Why Do Dogs Grunt and Groan? [Explained]

How often have we felt like our dogs can communicate with us? They listen and understand what we are saying and respond accordingly. While they are not gifted with words, their body language and the limited sounds they can make convey volumes.

All that is needed is a little observation from us.

why do dogs grunt
Why do dogs grunt and groan?

Some of the most common sounds that canines make while communicating are barking, whining, growling, howling, sighing, and grunting. Each of these sounds has different variations that our dogs tend to use according to the situation. The sounds may also be accompanied by certain bodily movements. 

However, grunting is an unusual sound to hear from our dogs and often raises concern. Here’s an overview of why dogs grunt and groan and what these sounds may mean.

What is Grunting?

There may have been instances where you may have found your dog making low guttural sounds, like releasing a short breath. It may have sounded like a sigh but more forceful. This is called grunting. 

Grunting can often be ruled out as normal vocalization by your dog and an expression of happiness. However, unusual grunting accompanied by other signs of discomfort must be looked into.

Pom-Tzu close up
A close up photo of Pomeranian-Shih Tzu breed.

Why Do Dogs Grunt and Groan? 

Generally, dogs sigh for the same reason humans do — to express contentment or disappointment. Just like we sigh loudly when we lay on our beds after a long day at work, dogs grunt when they lie down on their stomachs or when your pet them

More often than not, these sounds are just an involuntary reaction from your dog to express that they are delighted by the activity and perfectly content

But at times, when your otherwise silent pet starts grunting excessively, it could be an indication of pain and discomfort.

Goldendoodle getting a belly rub
A Goldendoodle getting a belly rub from his owner.

Reasons Why Your Dogs Grunt

1. To Express Content

The most common reason behind the grunting of dogs is to express contentment and approval

Your dog might just have returned from a walk and is finding their muscles relaxed after a much-needed exercise. Or, you might be scratching their pleasure point and they want you to do it more.

Imagine receiving a back massage while you stare at the screen on your desk. Know the feeling? It’s the same feeling that our dogs experience when we scratch or pet them.

It’s a blissful experience, so they release a grunt of content.

But, if you are still worried, look for other signs of contentment like slow blinking, yawning, drifting eyes, or longer eye contact. If you observe this, rest assured your pet is absolutely comfortable.

owner pets Border Collie
The owner pets his Border Collie!

2. To Express Disappointment

If your dog starts grunting when you stop throwing the ball to take a call, it might just be telling you not to stop. Dogs often grunt to show that they aren’t happy with something you did

The grunt may mean different things in different situations. If you are cuddling your pooch on the couch and they let out a grunt, you might be crushing them with your weight. On the other hand, if your dog grunts when you stop scratching behind their ears, they might want you to do it more. 

Look at the signals that your pet is giving you and try to decipher what they mean. If you learn what your pet is saying, you could form a much stronger bond with it.

Cocker Spaniel on grass
Cocker Spaniel lying on the grass and looking towards owner.

3. Pain/Discomfort 

Sometimes, dogs may grunt if they are experiencing some kind of pain. Look for signs of pain such as licking a particular area, grunting while lying down, or limping while walking.

As dogs age, they may develop illnesses like arthritis, which causes joint pain. So, simple movements like shifting, walking, and lying down can be painful and cause your pet to groan. If your pet is aged, this might be the apparent reason behind their grunting. 

Take your pup to a vet so they can recommend some medications to ease the pain and provide your pet some comfort.

tooth pain or dental problems
Tooth Pain or Dental Problems

4. Panosteitis

Do you find your puppy grunting and flinching away every time you touch or try to pet them? It may be because of panosteitis

Puppies, especially those who grow at a faster pace, may experience some pain in their leg bones. This condition is called panosteitis.

When their bones grow faster than their bodies, it can be extremely painful for your dog and cause them to grunt or groan. Fortunately, the pain usually subsides within a few weeks. 

Larger breeds, such as Golden Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Basset Hounds are more susceptible to panosteitis.

Golden Retriever with owner
Golden Retriever with his owner on her laptop.

5. Gastrointestinal Problems

If your usually quiet dog suddenly starts grunting after meals or is avoiding them, it may be a sign that your dog is suffering from gastrointestinal issues like ascites, acid reflux, and pancreatitis.

Gastrointestinal issues can cause dehydration, acid-based electrolyte imbalance, and malnutrition in dogs. Gulping down food can also lead to bloating and can be life-threatening, even resulting in a twist in the stomach.

If you notice any of these signs, rush your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

my dog's stomach is gurgling
Why is my dog’s stomach is gurgling?

6. Laryngeal Paralysis

Does your pet cough and pant every time you walk or play a couple of rounds of frisbee? It may be the beginning of laryngeal paralysis.

Laryngeal paralysis usually occurs in middle-aged and older dogs. It’s when the throat muscles become weak and don’t work efficiently. That is, your dog’s throat muscles may not open or close normally while breathing, resulting in your dog feeling lethargic and making frequent grunting sounds.

If you come across symptoms like dry cough, changes in noises that your dog makes, or noisy breathing, it may be an indication of laryngeal paralysis. Coughing, usually after exercise, and exhaustion are the most common symptoms. 

Large dogs like Labrador Retrievers and Great Danes are more susceptible to this problem. 

Consult a good veterinarian to get your dog the best possible treatment.

panting Cockapoo
Cockapoo panting heavily after playing.

7. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Does your dog no longer seem to be interested in their favorite activities or sleeps at unusual times? Do you think it’s some sort of dementia?

