Why does my dog huff at me? That seems to be a question most dog owners have asked themselves at some point, and pups seem to do it at random points throughout the day for no specific reason.
Do all dog breeds do it? Is it normal? Or is it signifying something else that you should be worried about? Here are the answers to all those questions.
What is a huff?
When a dog huffs, it expels a puff of air. In fact, it's occasionally called puffing or chuffing, but they all mean the same.
It's sometimes just air or can be accompanied by a half-bark or yelp. In some breeds (slobberers like the Bullmastiff and Bloodhound), it can sound a bit wet and sloppy, and in others, it's much shorter.
While you’re cooking, suddenly, your dog looks at you. You want to give them a little treat but wonder if they can eat the food you are holding in your hand.
With our vet-approved magnet, you’ll know the answer at a glance! Plus, you can quickly scan our QR code to access the full article with all the explanations.
The sound can sometimes be a little alarming (and almost sound like they're choking) and at other times it can be a very endearing little noise.
Let's see if/when there's reason to worry.
Why do dogs huff and puff?
It's a natural spasm
Dog huffing could just be a natural bodily reaction. Often it's when your pup has a spasm at the back of the throat, and their windpipe becomes slightly restricted. It can be quite alarming for any dog owner to hear, and it sounds as if they're struggling to breathe.
In these moments, you'll notice your dog stretching out the front of its neck and legs, and they'll be very still (to add to your worry). These episodes should pass naturally and quickly. Of course, if you're worried your dog really can't breathe, you should rush them to the vet immediately.
They're feeling stressed
If your dog rapidly exhales air, it could be a sign that they're stressed. If you think about it, we humans do something pretty similar when we're stressed out. We breathe very deeply and then blow it all out quickly as a stress relief – and dogs do exactly the same!
There may be any number of reasons why your dog is feeling stressed. It's important to pay attention to their body language, but common reasons are separation, fear (such as loud noises), or a change in their environment. If you're worried your pet is stressed, talk to your vet about ways to relax them.
It's a sign of feeling threatened and aggression
Your pooch may start to huff around other dogs as a sign of escalating aggressive behaviors. Perhaps a friend has taken their ball or is acting aggressively towards them? Your dog may react by huffing and puffing to warn the other pup.
And it's not just about other dogs! Your pup may be annoyed at you too! If, for example, your dog doesn't love being bathed, it's common that he huffs and puffs when he sees you preparing the bathtub and shampoo. It's his way of telling you he doesn't like what's coming!
They're feeling happy and content
Agreed, your dog making these sounds can be a little confusing. As well as a sign of aggression and stress, huffing can also be a way of expressing happiness and contentment.
You'll notice your dog huffs and puffs when they get in after a particularly fun walk, after playing in the pond with their friends, or a good game of fetch.
They're physically exhausted and also very happy! They'll probably do this just before tucking their tail in for a good nap!
They could be disappointed
Have you ever promised your dog a treat for doing a trick but then the phone rings or there's some other distraction and you don't do it? Has your furry friend ever let you forget? Thought not.
A disappointed pup will happily huff and puff or do the weird reverse sneeze sound to let you know they're not happy and that you better open the bag full of treats.
They're anticipating something fun
Dogs love to express excitement and they do this in many different ways. Sometimes they bark, jump up, run around the house, and stick their tongues out.
A dog huffing is another way of them anticipating that something fun is about to happen. They might do this when you go towards the food cupboard or when you put on your boots to go on a walk.
It's their way of encouraging you!
They're eating too fast
If you notice that your dog huffs after eating or drinking, it may be because they're doing it too fast. This is quite a common thing for large and small dogs to do and there are a few things you can do to help them slow down.
Try getting them a puzzle toy that slowly dispenses food. This can help to make mealtimes entertaining, keep their brains engaged, and slow down how fast they eat. You could also try a slow-feeding dog bowl.
If your pup is a particularly fast drinker you can put ice cubes in their bowl or a large object which will make it less easy to lap it all up quickly!
So, as you can see, there are many answers to the question why do dogs huff. If your dog starts puffing because they're happy or excited, there's really nothing to worry about.
Good training can help to reduce your pup from showing signs of aggression and lots of attention and petting from you can help reassure your dog and reduce stress.
If you think your dog may be suffering from respiratory problems you should always take them to the vet to make sure.
Have you noticed that your dog huffs and puffs? When do they do it?
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!