When a dog sighs, it can often catch you by surprise. It’s mostly viewed as more of a human action, and we all have very clear ideas on what a sigh means when we do it. So, if your dog sighs a lot, you might think this means he’s sad. But that’s not always the case.
Dogs sigh for many reasons including a way of communication to you, because they are relaxed, content, and feel safe. You dog is also deep sighing possibly after play when he deeply exhales and finally rests when tired. Or dog sighs can also mean exasperation.
As you can see, dogs that sigh a lot could be doing it for many different reasons, as it mostly depends on the situation a dog is in. They could be sighing out of disappointment, satisfaction, pleasure, exhaustion, or wanting attention.
As a rule of thumb though, when a dog sighs, it’s their way of expressing how they feel… and that might not always be a good thing.
Below I will share what I have discovered about what it means when my dog sighs, including when he lays down, when going to sleep, and sometimes out of frustration. There are also some notes there taken from vets who warn not to confuse dog sighs with a moan or cry in pain.
What does it mean when my dog sighs?
I’m sure you’ll agree: Sighing normally seems like a humans-only sound. So, hearing your dog exhale deeply and audibly can leave you surprised, especially if you don’t know why they do it.
First things first, you should know that dogs sigh a lot. Even the least attentive dog owner will tell you they’ve heard their furry friend sigh a few times.
Like all other strange dog behaviors, your dog’s sigh isn’t without reason – and whilst most of those reasons are benign, some sighing could point to a health problem (explained further down the page.
You already know that dogs experience different emotions. And almost always, they express their feelings with a sound — whether a bark a lot, whine, howl at sirens, or sigh so much it seems weird.
Think of your dog’s sigh as a “secret canine language” they use when they want to speak their mind. Also, the context of the sigh will tell you what exactly your dog is trying to communicate.
With that in mind, here are the most common reasons why dogs sigh:
1. Dogs sigh because they are exhausted and want to rest
You’ve likely heard your dog sigh a lot when they lay down on their favorite spot to sleep. Just like a tired person’s sighs, a can do it when they are tired and want to rest.
If your furry friend has had a busy day playing fetch or chasing after squirrels in your backyard, you may hear them sigh before they curl up to sleep.
And speaking of sleep, it’s common for dogs to sigh when going to sleep as is seen this YouTube video of a Beagle.
2. Dogs sigh to express satisfaction
If you have a dog that sighs when cuddling, then it could be a way of letting you know they’re content and happy.
You might notice that the “I’m satisfied now” deep sigh happens after they’ve just fed or during an awesome playtime.
They will deeply sigh to show they’ve enjoyed their favorite food that you’ve added their favorite snacks to so it tastes better. Or to tell you to wrap up the game session – probably because they’ve had enough play and prefer to do something else.
3. Dogs sigh to show they are in a happy and relaxed mood
Most dog parents often hear their furry friends sigh during a petting or cuddle session.
If your dog normally sighs when rubbing their belly or stroking their chin as you snuggle, that shows they feel happy being beside you at that moment.
Maybe if they could talk, they’d say how they think your hands and their body are a match made in heaven. And that they truly appreciate it when you spread the love.
But since they can’t put it into words, they’ll sigh instead.
Experts at the American Kennel Club explain that if your dog sighs out of pleasure, their eyes will also echo how good they feel. You’ll realize your dog’s eyes are half-closed before or after letting out the “pleasure sigh.”
“Another sound of contentment is the sigh, usually accompanied by the dog lying down with its head on its forepaws. When the sigh is combined with half-closed eyes, it communicates pleasure; with fully open eyes, it communicates disappointment.”
4. Dogs sigh because they out of frustration and disappointment
If your dog feels disappointed, you’ll likely hear them sigh as though reminding you they aren’t happy with what you’ve done.
So, the next time you grab the leash and make them excited to go for a walk, only for you to change your mind minutes later, your furry friend might sigh.
And much like the pleasure sighs, your dog’s disappointment sigh will be evident in their eyes. They will sigh with eyes wide open and stare at you soulfully for a moment.
That’s the common facial expressions dogs often exhibit when dealing with negative emotions like disappointment.
5. Dogs sign when they are bored and want your attention
Our canine friends are pretty good at observing how we react when they do certain stuff.
If your dog comes to realize you usually pay attention to them whenever they sigh, there’s a good chance sighing might be their official attention-seeking trick.
They probably believe that sighing sets them up for the good things they crave — like spending more time with you.
