What your dog wishes you knew
You’re sitting on the couch, minding your own business when you hear a deep, heavy sigh from the other end of the couch. You look up, startled, because you’re the only one here…well, except for…Doggo. You look up, and there they are, tail thumping, staring at you in that way they often do. If your instinct tells you that your best buddy wants you to let them out in the backyard to chase birds, then give yourself a pat on the back because you’re already speaking ‘sigh language,’ even if you didn’t know it.
So…why does my dog sigh?
“Dogs are highly emotional beings, just like humans,” explains veterinary surgeon, Dr Joanna Woodnutt. “Just like humans, there are times when they need an outlet to express those emotions. Sighing is one such outlet.” In other words, the question, “why does my dog sigh” must be answered with yet another question: “what emotion are they trying to convey? Who among us hasn’t at one time or another wished they could flat-out ask their dog, “What are you thinking right now?”
Two parts to reading your dog’s mind
You don’t need to be a mind reader, or a modern-day Dr Dolittle, to come to a logical conclusion with just a bit of sleuthing on two points – context and body language.
When asking yourself ‘why does my dog sigh,’ the first thing to do is consider the context, explains dog behaviour consultant, Russell Hartstein. What was going on just before the sigh? Were you giving them tummy rubs? Or were they ripping up one of your shoes? If it was the former, it would be a good bet to lean toward positive emotions. If the latter, that sigh may mean your dog is trying to convey they are stressed out about something.
“When trying to decipher what your dog may be telling you with a sigh, it is important to look at the entire dog, from head to toe, because body language signals don’t act individually,” points out animal behaviour specialist Kait Hembree. Tail wagging? Good sign. Hair standing on end? Not a good sign. Read on to learn some of the emotions your dog may be trying to convey to you when they sigh, along with the ways you can recognise them and distinguish one from another…