German Shepherd Growling At Their Owner (Causes & Solutions)

A german shepherd growling at their owner is an extremely serious issue. If left unchecked, it can often become worse. Not only may your german shepherd think it’s okay to go from growling to biting you, but they may also think it’s okay to bite other people as well.

If your German shepherd is growling at you then you need to find a solution as soon as possible. Luckily, it’s not extremely uncommon for german shepherds and all dogs to growl at their owners.

So keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

Why Do German Shepherds Growl At Their Owners

There are a lot of different reasons that a german shepherd could be growling at their owner. And not all of them are due to aggression. Sometimes they’re for the complete opposite reason. As their owner, it’s your job to be able to read what the growl means and act appropriately.

Common Negative Reasons For Growling

According to Pet MD, when your dog growls it’s most often a warning to stay back. While sometimes this is due to aggression, in other circumstances it could be because they are scared.

Before growling occurs, there are normally other signals that your german shepherd isn’t happy, and you should stop acting the way you are. Growling is one of the last stages of dangerous behavior. When the behavior is continued your german shepherd is much more likely to end up biting.

Some common reasons for growling include

Negative Memories

If your German shepherd is remembering a bad time in their life which seems to be reenacting itself, then they will often end up growling.

This is a warning to stay away, as they’re going to defend themselves if they have too. While the situation your german shepherd is in may not be negative, they could have associated negative emotions with it at some point, if they were scared.

(As you can see, it’s very important to socialize your german shepherd from an early age.)

They’re Guarding Their Resources

If your German shepherd sees something as theirs, and they’re particularly protective, then their growling could be because they’re resource guarding.

For example, if they growl when you try to take a toy from them then this is resource guarding. This most often occurs in dogs that have come from shelters and places where they’ve been neglected.

However, some dogs are also predisposed to this kind of behavior.

If your dog is resource guarding then you’re going to need to sort it out quickly. Often the best choice is to speak to a vet or dog behaviorist to get the issue sorted out.

They’re Not Sure What’s About To Happen

Some German shepherds may growl when they’re in unfamiliar scenarios, or something is new. For example, my dog often growls and barks when we put something new in the garden. Although it’s no threat to them, they don’t know that, and they approach it with caution.

But the same thing can happen when there’s something new about you. Maybe you’re wearing an item of clothing they haven’t seen before, or you’re acting in a way they’re not used to. Whatever it is, if they’re not sure then they may begin growling as a warning.

Once again, this is most likely to happen with dogs that have come from dog shelters or dogs that have been abused in the past.

With that being said, some german shepherds are naturally more cautious than others as well.

They’re In Pain

There are two big problems with german shepherds, and all dogs. First of all, they can’t talk to you and tell you what’s wrong. Secondly, they often get themselves in situations that can cause them to get hurt.

If your dog has suddenly started growling at you, then you should make sure it’s because they aren’t in pain.

You can often spot this if they start growling when you touch the area on your body where they’re in pain.

However, if they’re growling due to pain there are normally other symptoms as well. First of all, look for any obvious signs of injury. If you can’t see any signs of injury then you may notice your german shepherd, panting, not eating, staying by themselves, and avoiding activities they normally like.

If you think pain is causing your german shepherd to growl then take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Common Positive Reasons For Growling

When your German shepherd is growling it’s not always doom and gloom. In fact, some times they may be growling for positive reasons. Just like humans shout when they’re angry, but also when they’re excited.

They’re Playing

Every dog I’ve ever had growls when they play. This most often occurs when I’m playing tug of war with them, however, they also often growl at each other.

While the growling may appear angry, the truth is it isn’t. In fact, if you really listen you’ll notice that playful growling tends to be a little bit higher and doesn’t last as long.

If your German shepherd is growling playfully then you don’t need to worry too much. However, you should keep an eye on it just in case more aggressive behavior follows.

They’re Happy

As well as growling because they’re playing, some dogs may also growl when they’re happy or enjoying something.

For example, I knew a dog who would sometimes growl when you were stroking them or rubbing their belly.

