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Why Does My Dog Grunt? Exploring the Reasons Behind Canine Grunting

Why Does My Dog Grunt

As a dog owner, you have wondered, “Why do dogs grunt,” especially if yours do it often. But what do these grunts mean? Are they a sign of something good or bad?

You may have noticed that your furry friend sometimes makes grunting sounds that seem to come out of nowhere. If the grunts leave you backing up after catching a whiff of your dog’s breath, it’s probably time to get them some canine mouthwash

 In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind canine grunting and help you better understand your dog’s communication. We have used expert opinion from the Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren to help understand the phenomenon better. 

How Dogs Use Grunting to Communicate

How Dogs Use Grunting to Communicate

When it comes to grunting, dogs use this sound to convey a range of emotions and intentions. Some dogs grunt when they’re happy, content, or relaxed. Others may grunt out of frustration or as a response to stress. Understanding the context of your dog’s grunt can help you interpret its meaning better.

It’s important to note that not all dogs grunt, and some breeds are more prone to grunting than others. For example, pugs are known for their grunting, snorting, and snoring sounds due to their short snouts and compressed airways.

In addition to grunting, dogs may make other sounds to communicate their emotions and intentions. For example, a sigh may indicate relaxation or contentment, while a whimper may signal fear or pain. Paying attention to your dog’s sounds and body language can help you better understand their needs and emotions.

What is Grunting In Dogs?

When a dog grunts, it’s typically a low-pitched sound you can hear from a short distance away. Other body language cues, such as a relaxed body posture or a wagging tail, often accompany it. 

Scientifically speaking, according to Canine Behavior Insights, a newborn puppy’s grunt is a sound between 50 and 1500 hz (a low noise), lasting 0.2 seconds and a dog may make the noise every 2 seconds. In adult dogs, it’s a much lower noise at 85 to 200 hz and you won’t hear it as often.

While it may seem like a simple sound, a lot is going on behind the scenes that makes this vocalization possible. 

Check out this dog grunting while relaxed:

8 Common Reasons for Dog Grunting

Dogs, like people, communicate their emotions through vocalizations. Dogs can convey a range of emotions, including joy, anger, fear, and sadness, through their vocalizations. Research has shown that facial expressions and sounds can express what a dog is feeling.

When a dog grunts, it can be a sign of contentment or relaxation. Some dogs will grunt when they’re settling down for a nap or when they’re enjoying a good belly rub. However, grunting can also be a sign of discomfort or pain. If your dog grunts excessively or in an unusual context, it’s essential to monitor their behavior and consult a veterinarian if necessary.

Overall, grunting is just one of the many ways dogs communicate with us and each other. Now that we understand the basics of this dog communication let’s explore some common reasons why dogs grunt.

1. Newborn Puppies Grunting

Newborn Puppies Grunting

Newborn puppies often grunt as a way to ask for food or caretaking. They tend to grunt when their mother arrives as a greeting and a response to contact. So grunting in dogs has its roots in early puppy development as a sign of connection and love.

In this video below you can see puppies grunting while nursing.

2. Grunting as a Sign of Contentment

The main reason your adult dog grunts is to signal their contentment or happiness. Grunting in adult dogs is nearly always something that happens when a dog is being held or petted by their owner. You might notice your dog grunting after a good meal or during a relaxing cuddle session. Maybe their favorite person has walked in and is interacting with them, causing a grunt that sounds like a low rumble.

It’s important to note that not all dogs grunt when they’re content. Some dogs may wag their tails, experience zoomies, or even sigh when feeling happy and relaxed. As a pet owner, it’s important to learn your dog’s individual body language cues so you can better understand their emotions.

This puppy is grunting because he’s having the time of his life:

3. Grunting During Playtime

Grunting During Playtime

Another reason you might hear your dog grunt is playtime. Some dogs grunt when playing because they’re having fun and are excited. This type of grunt is usually higher in pitch than a contentment grunt and may be accompanied by other playful vocalizations, like barks or whines.

During playtime, dogs may also grunt to communicate with their playmates. Grunting can be a way of saying, “I’m having fun,” or “Let’s keep playing.”

4. Grunting as a Response to Emotional Discomfort

Sometimes dogs may grunt as a response to stress or fear. If your dog is feeling anxious, they may make a series of grunts to signal their discomfort. You might notice this type of grunt when you take your dog to the vet or when they’re in an uncomfortable situation.

Pay attention to your dog’s body language when they’re grunting in response to stress or fear. They may also exhibit other signs of anxiety, such as panting, pacing, or hiding. If you notice these signs, it’s important to remove your dog from the stressful situation and provide them with a safe and calm environment.

