What does it mean when a dog "huffs"?

    • Gold Top Dog

    What does it mean when a dog "huffs"?

    I was at work today (work in a vet clinic) when a Rhodesian Ridgeback came in for a nail trim. I sometimes help hold dogs for shots, nail trims, anal gland expressions, etc. Anyway, this RR was extremely shy and nervous, so we take her out back, as sometimes when they are away from the owner, they tend to do better. We got her on the table and the vet started doing her nails. The dog suddenly panicked, released her own anal glands (on me, unfortunately!) and flew off the table. She then stood in the corner of the room, making "huffing" noises at me, blowing out through her cheeks. Her body posture was like she was stalking something, crouched, head low, staring straight at me and slowly advancing while "huffing" at me (even though I wasn't the one who cut her nails, she was taking it out on me! Surprise) She didn't seem scared, she seemed almost aggressive with her posture, and I have never heard a dog make that noise before. You could see the air blow through her lips with each "huff". The vet stepped in between us, and the dog then cowered away into the corner again. We put a muzzle on just in case, finished the nails and everything was ok after that. So, does anyone know what that huffing and posturing was about? She is generally a very shy, submissive dog when she comes in, but it seemed like she was stalking me almost with her position and the way she was coming forward towards me. Both the vet and I were very quiet, gentle and friendly with her, no scary noises, movements or anything during the nail trimming. She did forgive me though out in the lobby, gave me a quick kiss, tail wag and was on her way. Just curious as to what your thoughts were on that.

    • Gold Top Dog

    That would be stress. It's akin to the heavy panting that some dogs do when stressed. I saw a lot of dogs do this at a reactive dog seminar I went to a few weeks ago. The trainer was showing everyone how to get their dogs to stop that rapid stressed-out panting but noted that just because their mouths are closed doesn't mean they aren't doing that. They are still rapidly and shallowly breathing, and you can see their cheeks puff out as they do it.

    • Gold Top Dog

    That would definitely make sense then! I figured it had to have been extreme nervousness, since she released her anal glands and cowered in the corner, the poor thing. Thanks! 

    • Gold Top Dog

    When Kenya gets stressed in that time of situation, she will moan/groan.  It's not the same as a growl, more like "ouch! mom!"  It's not very loud.  Sometimes she will pant heavily and every 10th pant or so will come out more like a little huff.  When she intentionally huffs at me, she's usually excited.  She doesn't bark, but she will huff at me every great once in a while when I'm trying to get her excited for agility or rally. 

    • Gold Top Dog

    I actually call that a chuff...it's a half bark with the mouth mostly closed. Wolves do this as well...

    It's an unsure sound...mine do it when something unseen or in the distance, has their attention but they are not sure whether it's friend or foe...they are undecided but edging toward a good bluff just in case. Most times they do crouch and advance then retreat....sometimes escalating to a full bark with front foot stomp but usually not, many times their hair is raised.

    They also chuff when they are trying to engage one another in play...the play bow...and the half bark with the mouth closed...a puffing sound again....sometimes going on to bark fully but not always. It seems something they do when they are unsure about what something is or how their overture will be received.

    • Gold Top Dog

     not to hijack the thread but whats the "anal glands"? and what is "releasing them" sorry if its a silly question

    • Gold Top Dog

    I'll comment because my Gaci does that a lot, and it is certainly due to uncertainty/minor anxiety/minor fear (could be any or a combination, for her it's a combination). She does this when she is in a situational conflict:
    - She wants to investigate a person
    - She's normally scared of people
    - She has learned that people = treats, and she is gaining confidence around people
    - She is not quite that confident yet
    - She reallllly wants to see the person, but also has the backed-up want to bark, but wants to see the person....but the barking.....urrrrg
    - This what I call inner conflict results in the huff or "chuff", almost a combination between the two that displays her conflict to others.

    Personally I'm happy when I see this in Gaci, and I only say that because I know that our work has been getting more and more successful, and her automatic response to people has become less classical (reactive and automatic - the back-up-and-bark-loudly) and more operant (thinking about things instead of reacting - the huff/chuff), so I know that while she's a little unsure, and even a little anxious, she's still in thinking mode and I can work with her quite easily. And she is making decisions on her own, such as staying a distance away or actually approaching the person.

    • Bronze

    Anal glands are glands on the sides of the anus and they sometimes fill up with a really stinky liquid.  Realeasing them realeases the smelly liquid that is in them.

    • Gold Top Dog

    californiaglock

     not to hijack the thread but whats the "anal glands"? and what is "releasing them" sorry if its a silly question

     

    If you want the full definition, marvistavet.com goes more into detail than most would like!

    http://www.marvistavet.com/html/body_anal_sacs.html 

    • Gold Top Dog

    I don't know about the general rule, but I *DO* know that with my dog, Billy, when he 'huffs' (with the cheeks filling with air) it is NOT a good sign - it means he doesn't 'like' that person and is about ready to snap.  That's my warning sign to disconnect him from that situation NOW.

    • Gold Top Dog

    calliecritturs

    I don't know about the general rule, but I *DO* know that with my dog, Billy, when he 'huffs' (with the cheeks filling with air) it is NOT a good sign - it means he doesn't 'like' that person and is about ready to snap.  That's my warning sign to disconnect him from that situation NOW.

     

     

    Same for my Rosco. It's usually when he's going into "I don't like that dog" mode, and it's time to redirect his mind ASAP.

    • Gold Top Dog

     That's definitely the feeling I was getting from this RR. I knew she was scared, but it didn't feel like a nervous dog, it felt like she was peeved and was going to take it out on me! I know that when a dog is frightened it can come out as aggression, I'm just glad the vet stepped in when she did!