Dogs don’t speak in words, but they do use sound as a means of communication. You are probably familiar with some dog sounds, including barking and whining, but have you heard of chuffing? What does it mean?
Why is my dog chuffing?
Before we get into why dog’s chuff, it’s important to understand what it is. Chuffing can be a sharp exhale of breath, or a small exhalation along with a slight bark. This is also known as huffing.
Should You Be Worried About Chuffing?
Chuffing can sound a bit strange, but the chuffing itself isn’t anything to worry about. It doesn’t indicate any sort of health problem or abnormality. However, the cause of chuffing can be a cause for concern.
Stress is a common cause of dog chuffing. Chuffing is a way of relieving stress, similar to a human sigh of stress or frustration.
Chuffing isn’t always a bad thing. Dogs will also chuff when playing. It’s simply their way of saying they are excited and happy. Humans may shout or yell “yes” when very happy or excited. Dogs can bark or chuff.
To know if this is the reason for your dog’s chuffing, consider the situation and their body language.
if you are playing with them, or they are playing with another dog, its safe to assume they are chuffing from excitement.
You may also notice their tail wagging, a relaxed posture, and even a smile if this is the cause.
Your dog may also chuff in anticipation. This is similar to chuffing in happiness or excitement. However, instead of chuffing during their favorite activity, they chuff beforehand.
They may chuff before a play session or a walk. Some dogs will chuff when it’s time to eat, because they love mealtime. They may also chuff when you grab a bag of treats.
Your dog may chuff as a form of aggression. It’s usually less aggressive than a growl. It can be considered on par with a bark in terms of aggression.
It’s your dog’s way of saying, “I don’t like this” or “Hey, leave me alone”. It can be difficult to tell the difference between chuffing out of play and aggression in some situations.
If your pooch is interacting with another dog, for example, check their body language. A stiff posture, staring, and being very still are signs that it’s caused by aggression.
What to do if my dog is chuffing?
If your dog is chuffing, what to do varies greatly based on the cause of the behavior. A chuff of happiness requires no action, while a chuff of aggression must be handled carefully.
If your pooch is chuffing due to stress, try to pinpoint the cause. Are they overstimulated due to loud noise or lots of activity around them? Are they in a strange place, or around a strange person?
Has there been a change to their routine that has them out of sorts? Is there an animal that they are unfamiliar with nearby?
Dogs can also become stressed due to negative associations. For example, your dog may chuff when going to the vet, because they remember having a negative experience there.
If you are on a walk, they may begin chuffing when they reach an area where they were stung by a bee on a previous walk. It’s said elephants don’t forget, but dogs also have a strong associative memory.
If you’ve determined what’s causing the stress, do your best to reduce or eliminate it. You may have the stranger move away from your pooch, or lead them to a quieter area if they are overstimulated.
Play or Excitement Chuffing
In this case, there’s nothing to worry about. You don’t have to do anything if your dog is chuffing from play or excitement. You can enjoy the sound, knowing it only means they are having a great time.
Again, there’s nothing you really need to do. Your pooch is simply chuffing because they are anticipating something enjoyable.
If your dog is chuffing in aggression, you’ll need to diffuse the situation. If it’s directed at a person or another animal, move them away from each other.
Do not put yourself between the two, however. If the dog attacks, you may accidentally be caught in the cross fire. Unfortunately, many owners are injured each year attempting to break up dog fights.
If your pooch is on a leash, gently pull them back. If they are chuffing at a person, have them back up. If it’s another animal, ask someone else to move the other animal back as well.
It is extremely important to remain calm. Your pooch will pick up on your feelings. If you are stressed, it will only heighten their aggression. Speak in a calm voice, and make slow deliberate movements.
How to stop my dog from chuffing?
Again, this depends on why your dog is chuffing. The good news is there are things you can do if your dog is chuffing for a negative reason.
In addition to the tips mentioned earlier, there are a few ways to stop stress chuffing.
One way to lower your dog’s stress levels is exercise. Regular exercise can help your pooch be more relaxed throughout the day. In addition to physical exercise, puzzle feeders and playing games can provide your dog with mental stimulation.
Stopping aggression begins with understanding the cause. There are many types of aggression, but territorial, protective, possessive, or fearful aggression are the most common.
A territorial dog becomes aggressive when an unwelcome animal or person enters it’s territory, which is typically your home.
A protective dog is protective over its family, including its human family members. They will get aggressive only when they feel someone they love is threatened.
A possessive dog is aggressive over its resources. This typically includes food and toys.
A fearful dog is the most dangerous. They may attempt to retreat, or defend themselves. The threat may be real or percieved. In either case, it feels real to them.
Monitor your dog. See when they become aggressive, and write down everything you notice about the timing and circumstances.
It’s also a great idea to contact a professional if your dog is showing aggressive tendencies.
Chuffing isn’t typically considered a serious behavior problem. However, if it occurs for a reason like stress or aggression, there are likely other worrying behaviors as well.
It’s a great idea to get some professional help anytime you are concerned about your dog’s behavior or well being.
You have two avenues of professional help. These are your veterinarian and an animal behavioralist.
The vet is a great first step, because they can rule out any phsycial or medical causes of the issue. Stress or aggression can be linked to physical health problems, so it’s important to start there.
If there are no physical reasons for the issue, contact an animal behavioralist. You can think of them as a therapist for your dog, as well as a trainer.
They will help you determine the causes of the behavior, and what you can do to eliminate it. Remember, any type of behavior modification takes time and patience, but you should see an improvement in your dog’s behavior fairly soon.