Most dog owners will notice that their dogs sometimes seem to huff and puff at them.
It’s not quite a cough, a growl, or a bark but somewhere in the middle of all of them.
Sometimes it can sound playful, happy, and content. Other times this huffing and puffing can sound anxious or aggressive.
When it happens, it can be quite alarming for dog owners, as it can appear like their dog is having a fit or struggling to breathe.
So, what is going on here?
Why do dogs huff and puff, and should you be worried if your dog does it?
Let’s find out.
What is Dog Huffing?
Dog huffing (also known as reverse sneezing or inspiratory paroxysmal respiration) is when a fast and forceful blast of air is blown out from the dog’s lungs through its nose, creating a huffing noise as it does so.
It can either be a one-off occurrence, or your dog might repeatedly huff for around thirty seconds at a time.
NOTE – You might like to read this post if you want to learn about hyperventilation in dogs.
Why Does Your Dog Huff and Puff At You?
Your dog huffs at you because they are reverse sneezing, happy or stressed, or possibly due to having a medical condition.
You must pay attention to the dog’s body language and behavior to determine the most likely cause.
Let’s look at some potential reasons in more depth and then at how to identify them.
- Reverse Sneezing
- A Sign of Contentment
- An Expression of Grumpiness
- A Sign of Anxiety
- Dreaming During Sleep
- Expressing Excitement
- A Symptom of a Medical Issue
- They Are Feeling Playful
1. Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing is another name for when dogs have bouts of huffing.
A muscle in the dog’s mouth spasms, causing the dog to breathe air forcefully out of its nose repeatedly, and it seems a bit like a reverse sneeze, hence the name.
A tiny little bug usually causes it called a nasal mite in the dog’s nose or an allergic reaction to something.
Reverse sneezing is not harmful, but you should take the dog to the vet to resolve it if it persists.
Here is a short video from a vet showing and explaining reverse sneezing.
Just click the video to watch:
NOTE – You might also like to find out the answer to the question – why do dogs sneeze when upside down on their back?
2. A Sign of Contentment
Sometimes canine huffing is just a sign of contentment, like the happy sigh a person might make when sitting down to relax after a long day.
It should be self-evident if this is why your dog huffs.
If your pooch looks happy and relaxed, the noise is just an expression of those feelings, it will be very obvious.
If this is the case, you can relax knowing you have a happy and content dog.
3. An Expression of Grumpiness
Sometimes dogs huff as an early indicator of irritability or aggression before they get to growling or barking.
Watch their body language for other signs of early anger, such as tight body language or lip curling.
Give your dog some space if they are acting aggressively.
If the behavior persists, and you don’t know why, please get help from a dog trainer or vet.
4. A Sign of Anxiety
Your dog may huff and puff to release excess energy caused by feeling anxious, scared, or stressed.
Check for other signs of anxiety, such as whining, trembling, or wide and scared eyes, to spot the cause of their huffing and puffing.
If you feel your dog is anxious, you need to try and help them feel better.
This can either be by reducing or eliminating whatever is stressing them out or by giving them coping strategies such as walks, playtime, or cuddles to help reduce their stress levels.
NOTE – You might also like to find out the answer to the question – can dogs fake injuries for attention?
5. Dreaming During Sleep
Dogs dream like humans, and you can often spot this by watching them sleep.
During dreams, they will often twitch their legs, growl, huff, and puff.
It is impossible to say what they are huffing at because we don’t have the technology to read their dreams.
But it would be nice to think they have fun dreams about chasing rabbits or squirrels!
6. Expressing Excitement
When dogs get excited, their body’s adrenalin level increases, which causes them to have more energy.
Huffing and puffing when excited is one of the ways they deal with and express all that energy.
It’s easy to spot when your dog is excited.
They will move around, wag their tails, jump up and down, and bark excitedly.
7. A Symptom of a Medical Issue
Some respiratory conditions can cause your dog to huff and puff more than usual.
If your dog seems unwell or shows any other symptoms of something wrong, such as being off their food or drinking more water, you should take them to the vet for a check-up.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this website lists helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills.
(If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country, there is a lot of support for dog owners who are in difficulty).
8. They Are Feeling Playful
When dogs are feeling playful, they often go into play fighting mode.
This can, of course, include huffing and puffing.
It will be obvious if they are in this mood, and in this case, the huffing is, of course, nothing to worry about.
Is Dog Huffing Similar to Sighing?
A single dog huff is very often similar to sighing and can occur for the same reasons sighs do.
For example, a human might sigh out of relaxation or frustration.
The same can be said for the dog sighing.
But, again, it can be an expression of more than one type of emotion.
Should You be Concerned About Your Dog if They Huff and Puff?
An occasional huff or puff is nothing to worry about. It is perfectly normal behavior.
But if the huffing and puffing is persistent, you should take your dog to the vet for a check-up, especially if there are other symptoms of them being unwell.
How to Stop Your Dog from Huffing and Puffing at You?
To answer this question, you first need to figure out why they are huffing and then determine if anything can be done.
For example, if they are huffing because they are stressed, then if you can relieve their stress and help them relax, they should huff less.
But generally speaking, there usually isn’t much you can do about it unless it’s caused by a medical condition, in which case your vet will be able to advise you what the best way to cure might be.
Final Notes On Why Your Dog Huffs and Puffs
Dogs huff and puff for various reasons, most of which are perfectly natural and normal and, therefore, nothing to worry about.
If the huffing is persistent, it is probably worth taking them to the vet to ensure there is nothing seriously wrong with them.
We have come to the end of this post about dogs huffing and puffing.
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below, and thanks for visiting The Factual Doggo.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!