Youre sitting on the couch, minding your own business when you hear a deep, heavy sigh from the other end of the couch. You look up, startled, because youre the only one herewell, except forDoggo. You look up, and there they are, tail thumping, staring at you in that way they often do. If your instinct tells you that your best buddy wants you to let them out in the backyard to chase squirrels, then give yourself a pat on the back because youre already speaking sigh language, even if you didnt know it. Here are a few more things your dog wishes you knew.
Who among us hasnt at one time or another wished they could flat-out ask their dog, What are you thinking right now? But one need not be a mindreader, or a modern-day Dr. Doolittle, to come to a logical conclusion with just a bit of sleuthing on two points: Their relaxed face, waggy tail, and slightly closed eyes tell you that sigh was meant to express that they not only like what youre doing, but they would also like you to continue doing so for as long as possible.
In both cases, you can read the context and their body language to know, at least, that theyre feeling something positive, But when they sigh to express that theyre feeling relaxed, its likely theyre also signaling theyre done with the activity that made them happy, points out Sarah Wooten DVM, of Pumpkin Pet Insurance. And youll know theyre done because they might even lay down for a nap, points out Gerardo Perez-Camargo DVM, Vice President of Research and Development at Freshpet. Sometimes a dog will sigh out of boredom, notes Leslie Brooks, DVM, a veterinary advisor at betterpet, an online resource promoting responsible pet ownership.
Your dog might sigh to let you know theyre in need of attention, according to Jay Scott, DVM and proprietor of Pugsquest, a website dedicated to pugs and their care. Debbie Jansen LeBlonde, a professional dog walker in Connecticut notices this in her own best buddy, her shih-pooh, Ozzie. A heartbreaking sigh that gets me to do exactly what he wants. If your dog has been making a big show of inviting you to play, and you dont take them up on the invitation, dont be surprised if they make another big show of giving up, lying down, and sighing heavily, points out Jamie Richardson, DVM, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, If youre still not sure, look for your dog to be lying down with their eyes fixed on you and fully open.
More worrisome symptoms that can accompany dog sighs include lethargy, loss of interest in eating or playing, excessive coughing or wheezing, and vomiting and/or diarrhea, points out Sara Ochoa, DVM, small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for doglab.com. If along with your dog sighing, you notice an increase in panting, nose licking, shaking, or excess yawning, your dog may be trying to tell you they dont feel so goodmentally, according to Mike Gould, Founder and CEO of doggie daycare brand Hounds Town USA.
What does it mean when a dog sigh?
Dogs communicate pleasure, happiness, excitement, and affiliation through their vocalizations. … When the sigh is combined with half-closed eyes, it communicates pleasure; with fully open eyes, it communicates disappointment: “I guess you are not going to play with me.”
Do dogs sigh out of frustration?
In humans, sighs sometimes indicate that the person is tired, angry, or frustrated. Dogs sigh, too, and when they do is a beautiful sight to behold for any dog owner. However, most dog owners are not aware of the reasons for their dog’s auditory utterances.
What does it mean when your dog huffs?
Huffing and Puffing: Huffing, puffing, or (in our house) “chuffing” is when the dog rapidly exhales a small amount of air, that sounds like a cross between an exhale and a bark. It’s a form of stress relief, and can also be a precursor to escalating aggressive behaviors. … The dog is gearing up for a fight.
Why does my dog groan at me?
Dogs sigh and groan to show contentment and disappointment. … If your dog pesters you to play or go for a walk, however, and then flops down on the ground and lets out a long sigh or groan, she could be disappointed that she has not gotten what she wants.
