How To Tell If Your Dog Is Truly Happy
You need a mixture of intuition and practice to spot the sure-fire signs your dog is happy.
What’s more, ‘happy’ is a lovely word, but just think of the whole range of emotions which a dog expresses nonverbally, like joy, excitement, contentedness, relaxation, affection, playfulness.
All these emotions and can be encapsulated in the word ‘happy’.
And, let’s face it, a happy dog means a happy owner!
Having said all that, every dog is an individual with its own personality, and as dogs age activity levels and sociability may change. So, how can we tell if our dog’s happy?
Here are some signs to keep an eye out for.
1. Body language
A happy dog’s body is a loose body, as stiffness can often indicate tenseness. Its ears are also a good indication of happiness. In general, ‘relaxed’ is the best word for what a dog’s ears indicate. Loose ears mean contentedness.
Or floppy ears depending on the breed, of course. The mouth is also a pointer. A relaxed mouth isn’t stretched or drawn back (which can be a sign of fear or anger). But bear one important point in mind. We shouldn’t automatically associate a lolling tongue and panting and what looks like a smiley face with happiness.
It might be – for example, the satisfaction of a long run after a bouncy ball or a tasty stick - but it can also be a sign of stress, fear or even overheating and thirst.
2. The tale of the tail
One obvious sign of happiness is tail wagging, a really good way of measuring the happiness index rating. When you walk in, you’re greeted by such vigorous tail-wagging, practically the whole of her behind sways from side to side!
Dogs can also indicate general interest in their surroundings by wagging their tail gently and carrying the tail high (although this can also be a sign of a state of general alertness, interest and curiosity – good signs in themselves).
3. Puppy love
The eyes are a very clear indicator of whether a dog is content and in a good place. She’ll blink a lot and her rather glassy-eyed gaze could be described as…well, chillaxed. Pretty much like us, a happy pooch will have relaxed, normal-shaped (as opposed to wide) eyes and eyelids.
Look out for any destructive behaviour by a dog, such as digging, whining, barking, and crying. In these cases your dog often adopts a displacement activity as an outlet for frustration. Excessive chewing is a sign of boredom and stress.
Dogs need stimulation and relaxation and the absence of destructive behaviour shows that. They’re fundamentally sociable creatures, so it’s not rocket science for us to work out they’re going to be happier and more relaxed doing pleasant and companionable things around people they know and love. So, if you’re out all day, get a dog walker!
Happiness and contentment are hopefully default positions for our pets. So keep your eyes open for any deviation (in appearance and behaviour) from the signs of a generally pleasurable existence for your dog!