Why Do Dogs Sigh?

All dogs are good at working the crowd. When they want something you don’t want them to have, all you do is look into those sad eyes and…sometimes you give in to those baby blues, or whatever color eyes into which you find yourself staring. But when you don’t give in, your dog may lie down with his head on his front paws and immediately let out one big sigh! Now, what does that sigh mean? Is your dog unhappy? Disappointed maybe? Or just plain mad? Depending upon the context, it could really be any of the above.

Ending an Action

A sigh can mean a number of things after some type of action ends. If the action has been rewarding, your dog is content otherwise it’s the end of an action. For instance, your dog has been running around in the park all afternoon. Now he’s home and ready to settle down for some relaxation. Your dog does some pre-sigh stretching after which he lets out a nice long sigh to tell you, “Hey, I’m ready to settle down and relax for awhile.”

Disappointment & Depression

It’s dinner time and your dog is begging for food. You don’t give in and your dog sighs because he’s giving up the begging process and, disappointed, becomes depressed and he’s saying, “Okay, I give up.” Combine a dog sigh with half closed eyes and the dog is communicating pleasure but with fully open eyes the same sigh signifies disappointment! “What! No playtime?”

Petting Groans & Sighs

Petting your dog can also bring in sighs and groans. This is not a sign of disappointment but a sign of content. Your dog is expressing pure delight! As a matter of fact when your dog is groaning while your petting him, he’s saying, “This feels great! Keep it going and don’t stop!”

Puppy Moans

Very common in puppies are their low pitched moans which are contentment signs. Puppies moan and sigh also when they’re in close contact with humans, their littermates, or their mother.

Body Language Is Important

Interpreting your dogs sighs by observing the canines body language may aid you in deciphering what he is saying. For instance, a relaxed dog, head down, and ears soft means perfect health. If your dog is laying down but then sits up and watches you, that is an active communication you may wish to address. Your dog may need to go out or he simply wants to play or desires a treat.

One Sigh Doesn’t Cover All

Some breeds make more sighs, groans, or moans than other breeds. Dogs make many different vocalizations that mean different things.  

In summary, your dog’s sighs can mean many things but if the sighing is excessive it may warrant you mentioning this to your veterinarian. A health issue may be the root for all of those sighs! And remember, never apply human feelings to your dog’s sighs; dog sighs aren’t like a human’s sighs. Take note of your dog’s sighs in different situations and context and you may be able to identify exactly what your dog is saying!  Don’t give up trying to understand what your dog is trying to communicate – they are trying their best, so listen and observe.

By Tom Matteo


Mother Nature Network
American Kennel Club
Dog Notebook

About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He has written hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and now writes about animal behavior and care.  Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife, Tina, and their beloved cockapoo, Angel.