Animals Pets Why Do Dogs Sigh? By Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo DiLonardo LinkedIn Twitter Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo has worked in print, online, and broadcast journalism for 25 years and covers nature, health, science, and animals. Learn about our editorial process Updated March 30, 2021 Fact checked by Betsy Petrick Fact checked by Betsy Petrick Ohio Wesleyan University Brandeis University Northeastern University Betsy Petrick is an experienced researcher, writer, and producer. Learn about our fact checking process Westend61 / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species It’s a familiar scene for any dog owner: Your companion lies down, rests its head on its paws, and lets out an exaggerated, gusty sigh. It it sad? Comfortable? Disappointed in its life? According to the American Kennel Club, the reason for this audible expression could be any of the above. It could be a casual declaration of contentment or an indication of a medical condition, depending on the situation. Sighing with eyes half-closed means something different than sighing with eyes open. The frequency and heaviness of these exhalations should be taken into account, too. Here are some reasons why your companion could be sighing. What Is My Dog Trying to Communicate? According to a 2018 University of Bari Aldo Moro study, dogs use body language and vocalizations to communicate with humans. A sigh is one way a dog may express contentment or disappointment, but which depends largely on the situation. Neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., and dog trainer Sarah Hodgson wrote in their book, Understanding Your Dog for Dummies, that a dog‘s sigh is sometimes “a simple emotional signal that terminates an action.” This could explain the long, dramatic exhalations that occur after your dog has eaten a treat or finished a fun romp in the yard. This kind of sigh says, “I’m content and am going to settle down here awhile.” You’ll know whether your dog‘s sigh is a sign of relaxation by its eyes. The American Kennel Club says that sighing with eyes half-closed is a sign of pleasure. You might see this while petting your dog or after giving it a treat. Sighing with open eyes, on the contrary, signals disappointment, perhaps from failing to acquire scraps at the dinner table or wanting to play when no one else does. If the dog‘s ears are soft and its head is down in a resting position, paws crossed, a sigh most likely indicates relaxation. If the dog is sitting up, fully alert, and looking at you while sighing, it could be an attempt to communicate a problem. Is My Dog Sick? Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty Images Most often, a dog‘s sighing is no cause for concern. However, when a dog sigh is combined with moans and groans, it may be a sign of pain or discomfort. Excessive sighing and groaning could mean your dog has osteoarthritis, a condition where the tissue between joints wears down; ascites, abdominal swelling caused by an accumulation of fluid; or panosteitis, rapid bone growth. These medical conditions are painful and could be causing your dog to excessively sigh, grumble, and moan. If your dog‘s frequent sighing is accompanied by a lack of energy or appetite, that’s a sign of lethargy, which could be caused by infection, diabetes, liver or heart problems, hypoglycemia, and a whole host of other canine illnesses. Warning If you think your dog‘s sighs may be linked to an illness, you should have it checked by a vet. What Does It Mean When My Dog Sighs Heavily? It’s important to also take note of how heavily your dog sighs and whether the sigh is accompanied by a whistling sound, which could indicate a blockage in the airway. Heavy sighing could indicate that your dog‘s allergies have led to allergic bronchitis aka dog asthma which causes inflammation on the bronchial tubes and leads to wheezing and shortness of breath. Your dog‘s heavy breathing could be linked to allergies if the condition changes with the season or environment. Wheezing, coughing, and lethargy are early (and oft-missed) signs of heartworm disease. If you notice these symptoms, you have time to get a test from the vet before the situation becomes urgent. Wheezing could be a sign of heart disease in older dogs if it’s combined with persistent coughing and low energy levels. It can also be caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a long-term inflammatory condition that, again, also leads to decreased exercise tolerance. If you’re worried that the heavy sighing might be an emergency, check whether your dog‘s gums are turning blue this is a sign it isn’t getting enough oxygen and should be seen by a vet immediately. View Article Sources Gibeault, Stephanie. How to Read Dog Body Language. American Kennel Club. Siniscalchi, Marcello, et al. Communication in Dogs. Animals, vol. 8, no. 8, 2018, p. 131., doi:10.3390/ani8080131 How the Sounds Dogs Make Reveal Their Emotions. American Kennel Club. Weir, Malcolm, and Robin Downing. How Do I Know if My Dog is in Pain?. VCA Animal Hospitals. Sherding, Robert G. and Susan E. Johnson. Chapter 69 – Diseases of the Intestines. In: Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice. Elsevier, 2006, pp. 702-738., doi:10.1016/B0-72-160422-6/50071-1 Brooks, Wendy. Panosteitis: Growing Pains in Dogs. Veterinary Partner. Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Settings. American Veterinary Medical Association. “Allergy and Asthma Awareness for your Pets.” Harmony Veterinary Center. Williams, Krista, and Cheryl Yuill. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Chronic Bronchitis) in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Many owners report their dogs sigh or huff and puff and may wonder what causes their behavior. First off, what is really sighing? Why does it occur and what triggers humans and dogs to sigh? By taking a closer look into the phenomenon, we may deduce better what triggers sighing in dogs and when the behavior is innocuous or warrants a veterinary visit.
