Signs of an Extremely Happy Pooch
Dogs have the emotional capacity of a 2 to 2.5-year-old child. Just like a human toddler, they can experience emotions like joy, fear, and anger. Unlike us, our dogs are not able to communicate their thoughts and feelings through words. They rely on barks, whines, and other non-verbal body language. Most of us know what it looks like when our dogs want to tell us something. They may bark, hop up and down, whine or stare intently at you. To truly understand a dog’s feelings, we need to pay close attention to the dog’s body language.
If your dog seems relaxed and not tense or stiff, this is a good sign that they are happy. Loose shoulders, a soft eyes gaze, neutral ears, and wanting to make contact, even leaning in toward your hand, are all clues that your dog’s chill and contented.
Here are the signs of a happy dog
This is probably the most common and well-known sign of a happy pooch. A happy wag that engages your dog’s entire body is a clear sign of joyfulness. This might happen before eating, before a walk, or when you get home after being away for the day. It is important to note that not all tail wags are happy tails. If you encounter a stray dog with its’ tail held high, stiff with a fast wagging, it generally means the dog is alert, agitated, and may even be aggressive. A happy tail is one that is relaxed, and the wag encompasses the whole body - a full-body wag. A happy dog’s whole body will wag and wiggle along with its tail.
Happy dogs often appear to be smiling. The pup’s mouth is relaxed, open, and the corners turned up. While we might not know whether dogs smile, we do know that being relaxed and content may lead to a smile from your pup.
Ears in a neutral position
A dog’s ears provide one of the best clues to its state of mind. Most fearful dogs will tuck their tails and flatten their ears. When your dog is relaxed, his ears will sit in a neutral position. Whatever the dog’s breed; they are just sitting easy. The ears are not pricked forward, drooping down, or pasted to his head.
Your pooch is telling you that he wants to play when he does the “play bow”. That’s when he lowers his chest to the ground but keeps his rear in the air. When dogs do that, they want to interact with you and are inviting you to play. A happy dog is more likely to play bow. The play bow is a way for your dog to tell you that he is happy and wants to play. Give him a squeaky toy from the Furball Collective Squeakie Dog Toys bundle and you’ll see more play bow and happy dance!
You may have seen the doggy dance when you come home after being away for the day. Your little pooch bounces from side to side when they see you enter the door! Some dogs hop and dance when they see their favourite human or canine friends. It would look like they are “dancing”, and these dancing moves mean that they are happy and ready to play.
Just like us, the tone of our voice indicates our emotions, our dogs use the pitch of their voice to indicate their emotions. Happy barks generally have a higher pitch. On the opposite spectrum, a lower pitch bark or growl means that your furry friend is distressed and agitated. He is probably trying to say, “Don’t come near me (or my family)”.
Dogs bark for various reasons. Just like there’s a happy bark, there are also unhappy, nervous barks. A dog can be barking excessively when they are feeling anxious or encounter something that worries or scares them. To stop anxious barking, you must first identify the source of the anxiety. Using the ADAPTIL Calm Behaviour Training (For Anxiety) Diffuser Kit for Dogs can provide some relief. However, eliminating the source of the stressor (if possible) or training the dog to accept it, is often necessary to stop excessive barking.
They lean into you
Dogs lean on their humans because they want to be close to them. By nature, dogs are social animals. If your dog leans on you, it means he loves you, he is happy to be with you and he wants more cuddles! It’s a good sign when your pet dogs lean into your hand when you stroke them.
They expose their belly
A dog that exposes its belly to you is telling you that he is happy, content, and he trusts you. It’s also a sign that your pooch wants a belly rub.
They get zoomies
When dogs are very happy, they need a way to burn off excess energy and will often run in circles. You may have seen your pup zooming around the house or yard multiple times. When running, their tail is up but relaxed, their mouth is open, and their tongue is often hanging out. They may even do the happy bark.
Signs of an unhappy dog
Just like a happy dog, signs of stress in dogs can be observed through their body language as well. These signs include:
Low or tucked tail
An unhappy dog may tuck its tail between its legs rather than wagging it high in the air.
A stressed dog that is feeling uncomfortable will shrink away, hold its head low and avoid eye contact by looking away from your gaze.
Ears are back
Their ears are pinned back and flat against their head.
Hiding and walking away
They may try to hide behind you or another object when they are not comfortable interacting with another person or dog. Let them do this and don’t push the interaction.
If you are experiencing these behaviours with your new pup, understand that a new dog will need time to warm up to you. The next time he slinks towards you, drop a treat onto the floor. Small pieces of yummy treats like this Wellness Puppy Bites Puppy Soft Lamb & Salmon Recipe Dog Treats will do the trick. Let him begin to associate you with good things.
How to make your pup even happier
Making your dog happy means providing for both their physical and emotional needs. Here are some tips to make your pup even happier.
Feed a healthy, balanced diet appropriate for their life stage
It is not a surprise that nutrition has an enormous impact on the health of our pets – both physical and mental health. Certain nutrients found in pet food directly affect your dog’s mental health. Take for example the omega-3 fatty acid DHA found in puppy food. DHA has been shown to increase mental acuity in puppies. Other studies have shown that senior dogs on antioxidant-rich diets are less likely to suffer from age-related behavioural changes due to cognitive decline. Take note that allergies in dogs cause more than physical discomfort. In some dogs, they can cause mental discomfort as well. Dry dog food that is by-product free, grain-free, and contains no artificial preservatives or colourings like the Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw Coated Kibbles (Beef) Dog Food are less likely to cause food allergies. This particular formula is a low glycemic dog food, making it an appropriate choice for diabetic dogs and dogs who are at risk for diabetes such as overweight, senior, or less-active dogs.
Provide adequate physical exercise and mental stimulation
Interactive treat dispenser toys and puzzle toys are excellent for bored dogs. It helps with mental stimulation and will your pup entertained and happily engaged for hours! Try the KONG Rewards Tennis Dog Toy. This toy is sure to keep dogs engaged while providing mental and physical enrichment.
Your dog is “talking” to you all the time through this non-verbal body language. Observing and learning to 'read' what your dog is saying will help you determine if your pooch is happy or otherwise.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.