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a behavioral syndrome that mostly affects senior dogs and severely impairs their cognitive functioning. It is a condition linked with the aging of a dog’s brain and is similar to dementia in humans.

This syndrome leads to confusion, disorientation, and behavioral changes including sleep-wake cycle disturbance. Most common symptoms include anxiety or restlessness, extreme irritability, decreased desire to play, and excessive licking.

It may also cause your dog to become more vocal and express their distress and confusion through constant barking, groaning, and grunting.

Corgi is sleeping soundly
Corgi and Dorgi both have health conditions that may occur.

8. Respiratory Disorders 

If you find your dog coughing, sneezing, or making snorting noises along with grunting, they may be suffering from a respiratory disorder. 

Brachycephalic breeds, which are short-muzzled dog breeds with flat faces, are at higher risk of developing respiratory disorders. This is because these breeds have a genetic mutation that causes them to have disproportionate soft palates, nasal cartilage, and tongues. Their narrow airway thus makes it harder for them to breathe. 

Even without respiratory disorders, brachycephalic dogs grunt more than others.

dog eyes closed
The dog is standing with its eyes closed.

9. Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is a condition in which your dog will inhale air rapidly into the nose instead of pushing it out like in a regular sneeze. While doing so, your dog may produce a sound similar to snorting and make you feel like they’re choking on something. Dogs do this to get rid of nasal irritants.

Though it might appear a bit alarming, it’s completely normal and has no ill effects. Such episodes of reverse sneezing last for only a few seconds before your dog is back to breathing normally. You can gently stroke your dog’s throat to help soothe the nasal muscles.

black Boston Terrier
Black Boston Terrier sitting on bed.

Signs to Look Out for

It can be quite difficult to decipher the cause behind your dog’s grunting without considering other factors. To pin down the exact cause, we need to be aware of some others clues, too.

When did your dog start grunting?

If your dog isn’t a frequent grunter, it’ll be helpful to know when this behavior started. Was it after your walk? Or was it after their meal this morning?

Maybe the new pet food you bought didn’t sit well with their stomach.

Knowing when the grunting started will help you track whether any new irritants were introduced that may be the cause behind the grunting.

German Shepherd sweet
German Shepherd rests his head on the owner’s lap.

When does your dog usually grunt?

Keep an eye out for whether the grunting is frequent and if there is a particular time or a particular situation when your dog does it.

For example, if your dog grunts when you pet them, check whether you are putting pressure on some injury that is causing the grunting. Or if your dog starts grunting at your usual play time, it might want to remind you to take them out. 

If you identify any pattern in your dog’s grunting, it can help you understand the reason for it.

Jack Russell Terrier petting
Petting Jack Russell Terrier by his owner.

Is there a particular way your dog grunts?

It can help to understand how your dog grunts. Is it a harmless, playful grunting or is it an aggressive grunt?

Sometimes dogs can express aggression in the form of grunting. If your dog is used to getting their way, then a minor inconvenience can have them reacting aggressively. In such cases, you must take help from a professional trainer to address this behavioral issue.

German Shepherd beside his owner
German Shepherd being curious beside his owner.

Are there any other signs of illness or discomfort?

Often, when dogs are grunting because of any medical ailment or distress, grunting is accompanied by other signs of discomfort.

Have you noticed excessive coughing or sneezing? Is your dog writhing in pain every time they move a particular limb? In such cases, your dog might be having some respiratory issues or suffering from arthritis. 

Chihuahua open mouth
Chihuahua mouth wide opened.

How To Get Your Dog To Stop Grunting Or Groaning?

Grunting and groaning aren’t always associated with illness or injury. More often than not, it’s just our pets expressing their content and relaxing. 

But, if you feel that the reason behind their grunting is not just content, you may want to try out one of the following methods to help address it.

1. Consult A Vet

If your pet has suddenly started to grunt a lot, there’s a large possibility that they might be suffering from some pain.

Consult a vet to figure out the root cause behind the excessive grunting. Inform the vet of all your observations and concerns to help them make an accurate judgment.

German Shepherd at vet
German Shepherd at a vet clinic.

2. Reinforcement Training

If the vet rules out any medical condition, your pet may just require some training. Much like kids, dogs can also throw tantrums to get attention or to get their way with things. It’s important to fix this behavior to avoid further problems.

Dachshund training
Owner trains his Dachshund.

Negative Reinforcement Training

Knowingly or unknowingly, we reinforce bad behaviors in our pets by rewarding them. If you reward your pet with extra treats every time it whines or grunts, chances are it might keep doing it for more. 

Avoid this at all costs and instead, try positive reinforcement training.

Positive Reinforcement Training

In positive reinforcement training, we get our pets to behave the way we want by rewarding them for it. 

To stop their constant grunting you can try:

  1. Treating them when they are quiet and well-behaved.
  2. Giving them attention when they aren’t grunting or groaning.
  3. Ignoring them if they make these noises.

By doing this, you’ll be reinforcing that the grunting will not get rewarded. 

3. Get Professional Help 

If none of the above methods help and you notice your dog grunting aggressively, it’s time to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They might help you to figure out the cause and suggest an effective training technique.

Parting Words

Our dogs are talking to us all the time. And while individual signals like barking or wagging of the tail can mean a whole bunch of things, it’s their combination that’ll tell the true story. 

A simple grunt or groan can also mean anything, from contentment to physical pain. But to truly understand what our dogs are trying to communicate, we need to observe and recognize certain signs. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for unusual behaviors so we can ensure that our pups are healthy and happy.