5. Grunting Due to Physical Discomfort

Grunting Due to Physical Discomfort

Your dog can sometimes grunt to deal with pain somewhere in their body. Maybe they’re suffering from an upset tummy, or they hurt themselves. These dogs can also welp when you touch them, limp, or suddenly get inactive. Our article on how to comfort your dog in pain can help you deal with the issue.

6. Brachycephalic (short nose) Grunting

In some cases, dogs may grunt due to health issues, especially brachycephalic breeds. If your dog is experiencing respiratory issues like laryngeal paralysis (a disease that affects breathing) or has a respiratory infection, they may make a grunting sound when they breathe. But be careful not to confuse grunting with a cough or a growl.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, consulting with a veterinarian is always best. Brachycephalic breeds like a Bulldog or Pugs have short noses and often have abnormalities in their skull and airways, such as larger tonsils, tongues, or a soft palate. This can contribute to habitual grunting noises. In many cases, these dogs may need surgery to be able to breathe properly and avoid problems sleeping like chronic sleep apnea.

Your dog can also make weird sounds when reverse sneezing, kind of like this sound:

The sound is vastly different from grunting but also indicates a brief breathing difficulty.

7. Other Health Issues: Dog Grunting In Pain

Other health issues that cause pain may cause grunting in dogs. These include arthritis, heart problems, allergies, and digestive issues. If your dog grunts frequently or seems to be in pain, it’s essential to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

8. They Want Something

Sometimes dogs grunt when they want something from you. They may want to go outside or want something you have or even just your attention, like this dog who probably wants something from its owner:

How to Interpret Your Dog’s Grunts

Interpreting your dog’s grunts can be a great way to understand their needs and emotions. Dogs communicate in many ways, and grunting is just one of them. Here are some tips to help you interpret your dog’s grunts:

As you interpret your dog’s grunts, paying attention to their body language is essential. Dogs use body language to communicate, and it’s a crucial part of their overall communication system. Is your dog wagging their tail and relaxed, or are they tensed up and showing signs of stress? Understanding your dog’s emotional state can help you better understand their vocalizations.

For example, if your dog grunts while wagging their tail and relaxes, it’s likely a sign of contentment. But if they’re grunting while showing signs of stress, such as panting, pacing, or hiding, it could be a sign of anxiety or fear.

Should I Be Worried About My Dog Grunting?

Context is everything when it comes to interpreting your dog’s grunts. Are they grunting while cuddling with you on the couch or during a stressful situation? If your dog is grunting while cuddling with you, it’s likely a sign of contentment. But if they’re grunting while at the vet’s office, it’s probably a sign of stress or discomfort.

When interpreting your dog’s grunts, it’s essential to consider the environment and the situation. For example, if your dog is grunting while playing with their favorite toy, it’s likely a sign of excitement and happiness. But if they’re grunting while in a crowded and noisy place, it could be a sign of discomfort or anxiety.

If you’re still unsure what your dog’s grunts mean, it’s always best to consult a professional. Your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist can help you better understand your dog’s vocalizations and improve your relationship with your furry friend.

They can also help you identify any underlying medical or behavioral issues causing your dog to grunt. For example, if your dog is grunting due to pain or discomfort, your vet can help you identify and treat the underlying issue.

Remember, every dog is unique, and their vocalizations may vary depending on their breed, personality, and environment. By paying attention to your dog’s body language and context, you can better understand their grunts and improve your communication.

Why Is My Dog Grunting and Shaking?

Your dog grunting and shaking probably means they’re in pain or anxious. This type of grunting is often accompanied by other signs like agitation, grumpiness, and reduced energy.

A few dogs, especially Chihuahuas, can also shake when excited or stressed. Therefore, context and other body language cues are essential in finding out what your dog’s grunting while shaking means. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Dog Grunt When I Cuddle Him?

The main cause of grunting during cuddling is that your dog simply enjoys this physical contact and is expressing contentment. In fact, grunting in adult dogs is almost always a sound associated with being stroked or held. However, the noise can also indicate discomfort if your dog has signs of fear, like pinned ears and tucked tail.

Why is My Dog Grunting at Night?

One possibility is that your dog may be dreaming. Dogs often make various sounds during their sleep, including grunts, whimpers, or barks. This is a normal part of their REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle and is usually not a cause for concern. They may also be feeling pain due to arthritis that worsens at night when it’s colder. 

Why is My Dog Making Weird Pig Noises?

Weird pig noises are the closest definition of dog grunting and mostly indicate contentment. Your dog can also make these sounds if they have breathing difficulties, particularly for brachycephalic breeds. Reverse sneezing is another possible explanation for the pig noises. 

Final Thoughts

Canine grunting may seem like a mysterious sound, but by understanding canine communication and the context of your dog’s grunts, you can better interpret their meaning. Whether your dog is grunting out of contentment or in response to stress, paying attention to their vocalizations can improve your relationship with your furry friend.


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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