12 Telltale Signs Your Dog Is Happy
Or should that be tell-tail signs? Either way, if your pup exhibits these behaviours on a regular basis, it's a good thing!
Decoding your dog’s behaviour
Dogs don’t affect an air of aloofness like cats (and some humans), and they don’t play hard to get. If they’re happy, chances are you’ll know it, between the tail-wagging, licks, and yelps of joy. Despite that, pet parents often wonder whether their pups are truly happy on a consistent basis. After all, they can’t tell you with words, so you have to figure out what their behaviour means. And dogs do sometimes get mad at you, so if that’s the case, you’ll want to remedy that problem ASAP. But if they’re exhibiting the following behaviours, you can rest easy: they are indeed as happy as you’ve been hoping they are.
They greet you when you get home
Your pup may be patiently waiting for you right at the door when you turn the key in the lock—or, in many cases, is jumping up and down and barely able to contain his excitement. Whatever your dog’s personality and particular greeting style, the message is loud and clear: He’s happy you’re back. “When your dog meets you at the door, it’s a sign that you two have a positive relationship and that they are eagerly awaiting interaction with you,” says Rebecca Woodruff, an animal behaviour consultant for Best Friends Animal Society. If your dog’s enthusiasm suddenly starts to wane when you come home, something could be wrong: lethargy may be a sign that you need to call the vet.
They expose their belly to you
“A dog that exposes its belly to you—usually with a slightly open mouth, light panting, and wagging tail—[is exhibiting] a sign of trust,” says Evelyn Kass-Williamson, DVM, an integrative veterinarian who specializes in pet nutrition. It’s also a sign that your dog would be delighted to get a little belly rub. If you’ve got a feline in your family, too, exposing her belly also one of the sure signs your dog trusts you—though she might not actually want a belly rub.
They mind their manners
Dogs who exhibit destructive or aggressive behaviours—such as tearing up furniture or clothing, biting, or snarling—are generally under stress, anxiety, or perhaps even bored, according to PetMD. Conversely, when dogs exhibit good behaviour, it’s a deeper sign that they’re feeling content. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, and some breeds are feistier than others, but a dog with good behaviour and manners is generally a happy dog.
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They cuddle up with you on the couch
If your pup is allowed on the couch and hops up to curl up next to you, this is a reaffirming sign that he’s happy to be around you. “Dogs are social creatures and like to sleep next to the individuals—people, dogs, or other animals—that they’re bonded to,” says Woodruff. “This behaviour means they trust you and want to be close to you.”
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They lean into you
It’s one of the most endearing things in the world when a pup rests its body against yours. Like cuddling with you on the couch, it’s also a sign that they enjoy your company and trust you enough to be that close. A leaning pooch is a happy pooch. On that note, here’s what your dog’s tail is trying to tell you.
They assume the “play bow” position
The “play bow” is a common position that dogs assume when they’re feeling happy and playful. What is it, exactly? “The front end is down, tail is straight up and may be wagging, ears are forward, eyes are steady on you,” says Dr. Kass-Williamson. “The play bow is a clear invitation to play, chase, or wrestle.”
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Their appetite is healthy
A dog that’s eager to chow down is generally feeling happy, healthy, and content. If your pup refuses to eat or has a diminished appetite, it could be a sign that they’re not feeling well, or that they’re experiencing anxiety or stress. It could also be something more serious. If your pup isn’t eating like his or her usual self, talk to your vet.
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They tilt their head when looking at you
We all know that adorable head tilt accompanied by an inquisitive look that dogs love to give. Dr. Kass-Williamson says it’s a sign your pooch is in a good mood. “This may also be the look you get close to dinner time,” she adds. “Their ears are down, but their eyes are focused on you and their tail may be wagging.”
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They get excited when the leash comes out
“If your dog has positive experiences when you take them outside, they make the connection that their leash or harness is a sign of a good time,” says Woodruff. This usually sets them off into a happy dog dance that consists of jumping up and down, spinning in circles, or tapping their feet.
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They get the zoomies
“Dogs love to run. When they are very happy, they need a way to burn off excess energy. They will often run in circles around the house or yard multiple times,” says Dr. Kass-Williamson. “When running, their tail is up, mouth is open, and tongue is often hanging out. They may even bark to let you know how happy they are. Just remember to get out of the way!”
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They do a full-body wag
A wag that engages your dog’s entire body is a clear sign of joyfulness. This might happen before eating, when you wake up in the morning, or before a fun car ride. But it’s important to note that not all tail wags indicate happiness—especially stiff wags that don’t engage the rest of the body. Some types of wags can indicate fear, aggression, or anxiety.
They appear calm and relaxed
Happy dogs aren’t always overt about their happiness, so if you’ve got a particularly chill dog, don’t worry. Being calm and easygoing are also signs that your furry BFF is content. “Their ears are up and forward, mouth is slightly open, they’re lightly panting, and their eyes are soft,” says Dr. Kass-Williamson.
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