6. Dogs sigh possibly because they are copying you, maybe?
It’s well-known that our four-legged pals like to imitate their owners. A group of researchers did an interesting study involving a few dogs, their owners, and random people.
The researchers first trained the dogs to open a door in two ways — using their heads and paws. Then, the dog parents and the random guys took turns opening the door as the dogs watched.
“The study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provides the first evidence that dogs copy at least some of our body movements and behaviors in ways that are spontaneous and voluntary. In other words, they can’t really help themselves when it comes to copying people.”
All owners used their heads to open the door, while the others used their hands.
And when it was the dogs’ turn, they all used their heads just like their owners!
Based on this study, it’s possible that dogs at times sigh simply because they’ve heard their favorite humans do it.
If they imitate their owners yawning, as shown here on YouTube, they can imitate us when we sigh.
If you asked why your “dog sighs when I sigh”, or “at me”, it’s very likely down to this imitation and mimicking they can sometimes do.
When your dog’s sighing isn’t normal
Most times, sighing in dogs is a harmless action. So whether they are expressing a positive or negative emotion, there’s nothing to worry about.
However, sighing can sometimes signal a dog is in pain. For example they might have joint pain or a breathing problem.
You might see them acting restless before making a sigh. For instance, moving in their bed excessively before every sigh.
You may also notice that the sighing is accompanied by sounds like whining and typical symptoms suggesting illness — a change in mood, sudden disinterest in normal activities, reduced appetite, and so on.
Repeated sighing can also indicate your dog is having respiratory distress.
If they have inhaled allergens like pollen, smoke, dust, or strong perfume, they may experience breathing discomfort, which might manifest as excessive sighing or breathing very hard and fast.
Plus, serious respiratory problems such as pneumonia or bronchitis can trigger prolonged sighing from your dog. Along with the frequent sighs, you may also observe symptoms like:
- Runny nose and watery eyes.
- Wheezing noises
- Coughing a lot.
- Fever and hot to the touch.
If you suspect your dog’s sighing sounds a bit off or happens excessively within a short time, don’t brush it off. The best thing you can do is to schedule your furry pal for a check-up.
FAQs on sighing
Why a dog sighs when going to sleep
The common assumption is that if a dog sighs while sleeping, it’s a sign that they are progressing from a light nap to a deep slumber.
This is true in some respects as dogs sigh when they lay down a little and you might not hear it. However, once the dog then falls asleep and switches from light sleep to deep REM sleep, the sighing will be louder.
This is backed up by research from 1993 by Issa and Porostocky. They published findings in their “Effect of sleep on changes in breathing pattern accompanying sigh breaths” paper, and said:
“The volume of the sigh breath was larger in awake sighs than in those recorded during non-REM (NREM) and REM sleep. The strength of Hering-Breuer reflex as determined by duration of the post-sigh apnea was similar in NREM and REM sleep. Sighs occurring during wakefulness, NREM and REM sleep were associated with augmented activity of the parasternal muscles during inspiration, and a persistent tonic abdominal muscle activity during the expiratory period.”
Do dogs sigh because they are bored?
Dogs can also sigh when they are bored. It’s normal for our four-legged to sigh when bored and crave their owner’s attention. If your dog realizes you always pay attention to them each time they sigh, they will resort to sighing whenever they want your attention.
Why do dogs exhale loudly?
You’ve just described a “sigh, ” which is normal for dogs. Our canine friends express their feelings in different, including sighing.
So, they may exhale loudly if they feel disappointed, happy, bored, relaxed, and tired.
Why do dogs sigh when you pet them?
If your dog sighs when petted or in your lap, it shows that they are in a happy and relaxed mood and wouldn’t trade that moment for anything.
And most times, dogs that sigh when you put them will have their eyes half-closed. This facial expression will tell you they’re enjoying every bit of it.
Why do dogs sigh when they lay down?
Your dog sighs when lying down as an indication of being relaxed, finally!
Also think about how your body reacts when you hit the sack. If you have a lung full of air, it will exhale out as you finally rest. Dogs are like us in this way.
Handy Hint: You might also see your dog scratching the bed before he lies down, here’s why he does it.
Your dog’s sigh could mean different things, depending on the context. They may sigh because they feel happy, disappointed, content, and exhausted.
It can also be that they’re sighing to imitate you.
However, don’t get sighing confused with rapid exhaling that happens a lot. This could be the signal of a respiratory issue and should be looked at by a vet.