Why Do Dogs Grunt When They Are Relaxing?

Grunting and honking and snorting, oh my! Dogs are capable of producing a plethora of vocalizations; some amuse, some annoy, and some just outright puzzle us. If your pooch has a penchant for making low guttural noises any time he's just lounging around without a care in the world, then he's probably just grunting. Grunting in dogs is usually no cause for alarm and, in fact, often signifies extreme delight in our canine companions.

Boston Terrier dog sleeping on the floor in a patch of sunlight
credit: Rebecca Nelson/Photodisc/GettyImages

The canine sigh

You might sigh a lot after you first plop down onto your living room easy chair at the end of a particularly arduous work day. By grunting, your doggie might be doing the same -- essentially expressing a comfortable state of relief and joy. Perhaps she was stressed out about her visit to the veterinarian's office, or about an extremely loud thunderstorm that just passed. By grunting, she's reveling in a current feeling of utter calmness and serenity. Dogs, like people, are happy when they relax, after all.

Consider context when evaluating the meaning behind your dog's happy grunts, too. If your reclining dog grunts as you approach her, she could simply be giving you a friendly "hello." Grunting can sometimes be a sign of politesse, canine style.

Puppies and grunting

Grunting is especially prevalent in young puppies in the midst of naps or meals. Although it's prevalent in youngsters, it's not uncommon for fully grown dogs to continue doing it, too. Wee puppies also grunt in other situations apart from napping and chowing down, often when they're being softly petted by their favorite people. If you hear your pup grunting when he's resting on your lap as you watch television, then he's likely expressing feelings of pleasure and joy. You're in the company of a dog on cloud nine.

Possibly an involuntary action

If your dog always grunts when she's in rest mode, she might not even be aware of it. She simply might not be able to help herself. Grunting in dogs is possibly an involuntary action, caused by hard breathing that's reduced in pace. When your dog grunts and relaxes, she's not trying to put on a show of happiness. Her emotions and comfort level are indeed genuine.

Grunting doesn't always equal happiness

Don't assume that grunting in dogs is necessarily always an indication of joy. It isn't unheard of for some pooches to grunt along with breathing, for one. Some breeds of dogs are particularly vocal and grunt-happy, too, namely pugs. If your dog grunts in his sleep, it could be an indication of a frightening dream. It could even just be a sound he naturally makes as he moves during sleep.

If your dog's grunting ever seems unusual or excessive, get him to the veterinarian immediately to make sure that it isn't health-related. Grunting can sometimes denote respiratory issues, and can also occasionally signify intense abdominal aching, both of which are potentially extremely serious ailments. Grunting is often a big general hint of discomfort and illness in dogs, so take it seriously.