A human sigh could mean contentment, tiredness, relaxation or even disappointment. But do dogs experience that same range of emotions when they sigh? Let’s take a deeper dive to better understand dog sighing: what is sighing, and why do dogs sign.
What is sighing?
Sighing is basically a long, sharp exhale common in dogs as well as other species like humans. Dogs can sigh at any time—but many times it happens right before they go to sleep or lie down. A dog sigh is essentially just a deep exhale. A moan and a groan may have a bit of a whine to it as your dog vocalizes with their vocal chords as they exhale.
Why do dogs sigh?
When it comes to dog behavior, a lot of the research revolves around body language. This is because we can actually tell a lot about how a dog is feeling emotionally and what a dog is trying to say based on their body language. But there are sounds and vocalizations dogs make to communicate as well. When your dog sighs, they are trying to communicate with you. What they are trying to tell you can depend on what is going on in your dog’s environment and dog’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Here are some things your pup might be trying to tell you when he sighs.
He’s feeling happy and relaxed.
If your dog sighs when you pet him or when he lies down, he’s probably feeling content and relaxed. A dog who sighs and lays his head on his paws is feeling happy. Your dog might also have his eyes partially closed to show that he’s enjoying whatever is going on.
Your dog might sigh when he’s not happy about something, like when you tell him playtime’s over or he can’t go out on a walk right now. A dog who’s frustrated or disappointed when he sighs will seem more alert and may stare at you (probably because he wants you to play with him).
Your pup might sigh because he’s tired, like when he lies down after a long walk.
He’s bored or wants attention.
If your dog’s sighing while pacing or coming over to you, he might be trying to say that he’s bored and wants something, like playtime or treats.
According to Dr. Wooten, your pup might sigh when his favorite person leaves and doesn’t take him along. If your dog’s not interested in playing or is acting tired in general, he might be sad (but keep in mind that lethargy can also be a symptom of an illness — find out how to know if your dog’s sick below).
Sighing can give you a lot of insight into what your dog is thinking, whether they are happy and content or frustrated and exasperated. Usually sighing is not indicative of anything medically wrong but, just like reading your dog’s body language takes a whole picture approach, if a sigh is accompanied with other vocalization such as moans or groans or non-specific symptoms such as lethargy, your dog might actually be trying to say they need to go see the vet.