As dog owners, all we want is for them to be happy and healthy. Unfortunately, dogs can’t speak and tell you exactly how they feel or what is wrong.
Dogs communicate through barking and body language, and while that may not seem like a lot, it is more than enough to understand exactly what your dog is thinking.
You need to look out for the obvious, and subtle clues your dog is giving you to tell you how they feel. These can be both positive and negative and you can use context clues to help you figure out some of them.
In this article, we cover some of the signs you may see in your dog to show they are healthy and happy. We also cover some of the signs that they aren’t and what you can do to remedy this.
Find out more about dogs' behavior at The Puppy Mag.
Wagging Their Tail
This is the most obvious sign of a happy dog and is the one most people are aware of. A dog's tail is one of the best communication devices that a dog has.
When a dog is happy or excited it will wag its tail, it can wag in many directions and at different speeds. Even dogs that have no tails will wag their butt as if they have one.
If a dog is very happy, its entire body might wriggle along with its tail.
Another sign that your dog is happy is it its tail is relaxed. Depending on the breed, the tail can relax in different spots.
A relaxed tail means that your dog isn’t stressed and feels safe.
If your dog's tail is stiff that is a sign of agitation or they are alert. When alert, a dog is stressed and is wary of any threats.
A sign of fear is if your dog's tail is between its legs.
Has A Good Appetite
A sign that your dog is in good health is if they are eating the normal amounts. Even the picky eaters will change their eating patterns when they aren’t feeling well.
If your dog isn’t eating, that could be them telling you that they don’t feel well.
Your dog's drinking habits will also change when they aren’t well. This could be not drinking at all, or drinking a lot due to dehydration.
Keep an eye on your dog’s food and water bowls to ensure they are consuming the right amount of solids and liquids.
It is a common myth that dogs can’t smile, when in fact many of them do. It depends on the dog breed over how much their smile is visible.
Most dogs smile with their mouth open, and sometimes their tongue may hang out. Every dog smiles differently and you will see it when they are at their happiest (usually at the park or when a family member comes home).
Since they smile with their mouth open, you may see the dog's teeth. This is not a sign of aggression and shows that they’re happy enough to give a big toothy grin.
When a dog is very happy, it might make little sounds. These could be whines or barks. They will typically be softer and lighter than the sounds they make out of fear or aggression.
Sleeping A Good Amount
On average, an adult dog will sleep for around 16 hours a day, the other 8 hours will be spent walking, eating, playing, and getting pets.
If your dog isn’t sleeping that could be a sign that it is stressed and can’t settle down. This could be for a number of reasons including a new location, or new people.
Sleeping too much could also be a sign of poor health. They could be lethargic because they’re unwell. This includes them being awake, but not moving from their bed even for treats or the promise of a walk.
If your dog is having a nap next to you, it means they feel safe with you and can trust you to protect them.
Ears Are Floppy
A dog's ears can show a lot of emotion depending on their position and tenseness.
If they are floppy and relaxed it means they are happy. The relaxed state of the ears depends on the dog breed since the size and shape vary so much. You will come to learn what your dog's relaxed ear position is.
If their ears are perked up and twitching, it could mean they hear a sound and are now on alert. If a dog is alerted for too long, it is a sign that they are stressed about something and don’t feel safe.
Another sign that your dog is stressed is if its ears are pulled pack. If the ears are flat against the head, it could be a sign that your dog is scared. This ear position is usually paired with the tail between the legs if the dog is fearful of something or someone.
They Are Well Behaved
All dogs behave differently, well behaved for your dog will be completely different from someone else's dog. You are mainly looking to see if they are calm, not stressed out, and acting normal to how they usually would.
If they are showing destructive behavior, this is a sign that they are bored and need stimulus. They could also be pacing and unable to sit down if they are stressed. Signs of fear include hiding or being aggressive as they believe there is no other option to keep safe.
A happy dog will want to play and interact. If they wish to play with another dog they may do the typical ‘bow’ which is when its butt is up in the air but its chest and head are on the ground. Sometimes they might completely flatten to the floor if they want to play with another dog.
What Do I Do If My Dog Isn’t Happy?
If your dog isn’t showing any of the happy signs or is showing signs of being unhappy, it is your job as their owner to change that.
First, you need to establish what is making them stressed or unwell. Look to any changes in their environment, what they have been eating, and where they have gone.
If it is something that can’t be immediately addressed, like moving home, you need to show your dog that everything is okay and provide them with lots of time and love. We all have bad days and that includes dogs. You can get them a new toy or take them to their favorite spot to make them feel happy.
If they are apprehensive about a new person, then try giving that person a treat to give to the dog. Dogs tend to like people more if they give them food.
Sometimes a dog is behaving oddly due to health issues. If the behavior lasts a long time and has come out of nowhere with no external changes to the environment, it may be time to go to the vet.
The longer you are with your dog, the better you will get at reading their body language. Soon you will know exactly what they’re feeling just based on their eyes.
Hopefully, with this guide, you will be able to know the exact signs to look out for when seeing if your dog is happy. And if they are not, know some ways how to address it and make them happy again.