Why Does My Dog Growl When Tired? 6 Reasons, 1 Solution

Photo by smerikal on Flickr

Are you wondering why your dog growls when tired? Is it a sign of aggression?

I brought my dog home when he was about 3 months old. He is, indeed, a bundle of joy. I like petting him whenever I get a chance, and that’s many times a day!

But one thing that I did notice is he tends to growl when he is tired, especially at night. It is a low growl, but it isn’t playful either. 

It sounded like he really meant business, and that made me wonder if he would bite me or something. I was like, “Oh, boy! He is getting mean!” It scared me a little bit.

Does your pet do the same thing? Is it worrying you? Are you thinking that it may be a warning? Or, perhaps your furry companion is simply telling you, “Stay away from me for now. I am tired!”?

Read on and have a better understanding as to why dogs growl when tired.

Do Dogs Get Cranky When Tired?

Much like their human companions, dogs do have their off-days too. There will be times when your pet is cranky or irritable.

This could be due to several reasons like boredom, pain or illness, lack of exercise, lack of attention, heat and humidity, and, yes, when they are tired. They may growl at you when they are exhausted or lacking sleep.

Is this natural or worrisome? It is natural. Like what we have said earlier, dogs are like human beings.

Kids and adults can get cranky when they are tired. The same goes for dogs that are exhausted.

There is nothing better for you to do than to allow your furry companion to get the sleep that he needs.

Why do dogs growl when they are tired?

Imagine this: You are trying to get some sleep and somebody in your house keeps slamming the door behind them, or perhaps one of your family members starts asking questions. Obviously, you would get annoyed.

You would have these facial expressions, or you would probably yell at them and say, “Stop bothering me! Leave me alone!” Well, it’s the same way with dogs. Remember that growling is one of their ways of communicating.

So when you see that your pup is pooped, it would be best to leave him alone so he can rest. Otherwise, it would eventually result in aggression.

The number of hours that a dog needs depends on its age. If you are dealing with a tiny pup, you can expect them to sleep a lot.

So if yours have been up for a few hours, especially if he played, let him sleep. If you hear him making that low growl, that’s a sign that he needs to rest. 

Six reasons dogs growl when moved or touched while sleeping?

Have you ever tried moving or touching your dog in his sleep? Did he growl at you? There are several reasons for this.

It could be because he is uncomfortable with you moving him; he doesn’t want to be disturbed, or maybe you startled him. It could also be due to pain or discomfort.

If you are one who loves to sleep with his dog, you probably have experienced being growled at by your dog many times if you suddenly have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, grab a glass of water, or simply set your alarm clock and you need to move him a little bit to get him out of the way.

Maybe he is too tired to be moved and disturbed.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your dog may growl at you when you move or touch him when he is tired and sleeping:


Just like you are, the most relaxed moment for your dog’s body is when he is sleeping. Now, if you try to move him when he is tired and sleeping, that would result in a startle response. And most of the time, it’s a growl.

Claiming Territory

Most of us want to move our dogs when they fall asleep on the couch, floor, or our bed instead of their personal space.

Some pups are okay with this, but some will also try to resist and growl. This signifies that they are claiming the territory.


Dogs may growl to let you know that there is something wrong. With you moving him, that may be making him uncomfortable.

To avoid this, it is highly recommended that you train him to go to his sleeping area when he is tired. This way, you won’t have to disturb him later on.

Medical Conditions

When you are not feeling good and somebody touches or tries to move you, you may moan a bit, especially if you are in pain.

It’s the same way with dogs. When they are tired, sleeping, and have some medical conditions, they may growl at you when you touch them.


Dogs that are overtired may fall in a deep sleep, and they could be dreaming, too. With this, they may howl, growl, or make other noises, especially when their dreams seem real to them.

In this scenario, the best thing that you can do is just let your pet sleep.

Super Tired

Humans are cranky, grumpy, or grouchy when we are super tired. This happens in dogs, too.

They want to get as much rest as they can, and when you disturb them, they might growl at you to let you know that they don’t want to be disturbed.

What to Do When Your Dog Is Tired

When you see your dog yawning, lying down, or it seems like he is not interested in playing, these are signs that he is tired.

So what do you then? Just let him sleep and do not interfere with his sleep cycle. But first of all, make sure that he falls asleep in the right place.

This way, you won’t have to worry about moving him later on, which would only make him feel cranky.

Remember: Nobody wants to be disturbed when tired and is in a deep sleep.

6 Other Reasons Why Dogs Growl

 Why do dogs growl in the first place? Dogs are like kids. They throw tantrums, too, and one way of them doing so is by growling.

Take note that growling is a dog’s method of communication. They could be telling you any of the following:

They Are Having Fun

If you have spent any time at the dog park, you probably have seen dogs of all sizes and breeds play together. For sure, you have also heard them make those cute little growling sounds. That’s because they are getting excited and having fun. You should not misinterpret this as a sign of aggression. Again, keep in mind that this is their way of expressing their emotions verbally. And obviously, when dogs play together, they have fun.

They Are Pleased

Puppies may also growl affectionately. For instance, when you give them some treats or you pet them. Most of the time, this type of growl is low and a dog’s body is relaxed.

They Are Giving a Warning

Now, when you hear a deep, rumbling growl, that’s a different story. Your puppy is trying to give you a warning. This happens when a dog feels threatened or possessive, especially when it seems to them like you are invading their personal space.

Although warning growls are not intended to be aggressive, you should never ignore them. Try to see what is causing your dog to be uncomfortable. Otherwise, it may lead to aggression.

They Are Frustrated

Some pet owners misinterpret frustration growling as aggression. The truth is, this type of growling is almost similar to aggressive growling. The only difference is that the dog wants to be closer to the object of their desire, be it a toy, another dog, or you as the parent. But frustration growling doesn’t have the intent to do harm.

They Are Mad

Aggressive growling, on the other hand, comes with loud and long rumbles. You will also notice the change in your dog’s posture, usually with lunging movements and raised hackles. This right here will tell you that your pet is angry and may attack at any time. This type of growling is also an expression of power.

They Are in Pain

Dogs that are in pain tend to be more vocal. They may yelp, snarl, howl, or growl. And with this, you can certainly tell that something is not right.

Closing Thoughts

Growling is a way of dogs expressing themselves. And when they are tired, they may growl a little bit, especially if they are being disturbed. So as a pet owner, you should be more considerate about your pet’s need for sleep. Make sure that he is comfortable.

Dogs growling when tired is only natural. However, you also have to pay attention and make sure that this is really the reason and not something else.

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!