Why Do Dogs Sigh

March 06, 2024

Have you ever heard a sighing sound while relaxing at home and wondered what could possibly be bothering your canine companion? Or perhaps you've wondered what you can do to ensure your dog is living a happy and fulfilled life?

A human sigh could mean contentment, tiredness, relaxation or even disappointment. But can dogs be experiencing those same range of feelings when they sigh? Read further to take a deeper dive and better understand dog and their sighs.

What Is Sighing?

Sighing is a natural bodily function common to humans and other animals. Questioning what sets a sigh apart from a normal breath? Well, most breaths are so quiet they don't immediately register as audible. A sigh is a extended breath in and out that differentiates itself by being louder.

The Cleveland Clinic describes sighing as "A sigh is considered a reflex and is mainly defined as a long, deep breath that’s similar to a normal inhale and exhale — but not quite the same.” They continue, "It can happen due to an emotional response like stress or relief, but you can also sigh without even noticing it. In fact, on average, people produce about 12 spontaneous sighs within an hour." Dogs sighing is a natural bodily response, and it's nothing for pet parents to be anxious about.


Why Do Dogs Sigh? What Does it Mean?

According to an article from the American Kennel Club (AKC), The AKC explains, "When the sigh is combined with half-closed eyes, it communicates pleasure; with fully open eyes, it communicates disappointment: It’s like your dog saying “I guess you are not going to give me a bite of that pizza.” However, the AKC also states that while sighs can potentially indicate disappointment, moans and sighs more commonly indicate pleasure.

Most dog owners do not need to worry about their dog sighing. In fact, the only time when dog owners need to worry is when they think that their dog has feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression. The good news is that most dogs do not sigh because they are going through difficult emotions, but because they are calm and content. The more cues you have from your dog, the better you'll be able to decide what their sighing means.


Sounds Similar to Sighing

Not sure if what you're hearing is a sigh? Here are a few different ways dogs audibly make noise so you can determine whether your pet is sighing or not:

  • Yawns: Yawns can often be mistaken for sighs as they involve taking a deep breath. However, a yawn requires a wide open mouth, whereas a sigh can be done through a mostly closed mouth or even through the nose. A yawn is mostly an involuntary bodily function; sighs can be voluntary.

  • Moans: These are somewhat similar to sighs. They are both low sounds emitted by a dog, though in the case of a sigh, the "sound" you hear comes from the breath. When a pet moans, they're actually making the sound with their vocal cords.

  • Panting: Finally, panting is also similar to sighing as it involves an auditory breathing sound. However, the big difference here is that panting involves many short breaths while sighing is usually one longer breath.

  • Whining: Whining is a difficult vocalization to identify. Vetstreet explains that whining may be a dog's way of "asking" for something, like attention or dinnertime. A dog may be excited or feeling energetic. Other dogs whine as a reaction to stress. An injured or ill dog may whine to express their discomfort. Like many of the other dog body language cues, it's important to look for other indicators to identify why your dog may be whining.

Now, when you hear your pet sigh, you'll know your dog is either relaxing, content or feeling a bit gloomy. But don't worry if it's the latter — a belly rub may be all they need to sigh in a happy manner.