Why does my dog growl at me when I pet him?

What makes dogs growl when petted? What does the dog growl mean? Is it possible that the dog no longer likes its owner and that’s why it growls when receiving affection? To answer these questions, this post will talk about the dogs growling and what this type of vocalization can mean.

Dog growling when petted

Dogs can communicate by different sounds, one of which is growling. The growl indicates a dog’s dissatisfaction with some situation. When petted, some dogs may not like to be touched in certain regions, which can favor growling at the time of petting.

Another reason that can make the dogs growl at that moment that should be so pleasant for the animal, is the fact that the dogs don’t like who is doing the affection. 

If dogs don’t like a person they tend to growl as a warning to stay away from the animal, if the person insists, they can end up getting a dog bite.

Some dogs, especially elderly dogs, may have joint pain and when they receive affection, especially in the paw region, they may complain, growl, or even advance towards their tutors. 

Pain can be a serious problem and therefore should be evaluated. Associating growls with other symptoms, the veterinarian should be consulted to avoid the dog health problem.

Health problems of dogs that growl to their owners

Some animals can growl at their owners, and this behavior can be a sign of pain and illness. The veterinarian should be consulted with any changes in the behavior of dogs.

Some diseases that can make dogs growl on their owner:

  • Infectious diseases;
  • Trauma;
  • Joint diseases;
  • Neurological diseases.

Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases such as that caused by the rabies virus can affect dogs.The rabies virus can affect several animals, including possum, dogs, and humans. 

Rabies is a contagious and lethal disease. This virus acts on the nerve system of dogs leading to behavioral changes and neurological disorders.

Transmission occurs through contact with the saliva of a sick animal, mainly through the bite of animals. For transmission to occur, the attacked animal must carry the virus in its saliva. So not all possums will transmit the rabies virus to dogs.

In rural areas, bats that feed on blood are the main source of transmission of rabies by animals, mainly cows and horses.

Neurological diseases

Neurological diseases can have many causes. But some injuries can cause dogs to change their behavior. So, these animals can growl, or even find their own tutors as strangers.

One of the diseases that can affect elderly dogs is canine cognitive disorders. Dogs with this type of disorder can forget about their owners thus identifying them as strangers. Many of these dogs can growl and even be aggressive towards people who love them.

Many diseases can be treated, while others must maintain palliative care to avoid damage to health and even worsening the disease. As several neurological diseases can affect the dog, it is important that the animals are consulted by a neurologist veterinarian.


Animals that suffer some trauma or injury can feel severe pain, reacting with growls and even bites. Dogs that suffer from being run over or that have been beaten by some other animal can present pain as well as growling to defend themselves.

Some dogs can grow up in harsh environments suffering minor daily traumas. This type of breeding is intended to make the dog more aggressive. 

However, it is not the best way, as it involves pain and dog suffering. These dogs treated in this way tend to be more suspicious and very aggressive, even with their owners.

To train a dog for work and guard, it is important to train with qualified professionals such as veterinarians specializing in canine behavior. That way the dog can become angrier without suffering aggression.

Joint diseases

Joint diseases such as arthritis and osteoarthritis can affect the elderly dog. These diseases lead to acute pain, and when you touch the limbs of these animals, you can see the dog growling. Dogs growl because when they touch the affected limb, they feel pain and often end up being aggressive to push away everything that makes them feel pain.

Arthritis and arthrosis are degenerative, so the treatment must be done for the entire life of the animal. In times of crisis, dogs can be treated with more potent anti-inflammatory drugs.

What to do when a dog is growling?

When a dog starts growling at nothing, try to observe what the growling is for. If you realize that it’s just the dog trying to protect itself, or even a form of play with the owner, you should give the dog time, and soon he’ll be back to normal.

If other symptoms are observed, mainly related to lameness, behavioral change, and groans of pain, you should seek a veterinary doctor for the correct diagnosis and even treatment to bring comfort and quality of life to the animals.


Dogs can communicate in different ways. In general, dogs growls, especially at the time of petting can indicate discomfort or dissatisfaction of the dog in some situations. The growls must be respected to avoid accidents because of the dog’s aggressiveness. The growl can also indicate health problems and therefore the tutor should be aware of the appearance of other symptoms to take the animal to the veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Why does my dog growl at me when I pet him?

How to fix a growling dog?

Training can show the dog that there is no risk for the owner to get close to the animal. Activities can be done according to the routine of the tutor and the dogs and therefore must be done by a specialist veterinarian.

Is it normal for the dog to growl at the owner?

The dog growling at the owner can mean many things, pay attention to the other symptoms. Therefore, it is important to know the dog well to be able to identify what he is trying to demonstrate.

Do dogs really need to be vaccinated?

Yes, Dogs should receive core vaccines (Parvovirus, Distemper, Canine adenovirus and Rabies) and may need others depending on their lifestyle.


Rossi, A. (2008). Comportamento canino: como entender, interpretar e influenciar o comportamento dos cães. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, 37(SPE), 49-50.

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