How To Tell If Your Dog Is Happy

We all wish that our dogs could talk to us. It would be so much easier to understand what they want and whether they are happy with the life we are providing for them. Actually, they do communicate with us! The key to knowing whether your dog is having a good time with you is by decoding its body language and behavior. Here are some ways to tell if your dog is happy.

dog is happyPhoto by Joe Caione on Unsplash

Physical signs that your dog is happy

As our pets are not able to speak, knowing the basics of dog body language and behavior will help us to get to know them better. Here are some physical signs that your dog is one happy pup.

Body that is relaxed

One of the best ways to tell if your dog is in a good mood is to look at your dog’s body. A happy dog usually has a soft, wiggly body that is relaxed and loose. A tight, tense or stiff body indicates that your dog is not comfortable. 

Tail carriage that is relaxed

In addition to a relaxed body, a happy and comfortable dog will also have a relaxed tail carriage. A happy dog will usually have its tail raised, but if you notice that your dog’s tail is too high, it could mean that your furry friend is agitated. A frightened dog usually has its tail pinned under its body. 

Full body wag

Dogs who are happy wag their tail with their whole body. The tail wag is usually soft and loose and in a neutral position. 

Dogs also wag their tails stiffly, without the rest of the body. When your dog does this, she may be in an alert mode or taking in a new situation. 

Ears that are at ease

While different breeds have different ear shapes - some are triangular and pointy, some are small and yet others are long - dogs who are happy generally have ears that are relaxed. You might notice both ears being loose and floppy or one hear cocked up on your happy dog. 

Dogs who are frightened or aggressive usually have ears that are pinned back and dogs who are interested in their surroundings have ears that are forward positioned. 

dog ears at easePhoto by Chris Johnstone on Unsplash

Eyes that are relaxed

You can tell that your dog is happy by looking at their eyes. Happy dogs have eyes and eyelids that are relaxed. Their puppy dog eyes’ gaze is soft and they blink often. 

Dogs who have a hard gaze and narrowed eyes can be aggressive while dogs who have wide eyes with whites showing are frightened. 

Mouth that is relaxed

Have you ever thought that your dog was smiling? Dogs do appear to smile sometimes and this indicates that your dog is happy and content. The relaxed mouth may be open and you may see some teeth. 

On the other hand, dogs who are baring their teeth and curling their lips are definitely aggressive. You should also be aware that open mouth panting does not mean that your dog is happy, but indicates that your dog is overheated and needs hydration. 

Brow that is relaxed

Happy dogs have a smooth, wrinkle free forehead! Similar to humans, dogs express worry with furrowed brows. 

Tongue hanging out

If you find your dog sleeping with its tongue sticking out, it’s because your furry friend is at ease. Your dog is so secure that he can’t be bothered to keep his tongue in its mouth. 

happy dog
Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash

Healthy Coat

Dogs may manifest their stress by shedding its fur. Their skin might also flake. As such, a good indicator as to whether or not your dog is happy is a healthy coat. Nonetheless, it's best to consult your vet for advice if you notice that your pet has skin problems as this may be a sign of an underlying issue. 

Behavioral signs that your dog is happy

Certain dog behaviors also indicate that your dog is a happy pup. Here are some that you can look out for:

Good appetite

Dogs who are happy eat well and have a healthy appetite. If your dog’s appetite drops or increases suddenly, a visit to the vet is in order as it may be an indication that something is wrong. 

Happy barks

Compared to agitated dogs, happy dogs have a bark that is generally higher pitched. Dogs who are happy also do not bark as long as dogs who are agitated. 

However, do take into account the other signs that your dog is giving such as her body language, before deciding that your dog is happy via the sound of her bark. 

Non destructive behavior

Destructive behavior is a sign that your dog may be unhappy or very bored. Happy dogs do not usually engage in behavior that would destroy your home. 

For example, dogs chew to explore their environments but excessive chewing is a destructive behavior that could indicate boredom or stress. 

Separation anxiety is also another cause of destructive behavior that can be managed with some dog behavior training and medication if needed. 

Sleeping well

Healthy dogs sleep well, as much as up to 15 hours a day. If your dog is having trouble sleeping, this could be a sign of distress or discomfort. If you are unsure of the cause, consult your vet as sleep is important for your dog’s health. 

Loves playtime

Happy dogs love playtime and going for walks. While older dogs do slow down because of age, younger dogs especially love it when you spend time with them. If your dog is very quiet or does not want to engage, this may be a sign of sickness. 

Exposes its belly

You know your dog is happy when her belly’s up. Very happy dogs wriggle and show you their belly and tongue. However, if your dog’s belly is up but stiff and she’s not ‘smiling’ it could mean that your dog is being submissive, rather than having a fun, relaxed time. 

Play bows

A play bow refers to the occasion when a dog’s rear is up but lowers its chest to the ground. This is a sign that your dog wants to interact with you. Play with your doggie and have some fun.  

Leaning in to you

You can tell if your dog is enjoying contact with you when she leans in to you. For example, your dog might lean in to your hand when you pet her. 

Contrary to this, your dog may be indicating that it needs some space by staying out of reach or walking away when you want to shower her with some love. 

dogs love leaning to you
Photo by Valerie Elash on Unsplash

Dancing / Hopping

If you see your dog bouncing from side to side when she sees you or a canine friend, this behavior indicates that it’s happy and ready to have some fun. Sometimes they look like they are dancing or hopping in excitement. 

They get excited when they see you

Ever wonder why your dog gets so excited when you finally get up from bed? Or when it greets you with the warmest of welcomes when you come home from work?  It’s because your dog is happy and loves you! 

They don’t mind other dogs

While you’ve probably noticed that different dogs have different personalities - some dogs are friendlier and more playful while other dogs seem more aloof, you can tell whether your dog is in a good mood (or not) by how she reacts to other dogs. 

Dogs who are happy are generally okay with other family pets and are not too aggressive to new animals whether at home or at the park. 

Conclusion

Dogs are pretty simple in the sense that they will be happy if their physical, intellectual and emotional needs are provided for. As dog owners, we need to make sure that our dog has a delicious healthy diet, enough exercise and lots of love. Also, remember that your dog is capable of other emotions and happiness is just one of them. Take note of changes in your dog’s emotions but be rest assured that your dog is most likely happy if it is comfortable and well cared for.
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