There are several reasons your dog growls when you move them in their sleep. The most common reason is that your dog was comfortable in their position and didn’t want to be disturbed. Other reasons include being startled, pain and discomfort, and claiming territory.
Have you noticed that your pup growls when he is moved while sleeping? Nearly all pet owners have been snuggled in tight for the evening sleep when they realize they forgot to set the alarm, go to the bathroom, or get a glass of water. In order to get out, you need to move Fido. However, he begins growling. Why is he doing this, and what should you do?
Contrary to popular belief, when your dog growls when you move them, this is NOT a sign of aggression. Growling is a form of communication for dogs, it doesn’t always mean they’re about to attack.
What Causes Dogs to Growl When They Are Moved While Sleeping
Unfortunately, there is no “cookie-cutter” answer to this question. Dogs growl for a variety of reasons. When it comes to moving them in their sleep, they might be growling because they don’t want to move. They may also be growling because they want to play.
To determine why your dog is growling, you’ll have to read their body language. If your dog moves quickly and growls, they were likely startled. If their tail is wagging, they probably want to play. If they don’t move at all, they’re likely upset you’re trying to move them.
Take a look at each of the reasons below and see which one fits your dog’s body language.
1. Your Dog Was Startled
When dogs are sleeping, there’s usually a major sense of relaxation. In fact, the most relaxed a dog will be during the day is when they’re sleeping.
If you try to move them during their sleep cycle, that could result in a startle response. In some dogs, growling is part of the startle response. You’ll know your dog was startled if they quickly flinch when you move them.
2. Your Dog Is Claiming Territory
In some cases, owners like to awaken their dogs to move them to another location. For example, if your sleepy pup falls asleep on a sofa that is off limits, he or she may resist being moved.
Likewise, some dogs know that owners are going to take them off their bed for the night and prefer to stay where they are sleeping. In this case, the growling could signify that your dog is claiming his territory and telling you that spot is his.
Dogs that growl for this reason will usually make eye contact with you but not move. You’ll also notice their tail is not wagging.
3. Your Dog is Uncomfortable
Growling can be a sign that something is not right. Your dog may simply be communicating that you’re making him uncomfortable by moving him.
Instead of touching your dog, work with a trainer to teach your dog to go to his or her own sleeping area where your pet can get some uninterrupted beauty rest.
This training may take a couple weeks, but it’s worth it when your dog stops sleeping on your bed!
4. Medical Conditions
Some medical conditions could contribute to your dog growling at you when you move him.
For example, seizures and other neurological conditions can make dogs feel unsteady, unbalanced, or very tired.
Additionally, interrupting a dog’s sleep cycle when he has one of these conditions could further exacerbate the problem. If a dog is suddenly awoken without getting its full rest and feels unsteady or is having a seizure (you may not always notice small seizures in dogs), he may growl.
If you have a dog breed that is prone to seizures such as Beagles, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles, make sure you discuss the growling issue with your vet and see if they believe seizures could be the cause.
5. Survival Instinct
When dogs are in the wild, their instinct when woken unexpectedly is to growl and fight to fend off predators.
In some dogs, this instinct still kicks in even when in the safety of a home environment. Your dog may think you are an intruder when he is still a bit dazed from sleep. It might take your pup a few seconds to realize who you are.
Since this reflex kicks in quickly, your dog likely does not have time to discern that you or someone he knows is waking him up.
6. Your Dog Is Extra Tired
Much like humans who feel grouchy when they do not get enough rest, dogs can have the same reaction.
Tired dogs want more sleep, and they want to get away from anything that interferes with their sleep.
If they growl at you when you try to move them, this might be their way of saying, “Leave me alone, I just want to sleep.”
7. Your Dog is Dreaming
When dogs are in a deep sleep, they may be dreaming about something that seems real to them. Thus, they may growl, howl, or make other noises.
These dreams usually occur when dogs are in a stage of sleep called rapid eye movement. If you think this is why your dog is growling, it is best to let your dog continue sleeping.
I’m sure you’ve all seen videos of dogs running and barking in their sleep. Growling is no different!
What Should I Do If My Dog Growls When Moved While Sleeping?
Growling during sleep is nothing to be concerned about. It doesn’t mean your dog is overly aggressive or unhappy. The best thing to do is just let it happen. However, if you want your dog to stop growling when you move them, here are some ideas that can help.
Set Up a Separate Sleep Area for Your Dog
Training dogs not to growl when moved, either intentionally or unintentionally, can be challenging.
One of the most common suggestions from trainers is to instead use a crate or other area where your dog can sleep peacefully at night.
When your dog is asleep, let him or her rest and do not wake them. Let your dog out of the crate once he is fully awake.
Call Your Dog’s Name
If your dog is aggressive and growls at you when you move him, it is best not to touch your dog to awaken him.
If you must move your dog for some reason (such as during an unplanned daytime nap), call out your dog’s name or another command, such as “Go to Your Bed.”
The sound of your voice may be a more palatable way for your dog to wake up and minimizes danger to you from aggressive behavior.
Working with a trainer can help with having your dog comply with commands.
Let Your Dog Sleep Until He Wakes Up
Most dogs need much more sleep than people. Adult dogs spend more than half the day asleep, and the number of hours of sleep can increase in older dogs or during hot summer months.
If your dog is tired, let him sleep without being woken up. Your dog will get up on his own once he is fully rested.
Talk to Your Vet
If you feel that the growling could be associated with a medical condition, such as a seizure, it is vital to consult with your dog’s vet.
Your vet will be able to conduct tests to see whether there are any neurological or sleep issues that might be impacting your pup.
If so, there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help improve your dog’s quality of life.
Work with a Dog Trainer
If you have young children in the home or if your dog has attempted to bite you when you wake him, you should consider hiring a trainer.
Dog trainers can provide tips and develop behavioral plans that best meet your family’s needs, taking into account your dog’s personality.
This could include thinking about where and how to set up a sleeping area for your dog, training your dog to respond to commands, rewarding your dog for appropriate responses when awakening, and so on. Dog trainers who do home visits would work best in this situation.
Let Your Sleeping Pup Sleep
Unless you have good reason to move your dog when they’re sleeping, it’s best to just let them sleep. However, if you must move them, in order to minimize the growling, try waking them up by calling their name instead of touching them. They’re much more likely to have a better response waking up to your voice than to being touched.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.