Smile! How to Tell Your Dog is Happy

While we can’t teach you how to speak dog, we can help you understand which behaviors and body language signals could indicate your pup is happy and content, as well as signs that something could be wrong. Of course all animals are different, and as dogs age their activity levels and sociability may change. But the following signs indicate your dog is most likely happy, and more importantly, healthy.


Puppy-Dog Eyes

Happy dogs have relaxed eyes and eyelids. They blink often and their gaze is soft. Narrowed eyes and a hard gaze can indicate aggression. While wide eyes, particularly if the whites are showing, could mean the dog is frightened.


At-Ease Ears

Ear shapes vary from breed to breed, but in general, happy dogs wear their ears in a relaxed fashion. One ear may be cocked up, or both may be loose and floppy. If a dog’s ears are pinned back, it could be a sign of fear or aggression. Ears pricked forward often indicate that a dog is interested in something that is going on around them.


Relaxed Body

One of the quickest ways to tell whether a dog is happy is to look at the way the dog carries herself. A loose, soft, wiggly body usually means a dog is happy and healthy. On the other hand, if a dog seems tense, tight or stiff, they are less comfortable.

Tail Movement

Happy dogs wag their tails in a manner that involves the whole body. If the tail wags stiffly but doesn’t shake the rest of the body, your dog may be telling you she’s alert and assessing a new situation. If the tail wag is soft and loose and typically held in a more neutral position on the body, this is likely a happy dog.

 

Dancing

Happy dogs often hop. Or at least they look like they’re hopping or dancing when they see someone (or some dog) they like. The quick movements usually indicate the dog is happy and ready to play. You’ll see a happy dog bounce from side to side, usually in excitement to see her canine or human friend.

 

Sleeping

Healthy, happy adult dogs usually sleep for up to 16 hours per day. If your dog isn’t sleeping that much, it could be a sign of distress.

 

Belly’s Up

A wriggling dog showing you her belly and tongue is likely a very happy dog. However if the belly-baring pup appears stiff and keeps her mouth shut, she could be showing submission instead of satisfaction.

 

Leaning In

If a dog reacts to pets by staying close and even leaning in to your hand, it’s a good sign she’s enjoying the contact. Staying just out of reach or walking away could be a sign she needs more space.

 

Rear’s Up

A dog is telling you she’s up for fun when she play bows. In a play bow, a dog lowers her chest to the ground but keeps her rear in the air. It's a sign that a dog is inviting play and wants to interact.


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