As a pet owner, it’s natural to wonder what your furry friend is trying to tell you when they let out a long sigh. While humans may sigh out of annoyance, dogs use sighing as a form of communication to express their emotions. In this guide, we’ll explore the reasons why dogs sigh, what their sighs mean, and when you should be concerned.
What Is Sighing in Dogs?
Sighing is a long, sharp exhale that is common in dogs and other species, such as humans. Dogs can sigh at any time, but it is most commonly heard right before they go to sleep or lie down. Unlike other dog noises, such as barking or whining, sighing is simply made by breathing and not vocalization.
Positive and Negative Emotions in Sighing
According to the American Kennel Club, a sigh combined with half-closed eyes communicates pleasure, while fully open eyes indicate disappointment. Therefore, by observing your dog’s eyes, you can tell whether they are expressing positive or negative emotions.
Contentment is one of the most common reasons why dogs sigh. If your dog sighs after a fun day and then settles down to relax, it is a sign that they feel content and safe in their environment. Rhiannon Koehler, DVM, MPH, says that if “your dog’s laying down, just kinda resting and you hear them sigh, that’s usually going to be just that nice sign of contentment that they’re comfortable in their environment.
Dogs may also sigh out of exasperation or frustration. Koehler says it’s more likely your pooch is sighing out of contentment, but there might be times when your pup lets out an exasperated sigh. Your dog might let out an exasperated sigh when they want to do something, such as play or walk, but you aren’t giving them what they want. Keep an eye on your dog’s facial expression when they sigh, and if your pup has the open-eyed look described by the AKC, they could be feeling frustrated.
Similar to contentment, dogs also sigh when they’re feeling relaxed. If your dog sighs before sleeping or lying down, they are likely just expressing their comfort. It’s important to note that sighing is another way our dogs communicate with us, similar to how they communicate through vocalization and body language. The nature of the sigh as well as your pup’s expression and body language can tell you how your canine pal might be feeling.
When Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Sighing
While sighing is typically not a cause for concern, it is important to pay attention to your dog’s breathing. Heavy breathing, gasping, or groaning could indicate an underlying medical condition. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is best to consult your veterinarian. Koehler says that “[sighing] doesn’t typically point to any medical issues that are underlying it…If it’s not sighing and it’s more of a groaning or a gasping breath then that’s when you would want to be concerned. That could indicate something like a heart issue.”