What is Puffing?
Puffing is when your dog exhales rapidly, causing the cheeks to puff out.
What is Huffing?
Huffing is when your dog is growling or barking with a low noise and puffing out or vibrating cheeks.
Dog Puffing Cheeks Randomly
If your dog is randomly puffing their cheeks or huffing, this may not always be serious, but it could be. What seems random may actually have a cause and not be random at all. Pay attention to what your dog is doing directly before and after puffing her cheeks. Is there a cough or sneeze? Does your dog seem stressed? What events are going on during the cheek puffing sessions? Is there a growl or low bark in conjunction with the huffing? Any of those additional factors may indicate stress or illness. If stress is the factor, remove your dog from the situation that is causing problems. Puffing cheeks in a stressful situation is usually a precursor to aggression. If there are illness indicators, like coughing, sneezing, or choking, call your vet immediately.
Dog Puffing Cheeks in Communication With Other Dogs
Dogs might occasionally puff their cheeks or be huffing in a playful manner with other dogs. However, for most dogs, this is actually not a good thing. Puffing cheeks when interacting with other dogs can be a sign that one or both of the dogs is ready to attack. This is generally what dogs do while letting out a warning growl or snarling just before they attack. If you ever see your dog huffing or puffing at another dog, keep him or her at a safe distance from the other animal and vacate the situation immediately. The same goes for when you see another dog act this way toward your dog.
Dog Puffing Cheeks at Kids or Adults
As in instances with other dogs, puffing cheeks directly at humans is generally a warning sign. This means your dog feels threatened, stressed, or unhappy about something or someone and is likely ready to attack. Remove the person or dog from the situation immediately. If not, the dog is likely to attack the person being targeted with this negative form of communication. Sometimes, this may be a playful gesture, but most of the time it is dangerous and nowhere close to playful. Teaching kids how to interact with dogs can help prevent some of these situations in the future.
Dog Puffing Cheeks While Sneezing or Coughing
If your dog is puffing out his or her cheeks while sneezing or coughing, this may be an indicator of illness or choking. Contact your vet immediately for the best advice. Some dogs will puff out their cheeks and sneeze or cough to dislodge an object that is obstructing the airways or the nose. Some dogs will also do this when they have a cold or other infection or illness. Only a veterinarian can tell you for sure what’s wrong with your dog and waiting too long for this advice can be dangerous or even fatal.
More Warning Signs to Look For When Your Dog is Puffing Cheeks or Huffing
- Huffing and Puffing Together
- Growling or Snarling (Especially When Showing Teeth)
- Aggressive Barking
- Hair Raising/Puffing Up
- Crouching Aggressively (ready to attack)
- Panting Heavily
- Looking Lethargic
- Stiff and Still Tail
- Any Other Aggressive Behavior
- Any Other Medical Symptoms
How to Prevent Cheek Puffing in Dogs
Cheek puffing due to illness can be best prevented by taking your dog to the vet regularly and as soon as any medical symptoms arise. This won’t prevent every situation, but catching issues early can help prevent them from worsening over time and causing more harm.
Aggressive cheek puffing is generally a behavioral or stress issue. Using positive pet parenting and avoiding negative training methods can go a long way. Also, learn what your dog needs directly from him. If you know what stresses your dog out, you can more easily avoid issues. If you have children, again teaching them how to interact with dogs can help prevent many stressful and dangerous situations for your dog and child.