Why do dogs sigh?

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We pet parents love to humanise our dogs and see ourselves in them, so we’re always trying to understand them or put meaning into their quirks. A sigh is a pretty unmistakable act and if you’ve heard your dog huff and puff at the end of the sofa, you’ve probably wondered if you've bored them or if they’re waiting for something. But why do dogs sigh in the first place, and what do they actually mean?

Let’s take a look at this bit of dog language to uncover why our dogs sigh and what it is they’re trying to tell us.

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Why do dogs sigh?

It isn’t like your dog is feeling worn out after a long day in the office, or is disgruntled at the thought of housework, so why do dogs sigh?

There are a few reasons why a dog might sigh - most of them are actually very similar to why we humans sigh. Generally speaking, dogs seem to sigh as an expression of mood just like we humans do.

Obviously, we don’t know exactly what dogs mean when they huff and puff and until our best friends learn to speak human, or we figure out how to talk hound, we won’t know for certain. These theories are educated guesses based on why humans and other animals sigh.

It’s a sign of contentment

One of the most common reasons dogs sigh is because they are perfectly happy and content. Yup, most sighs are a pretty positive sign!

Say you’ve just got in from the park and your pup has jumped on the sofa and let out a big sigh as they settle down. There’s no doubt they’re sighing because they’re content to be home after a busy day spent playing with their favourite human.

These happy little huffs will usually be easy to read because your dog’s body will be relaxed, their face and jaw soft, and they might have half-closed or “droopy” eyes. You might even get a tiny tail wag or a doggy smile. Another sign of a happy sigh is that they often happen as your dog rests their head on their front paws.

Sighs of contentment are also easy to read based on context clues from what your dog has been doing that day, or what’s going on around you. It could be that your dog is settling down after a tasty dinner, or curling up on your lap for a cuddle. Some dogs will even have a little contented sigh just because the whole family is at home together!

Either way, these happy little huffs are nothing to worry about and they’re actually pretty adorable!

Time to relax

We humans sometimes sigh when we’re relaxed, and dogs do too! These sighs are very similar to contented sighs, and your dog will display a lot of the same body language such as half-closed eyes, a soft expression, a relaxed body, and their head resting on their paws.

Dogs often sigh or yawn as a physical and emotional release and as a signal that they are winding down and entering a more relaxed state.

You might notice that as your pooch’s eyes start to get droopy and they relax further, they might sigh again before dozing off. Or maybe they’ve taken themselves to bed and dug their blankets around ready to get cosy, then slumped down with a big sigh. These heavy breaths are just a sign that your dog is tired and that they’re ready to unwind and have a nap.

Huffs of disappointment

Another reason why dogs sigh is because they’re disappointed, or they’ve given up on trying to do something. This usually happens because they’ve been wanting to do something, but for whatever reason, they can’t do it or it just doesn’t happen.

For instance, say you’re watching TV and your best bud jumps up next to you looking for some love, but you keep watching the show. You might get the puppy eyes or even a nose boop to the leg as they try to get you to fuss them. If you seem to ignore them, or only give a half-hearted scratch, they might let out a big sigh and lie down.

Or perhaps your dog really wanted a walk but it’s raining cats and dogs, and so they huff out a dejected little sigh. In this case, your dog could be sighing from boredom as well as disappointment!

These sighs obviously are a little sad and it’s your dog’s way of expressing that they’re feeling a little disheartened.

It can be tricky to tell why your pup is sighing though, and what they’re trying to say. These sorry sighs are usually accompanied by wide open eyes, and you’ll have to try and read your dog’s facial expressions and body language to see if they’re giving off a happy little huff, or if they’re feeling a bit down in the dumps.

Sighs for stress release

Not all sighs are conscious expressions of emotions though. In periods of stress or anxiety, your dog might start sighing more without thinking about it.

Excessive sighing can be a sign of stress in both humans and dogs, so if you notice your dog sighing more often you should take some time to observe them and try to read their body language and see how they’re feeling.

For example, if something stressful has happened in your home, such as a family member moving out, then your dog is probably still getting used to the change in their routine and environment. If you’re ever concerned about your dog or any changes in their behaviour you should talk to your vet or a canine specialist for advice.

A sign of sickness

Usually a dog’s sighs are nothing to worry about, but sometimes it can be a sign that something is wrong.

If your dog is sighing much more than normal and it’s accompanied with a few moans, groans, or grumbles, they might be trying to vocalise pain. This could be caused by anything from an upset stomach to arthritis, so if your pooch is sighing and seems out of sorts, it’s a good idea to examine them more closely for any signs of illness or to take them to the vet for a check-up.

Additionally, some huffing and puffing could be a sign that your dog is having trouble breathing. For example, if your dog sighs but there’s a faint whistling sound or they’re coughing and retching, there might be something blocking their airway. Dogs suffering from respiratory issues, like bronchitis, might sigh more than normal and have heavier breathing, along with other symptoms such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

If you’re worried about your dog’s wellbeing, take the time to observe them for any other symptoms of illness such as lethargy. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health, and you should consult your vet for advice if you are concerned.

Why is my dog sighing?

To really understand why your dog is sighing you’ll need to think about what’s going on around your pooch to understand anything that might affect how they’re feeling as well as attempting to read other aspects of your dog’s body language to understand the mood they’re in and what that big old sigh might mean.

More often than not, a dog sigh is nothing to be worried about and it’s just your dog’s way of trying to express their emotions. Many of the reasons we humans sigh are the same for dogs, whether that’s a sigh of relief or relaxation, or they’re just a bit bored. You know your dog better than anyone, so hopefully you can figure out exactly why your dog is sighing!