blanket.

Medical Conditions

Certain ailments could cause your dog to start growling at you. Neurologic conditions, seizures, and other health problems might cause fatigue, dizziness, and being unbalanced. 

These problems can become further exacerbated when you break their sleep cycle. For example, waking a dog up and causing them to feel like their equilibrium is off or if they have a small seizure (that you might not even notice) could warrant a growl or two. 

Some breeds are more susceptible to these situations, such as Poodles, Beagles, and Golden Retrievers. If they seem unsteady to you and you think that’s the reason they growl each time you move them, consult a veterinarian for recommendations on the best way to proceed. 

sick dog sleeping
A sick dog sleeping on a pillow.

They Were Startled

Dogs are just like us when it comes to sleep and relaxation. If your dog is completely laid out and in deep sleep or highly relaxed when you touch them, there’s a good chance that you can scare them if you try to move their body. 

For many dogs, growling is a part of their response when they get startled. One way to tell if this is the reason they growled is to see how they react when you initially touch them. If they flinch when you move them and start growling, it’s probably because you scared them and caught them off guard.  

dog sleeping in human bed
A dog sleeping in bed catching some zzz’s. Should your dog sleep in your bed?

What to Do If Your Dog Growls When You Move Them?

If your dog is growling while sleeping, you shouldn’t be alarmed. Moreover, this does not provide insight into whether your dog is unhappy or even aggressive. The best option is just to allow it to take place.

But if you desire for your dog to stop growling when you move them, below are some ideas that can help you achieve this.

Arrange Another Sleeping Area Separate From Yours

Whether your dog is growling when you move them intentionally or unintentionally, it can be challenging to train them not to do so.

One popular suggestion from trainers involves using a crate or some other designated area as a place to allow your dog to have a peaceful night of rest.

As your dog is sleeping, allow them to rest without waking them. Please wait until your companion is fully awake before letting them out of the crate. 

snoozing shiba inu sleeping
A cute Shiba Inu catches some sleep on a comfy pillow

Alert Your Dog By Name

Perchance your dog growls and is aggressive when you go to move him; it’s best to refrain from waking him.

Suppose you have no choice but to move your dog for unforeseen reasons, such as an unplanned nap. Call out to your dog by name or give them a command to go to bed.

The sound of your voice may be more disarming for your dog than moving them. This is a way for your dog to wake up and reduce any danger that you could be subject to. Working closely with a trainer is a way for your dog to recognize and comply with demands seamlessly.

dog yawning
A dog yawning in a bed.

Allow Your Dog to Sleep Until They Wake Naturally

In general, most dogs need a lot more sleep than humans. For instance, adult dogs spend over half the day asleep. What’s more, the number of hours can increase with older dogs or even during the summer.

If your dog is sleeping, allow them to rest. Once your dog is fully rested, they’ll get up by themselves.

Cute sleepy cavapoo
Cute sleepy Cavapoo lying on bed

Consult a Veterinarian

However, if you feel that the growling is a sign of an underlying medical condition, like a seizure, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Your vet will have the means to do the proper test to determine whether any sleep or neurological issues affect your dog.

If your dog does have an issue, there are solutions such as lifestyle changes and medications to help improve their quality of life.

gray poodle happy at the vet
A gray Poodle happy at the vet. Toy or a small Miniature size.

Final Thoughts 

What’s the best solution if your dog growls when moved while sleeping?

If you do not have a good reason to move your dog when they’re sleeping, just allow them to sleep. However, if you have to move them, it’s best to call them by name to wake them instead of touching them. They are much more likely to respond to your voice in a better way as opposed to being touched.