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Have you ever heard a sighing sound while relaxing at home and wondered where it came from? Or perhaps you've rounded the kitchen corner and caught your dog sighing?
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: why it happens, what it means and what sounds are similar but different from sighing.
What Is Sighing?
Sighing is a natural bodily function common to humans and other animals. Wondering 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 long breath in and out that differentiates itself by being louder.
Popular Science defines sighing as "a deep long breath about twice the volume of a typical breath." They continue, "It also serves as a sort of stretch for your lungs — a periodic deep breath inflates the alveoli, tiny sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide pass in and out of the blood."
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), sighs can be translated into both positive and negative emotions. The AKC explains, "When the sigh is combined with half-closed eyes, it communicates pleasure; with fully open eyes, it communicates disappointment: [such as saying] 'I guess you are not going to play with me.'"
However, the AKC also states that while sighs can potentially indicate disappointment, moans and sighs more commonly indicate pleasure.
Try to keep an eye on your pet's overall body language and behavior when you hear them sighing. Do they seem distressed, tired or upset? Or are they acting content, calm or sleepy? The more clues you have from your dog, the better you'll be able to determine 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.
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.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and has written hundreds of articles about the health and behavior of dogs and cats. She believes there will always be more to learn about our furry friends.