At first I was worried, I was bothering them, however, when I looked at their body language it said something completely different.

They were wagging their tail excitedly, and every time I stopped stroking them they would get up and begin nuzzling into me to get their belly rubbed again.

So before you start to get worried about your german shepherd growling, make sure they’re not doing it because they’re happy.

Teach Ring Stackers 336 x 280 - Animated

They’re Anxious To See You

Sometimes your dog may begin growling when they’re anxious to see you. For example, if you’re just waiting outside your door, and they can’t get to you, then they may begin growling.

Once again, this may appear as aggression, but it’s actually because they’re so happy to see you.

And while this behavior is endearing, it’s the only positive growling you should train out of them.

This behavior can also be followed by pacing as well as jumping up and biting, howling, whining, barking at strangers, and barking at other dogs.

Things To Remember Before Training Your German Shepherd

Before you train your german shepherd to stop growling there are some important things you need to remember. If you don’t remember them then you may end up doing more harm than good.

Your German Shepherd Isn’t Being Bad

It’s often thought that when a dog growls that it’s bad behavior. However, when a dog growls they’re simply showing the emotions they feel at that point in time. No emotion your dog feels is bad, it’s just natural behavior.

If your dog is growling, you should aim to change the behavior, not punish them.

There Are Often Other Warnings Before Growling

If your German shepherd is growling in an aggressive way, there are often lots of other warning signals that will occur before and during the aggression.

As well as growling you may notice that your german shepherd has become completely still and they’re watching your moves carefully. They’ll seem a lot more amped up and ready to jump at any moment. On top of this, they may also snarl at you, or move away from you if they’re resource guarding.

Your german shepherd will show warning signs before and during growling, and if you continue the behavior they don’t like, they may end up snapping.

A Well Trained German Shepherd Is Less Likely To Growl

Lastly, you should know that if your german shepherd has been trained well they’ll be a lot less likely to growl.

When a dog is trained well, they will become used to a range of different scenarios as well as how to act in them.

If you haven’t trained your german shepherd properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether they’re growling at you or even barking and biting, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to be around your pup without worrying they’re going to growl or snap. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them, will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT. 

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior, or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here, to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)

How To Stop A German Shepherd Growling At Their Owner (Do’s & Don’ts)

If your German shepherd is growling at you, then you’ll need to stop it as soon as possible. However, a brute force approach isn’t going to work. The likelihood is a brute force approach is only going to make it worse.

What Not To Do

First of all, if your German shepherd is growling, there are a couple of things you should avoid doing at all costs.

Don’t Shout At Them/Scold Them

If your dog is growling at you for a negative reason, it’s because he is feeling negative emotions. You shouldn’t punish your dog for the negative emotions they feel.

First of all, this may cause them to hide their feelings until they’ve had too much and snap. Meaning you won’t get any warning signs and may end up being bitten.

Secondly, if you scold your german shepherd for growling at you then they won’t want to communicate with you in the future. As well as increasing the chance of being bitten, it’s also likely that a number of other behavioral problems are likely to occur.

Don’t Reward Them Either

However, you shouldn’t go the complete opposite way either. If your German shepherd is growling at you, you may feel the need to give them a treat to get them to back off. However, this will only reinforce the negative behavior.

If you feed your German shepherd a treat every time they growl, then they may start doing it cause they know they’ll be rewarded. So when they’re actually angry, you won’t be able to tell.

What Should You Do?

If your German shepherd does start to growl at you then there are a few things you should do to reduce the chance of reinforcing the behavior as well as reducing the chance that you’ll be bitten.

However, you should ALWAYS consult a dog behaviorist when your dog is showing signs of aggression that you fear may escalate. In the meantime, however, you should do the following.

Stop Doing What’s Causing Them To Growl

Whatever you’re doing to cause your german shepherd to growl stop doing it! Even if you’re not doing anything wrong you need to avoid being bitten.

However, don’t move away from them. Simply stop the behavior, but stay where you are until they’ve calmed down. This way they’ll associate you walking away with their relaxed behavior, not when they’re growling.

