Why Does My Rottweiler Growl At Me?

By John Martin - August 1, 2022

Rottweiler in the snow

There’s no debate about it—Rottweilers are among the cutest, strongest, goofiest, most loyal woofers out there!

However, what also seems non-debatable is the fact that many folks associate Rottweilers with violence and aggression.

One of the reasons behind this? The famous (or infamous, violence and aggression!) Rottie growl.

Rottweilers growl—a lot! And given the rep they’ve acquired, it can be quite alarming when you have a Rottie, no matter the size and age, standing across from you and growling!

But is every growl a cause for alarm? Read on to find out!

The Rottie Growl: Cause for Concern?

While it is true that growling is instinctual for a guard-dog breed like Rottweilers, what most folks don’t understand is that growling doesn’t always equal danger.

Rottweilers are an extremely vocal breed, making sounds to communicate and express themselves. This means that there could be any underlying emotion and reason behind their sounds, and not just anger or aggression.

Growl or Rumble?

It’s true. Rottweilers don’t only growl—they rumble, too.

Since rumbles are also low and sound very similar to growls, most people confuse the two.

At the end of the day, both sounds are simply the breed’s way of communicating, so it doesn’t matter if you call a rumble a growl, as long you understand the emotion and reason behind it.

For the sake of this article, let’s just refer to all sounds as growls.

Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the various reasons behind a Rottweiler’s growl, shall we?

Why the Growl?

Growls can be both a positive and negative sign, so let’s look at both.

Growling as a Positive Sign

If You’re Happy and You Know It—Growl!

Yep, you read that right—Rottweilers growl when they’re happy! (Immediately changes your perception of the breed, doesn’t it?)

Rottweilers are extremely family-oriented, loving their owners and their family and enjoying being around them.

Family time to a Rottie means walks, treats, and possibly a roll in the mud (it’s ridiculous how much they adore the last one, though it doesn’t bode well for the owner!)

When it’s obvious that your dog is enjoying itself but you’re still hearing the low growl, you can safely put it down to your Rottweiler expressing their happiness and excitement.

What this also means is that the growl you hear when you hug or pet your Rottie is not a sign to back off, but a sign that they are enjoying the attention and you must ‘please continue, hooman!’

To the uninitiated, it can be alarming to hear this sound in response to love and affection, but a sure-shot way to ensure that the dog is indeed happy is to also observe their body language, as well as the environment they’re in.

Relaxed or wagging tail plus soft growl from the back of the throat (a.k.a. rumble, FYI) plus a ‘good vibes’ situation definitely equals a happy doggo!

Saying Hello!

If you’ve just come back to your Rottie after a long day and you’re met with growling and possibly even barking, don’t worry! Your dog is just saying hello!

After a whole day of being away from you, your loving goofball can’t wait to see you and is anxious to reunite with you, all of this finding expression in all of that growling and barking.

Protecc and Attacc!

Rottweilers are guard dogs, so growling is an instinctive reaction reserved for strangers and new faces—a reaction that says “I protecc and attacc”!

Generally, in such cases, growling is also a precursor to barking, the latter being reserved for when growling fails to make the desired impact!

Being the Boss

Asserting dominance for Rottweilers when they’re around other dogs and animals.

In such environments, your Rottie will growl as a way of saying that they are the boss, this is their territory, and you definitely don’t want to mess with them!

Growling as a Negative Sign

Expressing Fear

Sure, Rottweilers are big dogs with the ability to scare many folks, but that doesn’t mean that these giant goofballs don’t feel fear themselves!

When faced with a perceived threat (such as thunderstorms and loud, sudden sounds they don’t understand), Rotties growl to express their fear, alert you of the threat, and let you know that they are ready to defend themselves against it.

Separation Anxiety

Like any other breed, Rottweilers are also prone to separation anxiety.

Leaving your Rottie alone at home for long periods can cause severe anxiety, resulting in the dog growling every time you leave home or even the room, in severe cases.

