It is understandable to be worried if you suddenly hear your German Shepherd dog start to groan.
What is it? Is something wrong? Is your dog in pain? These are all very normal questions to ask and show how much you care about your dog.
But as one of the most “vocal” dog breeds, German Shepherds have a whole range of different sounds they can and do make from time to time.
Barking may be the best known of these sounds, but the more you talk with experienced German Shepherd owners, the more you may realize that groaning isn’t that far behind.
In this article, learn what might cause your German Shepherd to groan, moan or whine – or do any of the other range of related sounds these dogs do so naturally.
Why Does Your German Shepherd Groan?
It should be reassuring to know that your German Shepherd dog likely is not groaning because they are in any pain or discomfort….although you should not rule this out, either.
The most common reasons that a German Shepherd will groan are emotional reasons. Groaning can happen for all of the following emotional reasons:
1. Your German Shepherd is happy
Because the German Shepherd is such a vocal dog breed, you can expect your dog to vocalize in all kinds of situations.
Where another dog might simply relax while being petted, your GSD is as likely to groan or moan as a sign of pleasure.
Unfortunately, you may not have any way of knowing this is why your dog is groaning when you first bring your puppy home.
It can take time before you start to notice that every time you rub your dog’s belly, they groan, and then you make that connection.
2. Your German Shepherd is relaxed
German Shepherds as a breed are the hardest working dogs on the planet. They are bred to be that way. They are tireless workers with amazing energy levels and intense amounts of focus and concentration
But when a GSD goes “off duty,” they can be every bit as good at relaxing. And when they want to let you know they are relaxed and enjoying just lounging about, you might well hear a loud groan (or several) coming from your dog.
3. Your German Shepherd is enjoying something
Just like you may be tempted to smack your lips or grin from ear to ear when you are enjoying something, your German Shepherd may be prone to groaning when something is really good.
A rousing game of fetch, a lovely pat on the neck, a thorough brushing, a tasty treat – these enjoyable experiences may prompt your pup to issue a groan of enjoyment.
4. Your German Shepherd is being territorial
German Shepherds are bred to be guard dogs. They have every trait they need to be intensely protective.
But sometimes this trait can backfire when the food arrives or when another dog tries to play with a favorite toy.
Sometimes, a groaning German Shepherd is issuing a warning to other dogs or even to their people, saying “stay away, this is mine.”
This is a training issue that needs to be addressed swiftly. German Shepherds are very strong, powerful dogs and a GSD that has become territorial around food or possessions needs to be taught not to do this for everyone’s safety.
5. Your German Shepherd is asking for your attention
German Shepherds are incredibly intelligent, which is one of many reasons these dogs are so popular for military, police, service, therapy and search and rescue work. They learn very quickly!
So it won’t take your German Shepherd long at all to learn that making groaning sounds is a fast and easy way to get your attention.
Your dog may be bored or simply want some attention. If groaning will get your pup what they want, you can bet they won’t hesitate to do it!
6. Your German Shepherd is anxious or afraid
A German Shepherd that feels anxious or afraid may act out in any number of ways, including by groaning.
The best way to figure out if this is why your dog is groaning is to look for other situational triggers.
Some things to look for may include a thunderstorm that is brewing, holiday fireworks going off, a strange person or dog in the vicinity or something else that might be frightening your dog.
Physical and Health Reasons Why a German Shepherd Might Groan
Even though German Shepherd dogs are as likely to groan for emotional reasons as for any physical reasons, it is important to remember that groaning may indicate a health issue as well.
How can you know whether your dog is uncomfortable, in pain and needs veterinary assistance?
The first thing you want to do is try your best to rule out any other causes that don’t relate to health.
If you have done everything you can think of to eliminate the reasons why your GSD is groaning and you are still not sure what is causing it, this may indicate the reason for the groaning is physical discomfort or a health issue.
The most common physical and health reasons why your German Shepherd might be groaning include these:
1. Your German Shepherd is injured and is in pain
Groaning may be an indication that your GSD is hurt in some way. Even if you can’t see any visible injury, these active and athletic dogs can be more prone to muscle strains and sprains and abrasions that may get hidden under their thick fur.
Watch to see if the groaning sound seems to happen only when your dog does certain things, like trying to lay down on one side or putting weight on a certain paw.
2. Your German Shepherd is bloated and gassy
Bloat, or gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), is a serious and potentially fatal condition that some larger breed dogs can develop. It can be genetic and requires immediate emergency care.
With bloat, the stomach twists and the air gets trapped inside. It is very painful and can be fatal quickly.
If you press on your dog’s abdomen and it feels tight and your dog groans, rush to your nearest veterinary urgent care center.
3. Your German Shepherd has ascites
Another similar condition is called ascites, which is fluid buildup inside the abdominal area that is abnormal.
As Care Animal Hospital explains, ascites can occur for several reasons, including failure of the liver, intestinal disease, tumors, kidney malfunction or heart failure.
You should always rush your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect ascites.
4. Your German Shepherd is experiencing growing pains
Panosteitis is often nicknamed “growing pains,” which makes it sound like it is just an awkward stage of life.
But in dogs, panosteitis is a very real health condition that causes pain as the bones grow quickly during puppyhood.
Panosteitis is much more common in large and giant breed dogs because the growth from puppyhood to adulthood is so rapid and extreme.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that can be done to treat it. It is important to limit physical exercise until your GSD has gone through the majority of its growth spurt to avoid damaging the bones and joints.
5. Your German Shepherd has joint issues
As German Shepherd dogs grow older, they can develop canine osteoarthritis. The canine version of osteoarthritis is very much like the people version and can come with the same health symptoms, including stiffness, swelling, and pain.
6. Your German Shepherd has hip or elbow dysplasia
Another genetic health issue that is known to be more prevalent with German Shepherd dogs is called dysplasia.
Dysplasia can affect either the elbow or the hip joints. Dysplasia causes a malformation in the elbow or hip socket so that the bone doesn’t fit into the socket correctly.
Dysplasia of the hip or elbow can be extremely painful and debilitating and sometimes crippling. The only real way to correct it is with surgery on the affected joint.
What Does It Sound Like When a German Shepherd Groans?
For first-time German Shepherd dog owners, you may not be sure that what you are hearing from your dog is a groan, a moan, a whine, a whimper or something else entirely.
To further complication side identification, German Shepherds are also known to howl.
Here is a short video of a German Shepherd moaning.
Here is a short video of a German Shepherd howling.
Here is a short video of a German Shepherd groaning.
As you can hear, these sounds are quite similar! Some owners may call a moan a groan and a whine a moan.
What matters most is that you can identify the sounds your German Shepherd makes and what they mean to your dog.