According to a study conducted by Vlemincx and colleagues at the University of Leuven, indeed, sighing acts as a physicaland mentalreset button. It’s not like he has to balance his check book each month or feels disgruntled by somebody’s ignorant comments on social media.
So now he’s digging and re-arranging his blankets to his liking and emits a final sigh before dozing off in his favorite resting spot. Dog breeds known for their vocal expression, in other words, who do much more “talking” than others include Siberian huskies, German shepherds and Rottweilers. With these breeds, when you pet them, they tend to moan and make other endearing noises simply out of being in a satisfied, contented state of mind.
When dogs are left with little to do, they can’t just grab a pen and play a game of Sudoku or engage in purposeless thumb-twiddling. Dogs may therefore let out a resigned sigh when they feel bored and realize there is nothing exciting taking place any time soon. Expect your dog to emit a disappointing sigh when he’s begging at the table, but owners won’t give in and no broccoli magically drop from the kids’ hands.
Your dog likely raised his head and perked his ears in happy anticipation upon seeing the leash only to realize no walks are in program. Raise your hand if you literally saw your dog roll his eyes and give out a dramatic sigh when you told him to stop doing something. While this is just our interpretation, it could likely be that dogs may be feeling some frustration/stress when we stop them from doing something and lecture them to go lie down on a mat and chill.
If your dog is sighing and seems uncomfortable or he is manifesting other symptoms, please play it safe and have him see a vet at your earliest convenience.
Dogs communicate pleasure, happiness, excitement, and affiliation through their vocalizations. The most common sounds of pleasure are moans and sighs, although dogs also use whines and growls to communicate happiness.
“Dogs are highly emotional beings, just like humans,” explains Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS with DoggieDesigner. “Just like humans, there are times when they need an outlet to express those emotions. Sighing is one such outlet.” In other words, the question, “why does my dog sigh” must be answered with yet another question, namely…
What emotion are they trying to convey?
Who among us hasn’t at one time or another wished they could flat-out ask their dog, “What are you thinking right now?” But one need not be a mindreader, or a modern-day Dr. Doolittle, to come to a logical conclusion with just a bit of sleuthing on two points:
When asking yourself “why does my dog sigh,” the first thing to do is consider the context, explains certified dog behavior consultant, Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA of Fun Paw Care. What was going on just before the sigh? Were you giving them tummy rubs? Or were they ripping up one of your shoes? If it was the former, it would be a good bet to lean toward positive emotions. If the latter, that sigh may mean your dog is trying to convey they are stressed out about something.
“When trying to decipher what your dog may be telling you with a sigh, it is important to look at the entire dog, from head to toe, because body language signals don’t act individually,” points out Kait Hembree, head of training at GoodPup, a virtual dog training service. Tail wagging? Good sign. Hair standing on end? Not a good sign. If you see any of these behaviors from Doggo, they might be in need of obedience training.Here are some of the emotions your dog may be trying to convey to you when they sigh, along with the ways you can recognize them and distinguish one from another:
They’re feeling empathic
Dogs and humans have been evolving together over thousands of years, and dogs have learned new skills to be able to communicate with us, points out Dr. Woodnutt. Just like your dog can yawn in response to you yawning, your dog might sigh in response to your letting out a sigh. It reflects the bond between humans and their dogs, which has been developing over the centuries. “We don’t really know if they’re trying to communicate their empathy or just copying us, but it’s comforting all the same,” she says.
