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Why Does My Dog Huff at Me? 10 Surprising Reasons

When your furry friend starts to make choking sounds that resemble a sick goose, it can leave you feeling alarmed.

After all, it sounds pretty painful and uncomfortable.

However, there are a few different variations of doggy huffs and puffs.

Your dog can make a huffing noise due to allergies, respiratory issues, nasal mites, exercise intolerance, and even as a way to communicate. Sometimes, your pup just gets overexcited, or maybe they drank or ate too fast.

What we dog owners might interpret as huffing is often “reverse sneezing”, this sound comes more from the nose. I’ll dive deeper into that below.

However, if you notice your dog huffing often, it’s worth a trip to the vet to investigate any potential underlying causes.

Luckily, dog huffing can be relatively benign, often with no more need for medical intervention than a case of doggy hiccups.

Furthermore, many breeds like the Pug, Shih Tzu, and other flat-faced breeds are more prone to the condition than others.

Still, if you find your canine companion is huffing away frequently, it’s worth some further investigation.

What Is Dog Huffing?

Dog huffing or paroxysmal inspiratory respiration might be a reverse sneeze or indicator of allergies, underlying medical conditions, or a way for your dog to communicate with you.

You never heard of the good ol’ reverse sneezing?

Although this might sound confusing, it’s one of the best ways to describe the sound. It sounds like your dog is inhaling their sneeze.

Usually, if your dog experiences a huffing spell, it’s because of a spasm in the throat or back of the mouth. The windpipe becomes restricted and can make it difficult for your pup to breathe normally, lasting for up to 30 seconds.

Dog inside of crate with a megaphone next to him showing that vocalization like huffing can be your dog's way of communication.

It can sound a lot like your dog is choking, and you might notice them stretching their neck and front legs.

Your dog is also likely to stand very still during their huffing and puffing episode.

Yes, it can sound highly concerning and make you think your dog is in significant distress, but usually, it subsides rather quickly.

Now sometimes, your dog might make a bit more subtle sounding huffing noises, which come more from the back of the throat.

These could perhaps be a prelude to a bark or growl, and it’s more likely that they’re trying to communicate.

Your huffing dog could be expressing any number of emotions ranging from contentment to frustration. Or, they could simply be on alert, having heard something that caught their attention.

But, if this is the case, you should definitely be able to tell the difference.

These sounds are much more subdued than the honking coughs described previously, which occur through the nose.

Dog Huffing Through Nose

If your pup’s huffing is coming more from the nose, then this is most likely a reverse sneeze.

It’s when your dog suddenly and intensely inhales air through their nostrils, resulting in the grunting and hacking you subsequently hear.

This type of huffing can stem from exercise intolerance, irritants, or underlying issues.

Why Is My Dog Huffing?

Your dog is usually huffing due to allergies, respiratory issues, nasal mites, exercise intolerance, excitement, drinking or eating too fast, or as a way to communicate.

Sometimes it’s a little tricky to pin down the cause.

Try to connect causal activities.

Husky is examined by a male veterinarian. Dog huffing can be caused by medical issues.
Photo by Pressmaster on Shutterstock

Your dog is always huffing when you’re outside in the Spring or when you’re cleaning the house?

Then the cause of your dog’s huffing might be related to allergies or irritants.

Keep in mind that there are tons of allergies including environmental, food, and skin allergies.

If an irritant is causing your dog to huff, he might be trying to remove the irritant he can’t get rid of with a regular dog sneeze or cough. It could be the irritant is a bit too far down, somewhere in your dog’s throat right beyond the nose.

Irritants come in many shapes and sizes ranging from household products, air quality, external issues such as your pup inhaling a tiny insect, and more.

It could also be due to underlying issues that would need the help of a vet to pinpoint.

Other reasons for excessive coughing could be a collapsing trachea, other upper respiratory infections, or underlying chronic conditions like asthma.

Nasal mites or even something like an elongated soft palate (Brachycephalic Syndrome) could cause huffing.

If you tug on your pup’s leash during a walk, it could apply pressure to your pet’s throat and trigger huffing.

Excessive exercise or overexcitement can lead to huffing. You might notice it when your dog starts to play with other dogs, sees you get their leash ready for a walk, etc.

Some dogs eat or drink too quickly.

It’s also essential to be aware of your pup’s vaccination status.