Extremely heightened anxiety can eventually lead to aggression in your Rottie, so ensure that you have the time and space for a Rottie in your life before you bring one home.

A Sign of Pain

Loud growling can be a sign that your Rottie is injured or unwell. This is both a form of expression as well as a form of communicating to you that they are uncomfortable.

Maybe your Rottie just got into a fight (not surprising given their tendency to express dominance) and got injured. Or it could be illnesses typical to the breed, such as hip or elbow dysplasia.

When injuries are not physically obvious, look for other signs with the growling, such as flattened ears, shaking or trembling, panting, lethargy, and/ or scratching, licking, or focusing on one spot on the body.

These will help you ascertain that the reason behind your Rottie’s growl is pain, in which case, rush to the vet immediately!

Food Aggression

Like Joey, Rottie doesn’t share food!

Fear not—this doesn’t stem from any selfishness but merely a natural survival instinct to protect their food, undesirable as it may sometimes be.

Such behavior is normal as dogs carry this in their genes, thanks to their wolfy forefathers, who, unlike their modern-day progeny, never had food handed to them in silver bowls!

The main source of food for doggy ancestors was hunting, and on days when hunts were a failure, they had to fall back on the leftovers they’d amassed from previous hunts.

You’ll see this behavior manifesting in Rottweilers even today, especially around other pets.

Such behavior is even more intense in Rottweilers that were once strays or abandoned. The lack of food in their stray days would have led to food aggression.

Sometimes, you’ll notice that even Rottweiler puppies are given to growling. If you’ve just welcomed one into your home, it may be perplexing, as the puppy hasn’t had time to pick up any behavior that could explain the growling.

Well, again, put it down to food aggression.

Since birth, your pupper has had to compete with the rest of the litter for milk, and eventually, food and water.

It may be the cutest thing, but your pup is only trying to guard his food, and it may take a good 3-4 months for the behavior to subside.

Be careful that food aggression eventually doesn’t lead to obesity though; this can further increase the growling!

You may also see your Rottie being ‘toy-aggressive’—food aggression but with toys! Rotties are very territorial and protective by nature, so stealing their toy or expecting sharing is futile!

So Do We Simply Accept All the Growling?

Well, yes!

As we’ve established, growling is extremely important to Rottweilers—trying to cut out their growling is like trying to tamp down their voices.

That being said, there are ways in which you can lessen the growling, especially when it’s a sign of aggression or could lead to danger.

Some of these are:

  • Socializing and training your Rottweiler as a puppy, so that they feel comfortable around humans and other animals
  • Reacting calmly when your Rottweiler growls, as anger could only further the anxiety in them and cause more growling
  • Not yelling or beating them while training them; instead, use positive dominance and reinforcement
  • Showering the praise—like any other dog, Rotties love being ‘good bois’!

While many folks think it’s a little cruel, some trainers swear by exposing the dog to possible triggers, such as fireworks, to get them used to them and show them there’s nothing to be afraid of.

However, this isn’t recommended for a Rottie you’ve adopted, especially full-grown ones, as you don’t know the trauma the dog has been through and what reactions can take place.

If you’re unsure about how to go about the training, always leave it in the hands of a professional.

In Conclusion

Rottweilers have been among the most misunderstood dog breeds, getting into unwarranted trouble for their growling.

Many owners have beaten up their Rotties or abused them simply because they didn’t understand that growling could also mean a positive thing.

Ironically, in 9 cases out of 10, this has only led to more aggression and anxiety, and ergo, more growling, in the dogs. Therefore, if you’re adopting a Rottweiler, make sure you learn of their past, their triggers, and how to deal with these.

Well, now you know the various reasons behind your Rottie growling—it could be happiness, excitement, anxiety, pain, protective instincts, or fear.

If you’re unsure of the exact reason, always look at your dog’s body language—relaxed and playful while growling is a good thing, as opposed to clenched teeth and a tensed body.

So the next time your Rottie growls, take a moment to understand why it’s happening—your Rottie may be a four-legged alarm system, but they’re also a four-legged floofball always looking for more cuddles!