Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Dog Growling at Nothing: 8 Reasons & What to Do About It

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

dog growling

Growling is your dog’s natural way to express discomfort, pain, or alertness. Whenever there is an intruder in the home, your dog’s growling can seem like a lifesaver. However, it can be a bit frightening when your dog seems to growl at nothing.

If your dog only sporadically growls at nothing, the chances are that it can sense something that you cannot, meaning you have nothing to worry about. However, a dog frequently growling at nothing can be a sign of illness, injury, diet issues, and underline aggression.

To find out eight reasons why your dog is potentially growling at nothing, read on. In this article, we give you the top reasons for this behavior, how to determine your dog’s reason, and what to do about it.

Divider 1

The 8 Reasons Your Dog Is Growling at Nothing

1. They Hear Something

Dogs have an impeccable sense of hearing, and they can hear things that we often do not. If your dog occasionally growls at nothing, it very well could be because it hears something you do not. Whether it is a dog in the distance or some high-pitched frequency, your dog is simply responding in a natural and protective way.

siberian husky growling
Image Credit: monicore, Pixabay

2. They See Something

Similar to how your dog can hear things you don’t, your dog may have seen something when you weren’t looking. For example, your dog may have noticed a skulking cat out the window that has since hid when you went to look. Once again, this is a completely natural behavior, and it shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

3. They Smell Something

Your dog’s sense of smell is much more powerful than yours. Your dog may be growling at nothing because it smells something in the distance. This could be another dog or something else it perceives as a threat.

white and tan dog growling
Image Credit: Esteban Paniagua, Pixabay

4. They Are Scared

Another common reason that a dog growls at nothing is because it is scared. Growling is your dog’s natural way of communicating displeasure, fear, and aggression. If your dog finds itself in a scary situation, it may growl to make itself appear more threatening.

For example, many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms. Some dogs will bark and hide, whereas others will growl to appear more dominating. Other sounds and sights may cause your dog to feel scared, causing them to growl at seemingly nothing.

5. Their Diet

Sometimes, a change in your dog’s diet can cause them to growl and undergo a number of other personality changes. It’s important to feed your dog a well-balanced diet to ensure that it is healthy and happy.

dog sneakily eating food
Image Credit: ever_ctba, Pixabay

6. They Are Sick or Injured

Just as diet can cause your dog to growl at nothing, so too can injury and sickness. In both cases, the dog could be growling as a way to appear scarier whenever it feels more vulnerable. Sickness can also cause your dog to undergo multiple personality changes, especially if it has neurological side effects.

You should be able to determine if this is the cause rather easily. A dog that is growling due to sickness or injury will demonstrate other side effects of the sickness and injury alongside the growling.

7. They Want Something From You or Someone Else

Many people do not realize this, but they inadvertently reward their dog every time it growls. If you do this, this will train your dog that it will get what it wants whenever it growls at you or someone else. As a result, your dog may seem to growl at nothing every time it wants something.

If this is the reason for your dog’s growling, it will likely growl every time it wants treats, attention, toys, or to go outside.

black and white dog growling
Image Credit: Simon Gatdula, Pixabay

8. They Are Being Aggressive

Finally, the last reason that your dog is growling at nothing is aggression, plain and simple. In most cases, it is very odd for a dog to all of a sudden start becoming more aggressive than usual.

If you recently adopted a dog and it is growling at nothing frequently, it very well may be an aggressive dog. As dogs get older, they also tend to become more aggressive.

If you think aggression is behind your dog’s growling, it’s important to talk to a vet right away and to not put yourself in harm’s way.

Divider 8

Determining Why Your Dog Is Growling at Nothing

If your dog is growling at nothing, it’s important to determine the cause behind the behavior. As we already learned, dogs growling at nothing can be due to a dietary issue, illness, or sickness. You would need to treat the underlying cause in order to manage the growling.

When Did the Behavior Begin?

The first question you should ask yourself in order to determine why your dog is growling at nothing is when the behavior began. If the behavior is happening frequently and it just started overnight, there is likely a cause behind it, such as sickness, injury, or dietary issues.

In contrast, your dog’s growling may simply be a cause of it sensing something you don’t if it only growls at nothing periodically. This growling is nothing to worry about, especially if the growling is not directed towards another person or animal that you can see.

If your dog has always been growling at nothing, it is likely showing aggression, or you inadvertently rewarded the behavior.

black and tan chained dog growling
Image Credit: Vladislav, Unsplash

When Does Your Dog Do It?

After you ask when the behavior began, you also need to notice when your dog does it. Once again, random growling that seems to come out of nowhere might just be from your dog’s extra sensitive senses. However, fear may be to blame if your dog growls at nothing during thunderstorms, whenever a police siren goes by, or other patterned occurrences.

Paying attention to when your dog growls is essential in determining if you have been inadvertently rewarding the behavior. If your dog growls every time it wants attention, treats, or toys, inadvertent praise is likely to blame.

Lastly, your dog may have some sort of illness or injury if it is constantly growling at nothing. The same goes if it is aggressive.

Divider 3

What to Do About Your Dog Growling

After you determine the cause for your dog’s growling, there are things you can do about it. It’s important that your plan specifically addresses the cause for your dog’s growling. In other words, you can’t expect distraction to stop the growling if a diet issue is at the heart of the behavior.

1. Remove the Issue

If fear or some other known occurrence is causing your dog to growl at nothing, it’s best to remove the issue as best as you can. For example, a toy may cause your dog to feel scared and growl at seemingly nothing. Remove the toy to remove the growling.

Corgi playing with tech toy dog
Image Credit: Xolodan, Shutterstock

2. Distract Your Dog

In some cases, you won’t be able to remove the issue entirely, such as a thunderstorm. In cases such as this, find a way to distract your dog instead. You might be able to distract your dog with its favorite toys, treats, and cuddles.

It’s also important to bring the dog around you if you think it feels scared at something you can’t control. Dogs often see their owners as their protectors. Keeping your dog near you will likely make it feel much more comfortable, causing it to growl less.

3. Don’t Reward the Behavior

If you think your dog’s growling is because you inadvertently rewarded the behavior, stop that immediately. Every time your dog growls, be sure to not praise it, or else the behavior will continue and potentially get worse. Instead, try to train your dog to ask for what it wants in other ways.

boston terrier dog
Image Credit: Gundula Vogel, Pixabay

4. Talk to Your Vet

Finally, talk to your vet if you cannot find an underlying cause for your dog’s frequent growling. Your vet will be able to examine the dog to see if diet, illness, sickness, or age are to blame. Follow the vet’s instructions to help your pet get back to a healthy condition.

Divider 2

Final Thoughts

In most cases, a dog growling at nothing is simply caused by its extra sensitive senses, whether it be its eyes, ears, or nose. Other times, a dog growling at nothing can be a sign of more sinister issues, such as a poor diet and health.

It’s important to determine the cause for the underlying condition so that you can address the issue safely and quickly. You never want to allow a dog to growl constantly because it can lead to attacks and other dangerous situations. If you feel unsafe with your dog, it’s important to talk to your vet to learn about steps to follow in order to ethically and safely give your dog to a new home.

Featured Image Credit: Isabel Vittrup-Pallier, Unsplash

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database