The only time to move away immediately is if you feel like they’re going to bite you.

Figure Out Why They’re Growling At You

Once the situation has been diffused the next step is to figure out why your german shepherd is growling at you. In most cases, you’ll know the behavior you were doing that caused the growling to occur.

However, if you don’t know why they’re growling, some common reasons include:

  • Trying to take their toy or move their food.
  • Prolonged eye contact.
  • Restraining them or pulling them while walking. (Find out how to deal with a german shepherd that pulls on their leash.)
  • They don’t like being groomed.
  • They’ve hurt themselves and you’ve agitated their injury.
  • You’ve tried to physically move them from one place to another.

There are lots of different reasons so it’s up to you to try and figure out what’s causing the growling.

Teach Piano 336 x 280 - Animated

Don’t Aggravate Them

If your dog is growling at you, it’s important not to aggravate them or they could end up biting you. If you know what causes their growling then come up with new solutions to avoid the situation.

For example, if your dog growls at you when they have a certain toy, then obviously don’t try to fish it out of their mouths.

If they’re growling when you’re trying to put a lead on them entice them with a treat. If they let you put the leash on without growling then you can give them a treat. However, if they growl then don’t.

Positive reinforcement is going to remind them that the negative emotions they’re experiencing aren’t necessary, and in fact, they’ll be rewarded when they act in a positive way.

Try To Stop The Growl Before It Begins (And Then Reward Them)

If you want to reward your dog for positive behavior, then you should set them up to win. The trick here is to read your dog’s body language or know when they’re about to growl. Once you’ve found the cause of their growling you should train them to act differently.

For example, if they growl when you approach them during dinner time, then don’t move away from them in the first place. Or before you give them their food, pretend to eat from their bowl, so they think it’s yours.

Simple steps like this can be extremely effective at changing your dog’s behavior.

If your German shepherd is growling at you when you’re trying to groom them, try distracting them with a treat. If they sit patiently and let you groom them then reward them with a treat.


Get Help From A Professional

While all of this is helpful the best thing you can do is to seek help from a professional. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s causing the growling as well as how to fix it.

It is the best solution for training your german shepherd in the long run.

Growling Can Be Caused By A Build Up Of Stress

You may notice that sometimes a german shepherd growls at you some days, while other days the same behavior doesn’t bother them. This because it’s more likely to happen when stress has built up.

How many times has a family member come home from a hard day at work/school etc, and snapped at you for something they wouldn’t normally snap at you for.

Your dog is likely to do the same thing. If your dog is in an environment that’s constantly stressing them then they’re much more likely to snap at you.

And this can often be the reason why your german shepherd is growling at family members.

german shepherd growling at their owner


As you can see a german shepherd growling at their owner is a complicated issue. And while extreme caution should be taken around german shepherds that growl, it’s also important that you stop the behavior as soon as you can.

Here are some main points to remember from the article:

  • German shepherds growl at their owners for a number of reasons. Some reasons are negative, some reasons are positive.
  • Common reasons for negative growling include negative memories of a situation, guarding resources, they’re not sure about something, and they may be in pain.
  • Common reasons for positive growling include they’re happy, playful, and they’re anxious to see you.
  • Remember when your german shepherd growls it’s not bad behavior, simply an emotion they’re trying to express.
  • Normally your dog will exhibit other warnings before and during negative growling.
  • When you train your german shepherd well they’re a lot less likely to growl. That’s why you should use a training program such as Brain Training For Dogs.
  • Avoid scolding or rewarding your german shepherd for growling.
  • To fix growling make sure to back away when they’re growling, figure out what’s causing it, don’t aggravate them once you know, and try to stop the growling before it begins (And reward them for good behavior).
  • If your dog is growling then you should seek the help of a professional. They’ll know exactly what to do.
  • Lastly, remember your dog growling is normally caused by a build-up of stress in their environment.

If you liked this article or you have any more questions then leave them in the comments below! Otherwise, have a great day.

Leave a Comment