If your dog just ate or you patiently played fetch for as long as they wanted, your dog might just be inclined to reward you with a sigh, Dr. Woodnutt suggests. In other words, let’s say you’ve been scritching Doggo under the chin for a few minutes when they let out a nice, big sigh. Their relaxed face, waggy tail, and slightly closed eyes tell you that sigh was meant to express that they not only like what you’re doing, but they would also like you to continue doing so for as long as possible. Here are 60 strange things you never realized make your dog tick.
When a dog sighs because they feel relaxed, it’s not all that different from when they sigh out of happiness. In both cases, you can read the context and their body language to know, at least, that they’re feeling something positive, But when they sigh to express that they’re feeling relaxed, it’s likely they’re also signaling they’re done with the activity that made them happy, points out Sarah Wooten DVM, of Pumpkin Pet Insurance. In other words, that relaxed sigh will come
Similar to the “relaxation sigh,” dogs may let out a sigh when they’re gearing up to go to sleep for the night. The sigh may help them unwind, points out Dr. Woodnutt. Or it may be part of their own little sleep-routine. If so, their next move may be to curl up in a ball in that way that dogs do when they’re going to sleep for the night.
Sometimes a dog will sigh out of boredom, notes Leslie Brooks, DVM, a veterinary advisor at betterpet, an online resource promoting responsible pet ownership. If Doggo happens to be pacing around when they sigh, it could well mean they’re looking to get outside and expel some energy, Dr. Brooks adds. That’s especially true if he’s been home alone all day.
They’re feeling disappointed
Your dog might sigh to let you know they’re in need of attention, according to Jay Scott, DVM and proprietor of Pugsquest, a website dedicated to pugs and their care. When that’s what’s going on, you’re likely to notice he’s pacing or otherwise very visibly moving around, especially if they keep brushing up against you. In a variation on your dog being in need of attention, sometimes your dog will sigh because they want something else from you, something you’re currently not providing. Perhaps they feel dinner is overdue. Or maybe they really want to go out for a walk. “Just like humans, dogs can be manipulative like that,” observes Dr. Wooten. Don’t feel bad if you make any of these 53 mistakes every dog owner makes from time to time.
Unfortunately, there will be times when your dog’s sigh signifies sadness. Once again, context and body language should clarify it for you. If one of their favorite humans isn’t home,
They’re feeling physical discomfort
Another reason your dog might sigh is that they’re ill or otherwise in pain or discomfort. If sighing is a new and persistent behavior for your dog, it could be worth having them examined by a veterinarian, says Sarah Nold, DVM, staff veterinarian at Trupanion. The cause could be as minor as a tummy ache from something they ate. But sighing is also sometimes associated with respiratory issues such as bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia. Often, it’s a question of which other symptoms, if any, are present. More worrisome symptoms that can accompany dog sighs include lethargy, loss of interest in eating or playing, excessive coughing or wheezing, and vomiting and/or diarrhea, points out Sara Ochoa, DVM, small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for doglab.com. Also, if your dog is shifting around and/or groaning in between sighs, it’s possible they’re experiencing pain. Please be on the lookout for these 10 signs of illness that are sometimes seen in dogs that seem otherwise healthy.