For example, a repeated honking cough that comes on suddenly (i.e., your dog has never done it before) could be a sign of kennel cough.

If your dog is not vaccinated for Bordetella, keep your eye out for other symptoms.

Notice symptoms like appetite loss, lethargy, or a runny nose? Consult your vet.

So let’s recap a couple of the possible reasons:

  • Reverse sneezing
  • Allergies (skin, environmental, food)
  • Irritants
  • Respiratory issues
  • Nasal mites
  • Excessive exercise
  • Overexcitement
  • Fast drinking or eating
  • Kennel cough
  • Canine communication

Dog Making a Chuffing Sound

A chuffing sound may be related to the environment your dog is supposed to or point toward underlying medical issues.

Every dog owner has a different label for these sounds.

Some call it huffing or puffing while others label is as a chuffing sound. Some may misinterpret blowing, gasping, or even panting.

Whatever the cause of your dog’s huffing spell might be, it’s wise to seek veterinary attention if the issue seems serious, affects your dog, or is recurring.

Therefore, if you notice your dog’s huffing and coughing are ongoing and excessive, it’s critical to consult with your vet.

In many cases, if there is a particular cause present, your vet will be able to offer treatment.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Huffing?

If your dog is experiencing huffing for the first time, getting them checked out by the vet is a good first step.

Once you’ve ruled out the more serious possibilities, you can relax knowing your dog is just doing one of those “dog things.”

Most of the time, reverse sneezing is not a reason for alarm, nor is it considered a medical emergency.

Still, it’s not a very fun experience to basically gag nonstop for 30 seconds, so how can you help your pup out?

Luckily, there are several things you can do to help stop your dog’s huffing.

The first thing to do is pay attention to your dog’s huffing episodes to see if you can pick up on any patterns.

For example, is it always after your dog eats? Or perhaps it’s when they start running too much or every time you spray them with doggy cologne.

Narrowing down the reasons for your dog’s huffing can help you find a solution.

  • If your dog is huffing because of eating too fast, consider using a slow-feed dog bowl. If your pal is drinking too fast, try ice cubes or serving less water at a time. You can also try placing a large object in their dog bowl to slow them down.
  • If your dog is huffing because of a reaction to certain odors or allergens, reduce their exposure. For example, if it’s every time you spray them with doggy cologne, you may need to let them go ‘au naturel. which is the best way most of the time anyway.
  • If your dog huffs during walks because you find you’re tugging on the leash, use a harness instead of a collar. 
  • In the moment, you might gently massage your dog’s throat to try and get the huffing to subside faster.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Mad at You

Now, what if your dog’s huffing is more of that little noise coming from the back of the throat we mentioned earlier?

Maybe your pal hears something and is bringing it to your attention.

Or perhaps your furry friend is frustrated because you won’t throw their favorite ball.

When your dog starts huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf, don’t automatically assume they’re trying to blow you down.

If you suspect your dog’s huffing is because they’re mad at you, you will notice other signs.

For example, your pup might avoid getting too close to you, perhaps hanging out in another room or hiding.

Your dog could also refuse to look you in the eye or even start to whine and groan.

If your pal isn’t happy with you, you might see the whites of their eyes; they could yawn a lot or even tuck their tail.

Their ears might be hanging back, and they could be holding their lips back in a tight grin.

Your dog might also hold their body stiff when you approach or act aloof around you.

When your pet doesn’t get enough exercise and attention, you might start noticing chewed-up shoes, clawed-up baseboards and furniture, and more.

Your pal might also start having more accidents in the house, maybe even on your bed or clothes.

Of course, is your dog really mad at you, or just missing some critical things, like attention, exercise, and mental stimulation?

Either way, there are a few things you can do to make your canine companion happier.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Mad at You

If you believe your best friend is mad at you, then it takes commitment and patience to restore the balance as with any relationship.

Don’t take it personally; give your dog the attention they deserve, and some space when they need it.

Also, provide them with interactive toys, and don’t yell or fuss.

Take your cues from your pet and give them some extra attention as warranted.

For example, when your dog approaches you, receive them happily and start a play session.

Provide your pup lots of opportunities for exercise and positive stimulation, and you’ll soon be best buddies again.

Do you have a huffing dog at home? What do you find works the best for you and your furry friend?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.