I often hear pet parents asking is my dog happy? Many see a dog with a wagging tail as a happy dog, but did you know depending on what the rest of the body is indicating, depicts your dogs’ mental state? Here are 10 telltale signs of a happy dog. I also look at what makes your dog happy and how you can enhance their lives.
Want to improve the bond you have with your dog?
Is my dog happy? from our Natural Canine Behaviourist
10 signs of a happy dog
- Triangle-shaped soft eyes with a gentle blink. When relaxed all of your dog’s facial features soften.
- Relaxed floppy ears. Even for a dog with pointy ears
- Mouths slightly open with a relaxed muzzle.
- A gentle wave of the tail.
- Relaxed body posture and a wiggle. Zero body tension.
- Will enjoy playtime and walks with you without getting over-excited.
- A happy dog will eat well consistently.
- Sleep well with or without you.
- Happy, inquisitive, and gentle, your dog will take life in their stride.
- Great behaviour in general with social skills
Signs of a happy dog explained
You will know if your dog is happy when they exhibit the 10 signs above. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of these signs of a happy dog.
- Facial expressions; You can tell how relaxed your dog is by all their other facial expressions and body posture. Tension can be seen within the crease at the end of the muzzle into the cheek.
2. Waggy tails; Tails are great indicators of emotional state. But do not be lulled into thinking a very waggy tail is always a happy one. A dog that is simply ambling along with a soft swish to their tail is relaxed and happy. Pets parents tend to see their dog as happy when their tail is going ten to the dozen, in many cases this is true, but if the other end of your dog is showing signs of anxiety, the tail simply is an indication the dog is in a state of arousal and in this case not a good one. Dogs who favour the left hand wag studies show they are super happy.
3. Play; We all have to be relaxed and happy to play. So this is a sure sign they are pretty well adjusted. Good play calms quickly and never gets so intense that they become thoughtless. When is play not play? when it is one sided.
4. Eating habits; Your dog will eat all meals with enthusiasm and eat treats where ever you are. An anxious dog skips meals, especially the morning one. They will also be less than enthusiastic recieveing treats in situations they find stressful. If your dog won’t take treats on a walk or intraining, move environments.
5. Easy sleep and rest anytime any place; Sleep always comes easily to those who are not over-stimulated with either environment, exercise and enrichment or coping with fear.
6. Ears; Floppy puppy ears are indearing and welcoming. Pinned back and flat against the head is a sign of stress, scared or sad. Can also be an appeasing expression, accompanied with a wide grin and lowered posture.
7. General observations; Look to your dog as a whole expression from tip to tail to see how they are feeling.
It makes you happy when you know your dog is happy. So when a friend asks you, Is my dog is happy? You’ve got some answers for them, please share this blog with them too!
Facial expressions and micro movements show feelings
Professor Stanley Coren writes many fascinating articles on our canine friends. This one describes how we as humans have micro facial expressions that tell us how others are feeling. These movements are so subtle that unless trained to see them, they are missed easily. They are used by psychologists and police to see the truth in those trying to lie.
Our dogs also have micro-facial movements and like with humans studies have been done on the upper facial expressions. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and reflects -ve emotions. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and reflects +ve emotions.
Studies have also shown that a dog who is wagging its tail to the left is a happy chappie. This correlates with the facial expression study
How to help your dog find their happy place
Once you’ve answered the question is my dog happy? It will help you to know what you can do to help them be as happy as can be. Here are some actions you can take.
A happy dog is one that is able to put its trust in you, feel safe with you and in its environment. Give your dog time to rest and sleep. Time to sniff and play in nature. Be with you, rest with you, and also accept times alone.
Happy thoughtful dogs play fair, they will take natural breaks to calm emotions and keep play friendly. Many dogs have their special doggy pals and it’s lovely to see them interact in friendly banter.
Dogs are social beings and for them to grow up sociable beings, to blank those stimuli that may cause alarm, will enhance their lives for sure.
Happy dogs are free to be themselves with guidance from us to help them fit into our busy world.
When your dog knows you understand them, they will put their trust in you to keep them both happy and safe. Dogs like us need to feel loved, listened to, be understood to become a well-balanced happy four-legged pooch.
Read more in my behavioural guide to find out more about your four-legged friend and how to communicate with them and forge a friendship built on love, trust, understanding, and mutual respect.
Did you enjoy this ‘Is my dog happy?’ blog? Please share with your friends! Don’t forget to join our community of friendly pet parents and share your dog’s adventures there.
Caroline Spencer has over 30yrs experience with dogs from gundogs to pet dogs. She has written “Why Does My Dog Do That? and is Co-Author of “Parenting Your New Puppy” With Lesley Harris. Caroline also designed the Happy At Heel Harness to help educate dogs to stop pulling. If you’d like a consultation via Zoom or in-person do contact Caroline via the following email address for details firstname.lastname@example.org