The Art of Sighing
A sigh can be described as a deep and audible exhalation of air coming out of the mouth or nose. It starts with taking a normal breath, a few seconds pause and then the long and loud exhale.In humans, a sigh is often associated with some type of deep emotion. For example, a woman may sigh as she resigns herself when thinking of her loved one living far away.Sighing may also be seen when a person feels a sense of relief such as being spared from some negative event. Hence the saying: “exhaling a sigh of relief.”Sighs can also be used when a person feel angry, frustrated or bored. It’s a sort of coping mechanism, a way to de-stress from life’s annoyances and tribulations.According to a study conducted by Vlemincx and colleagues at the University of Leuven, indeed, sighing acts as a physical—and mental—reset button.Sighing also plays a role in keeping you healthy. Indeed, it’s physiologically important to sigh because sighing helps you maintain a healthy lung function, points out Jill Seladi-Schulman a freelance writer from Atlanta, GA, with a PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Emory in an article for Healthline.
So Why Do Dogs Sigh?
But what about dogs? Why do dogs sigh? It’s not like Rover is longing for that French poodle he met at the show ring last year. It’s not like he has to balance his check book each month or feels disgruntled by somebody’s ignorant comments on social media.Interestingly, dogs have their own good reasons for sighing. We might lack studies as to why dogs sigh, but most dog owners catch their dogs sighing at one time or another and have their own interpretations.Until dogs can talk, we can only make some educated guesses as to what triggers dogs to sigh.
A Sigh of Contentment
Does your dog sigh before lying down? If so, this can be a sign that he is happy, relaxed and comfortable. Maybe your dog had a busy day. He went to the dog park, then he met your neighbors and then he had a romp in the yard with his newly acquired friend.All these novelties, albeit pleasant, may have made him tired, so he likely has looked forward to a nap. So now he’s digging and re-arranging his blankets to his liking and emits a final sigh before dozing off in his favorite resting spot.Sighs of contentment may be also be seen when dogs have eaten their meals or when their owners finally come home and the dog settles on the floor nearby them with their head laying on their paws and their eyes half closed, points out professor Stanley Coren, in the book: “
A Sigh of Boredom
When dogs are left with little to do, they can’t just grab a pen and play a game of Sudoku or engage in purposeless thumb-twiddling.Boredom is something dogs may therefore suffer from when it’s raining outside or there is really nothing for them to do.Dogs may therefore let out a resigned sigh when they feel bored and realize there is nothing exciting taking place any time soon.
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A Way to Release Stress
Another form of sighing comes when dogs are anticipating certain events, but, for some reason or another, such events don’t seem to materialize. In this case, rather than sighing with the eyes half closed, these dogs will sigh with their eyes wide open, points out Stanley Coren.What kind of disappointments do dogs go through though? Expect your dog to emit a disappointing sigh when he’s begging at the table, but owners won’t give in and no broccoli magically drop from the kids’ hands. This sigh is therefore a sign of the dog being resigned.Or perhaps, expect a sigh from your dog when you have been grabbing your dog‘s leash only to simply move it from the table to the closet, leading to no walkies, but just you sitting on the couch to watch your favorite show.Your dog likely raised his head and perked his ears in happy anticipation upon seeing the leash only to realize no walks are in program. “Sigh! Life is so unfair!”
A Dog “Talking Back”
Raise your hand if you literally saw your dog roll his eyes and give out a dramatic sigh when you told him to stop doing something. Some dog owners take this as a sign of the dog “talking back” and they can swear they heard their dogs said something along the terms of “While this is just our interpretation, it could likely be that dogs may be feeling some frustration/stress when we stop them from doing something and lecture them to go lie down on a mat and chill.Until the day dogs can talk, this is just speculation until proven otherwise, but this type of sigh or groan certainly gives dogs a great touch of personality! Just like a teenager talking back!
A Medical Problem
It goes without saying that anything done in excess may be sign of a problem. Excessive sighing in dogs can therefore be indicative of a medical problem.The underlying cause may range from pain, to gastrointestinal upset to even respiratory diseases and heart problems.If your dog is sighing and seems uncomfortable or he is manifesting other symptoms, please play it safe and have him see a vet at your earliest convenience.