15 Ways to Know Your Dog Is Happy with You

To determine if a dog is happy or sad, pet parents have to look at their pup’s body language and behavior within context. Signs your dog is happy include tail-wagging, zoomies, rolling over, and wanting to be around you. However, these signs could mean the opposite if they are at the vet.

So how can you learn to tell the difference?

We walk through the physical signs your dog shows when they are happy and how to be confident that’s what they are feeling. Learn how to interpret your dog’s body language and how to make them even happier.

15 Signs of a Happy Dog

While you might be able to say “I love you”, your dog isn’t as blessed with verbal skills. Instead, dogs tell you they love you through body language. You can tell a dog is happy if they display these behaviors:

  1. Overall “loose” posture, with a raised head
  2. A partially open mouth, like a soft dog smile
  3. Relaxed ears, not pulled back or taut with alertness
  4. A loose tail wag
  5. Rolling over and showing their belly
  6. “Play bows,” where their rear is in the air and their chest lowered to the ground
  7. Zoomies
  8. Laying down, on or around you
  9. Wiggly body or dancing toes, especially when looking at you
  10. Relaxed body language when walking
  11. Non-destructive behavior, as destruction can a sign of canine boredom or anxiety
  12. Asks for physical contact and affection from you
  13. Turn towards you when you stop or walk away
  14. Barking, alongside other happy body language
  15. Engaged with your voice or presence

Pro-tip: One sign alone is not enough to conclude that your dog is happy. If your dog is displaying multiple signs of happiness, you can make a stronger assumption that they are happy or excited in their current situation.

Studies have even found that, when petted, dogs’ levels of oxytocin (the “feel-good hormone”) rise – just like humans’ levels rise when petting their pup.

10 Signs Your Dog May Be Unhappy

How To Keep Your Dog Happy

  • Make sure their needs are met. This means caring for all aspects of their well-being. Feed your dog a healthy and well-rounded diet, provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation, and shower them with lots of hugs and affection (if they want it!)
  • Be consistent in how you communicate. Dogs thrive off of consistency. Consistent behaviors and routines communicates to dogs what to expect and how to react. The more dogs feel they can read your mind, the stronger your bond will be.
  • Look after yourself, too. A happy pet parent = a happy dog! While you can’t “pass” feelings to your pup, studies show dogs can recognize and react to human emotions of all kinds.
  • Offer lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Sure, giving your dog rewards following good behavior encourages them to repeat the action in the future. But praising and rewarding your pup also encourages their brain to release feel-good oxytocin — and who would say no to that?
  • Remember that moods can vary. Human moods and emotions can quickly shift — the same goes for our dogs. It would be unreasonable to expect your canine pal to be happy all of the time! The best thing you can do is watch for body language cues or changes in behavior that might indicate something’s up.

A happy Doodle running outside

iStock/Linas Toleikis

Your Dog’s Body Language Is Their Mood Ring

All dogs are different, so behaviors that indicate happiness (or other emotions) can vary. Sometimes these signs, in different breeds and situations, can reveal something deeper.

“Happy dogs tend to wag with the tail in a neutral position, which can vary by breed,” explains Jennifer Malawey, certified dog trainer and behavior consultant. Look for “wide, loose swings and very little muscle tension,” she says.

To help figure things out, Malawey recommends looking at other elements of your dog’s body language, including facial expression, muscle tension, and interaction with you.

Lastly, if your dog sleeps too much (outside the normal 12-14 hour range), Malawey says it might indicate an underlying health condition, stress, or anxiety.

Is “bad behavior” a sign of an unhappy dog?

Destructive behaviors — such as excessive barking, destroying toys, and digging — do not indicate your dog is unhappy. Malawey says these behaviors can be normal, happy dog behaviors too. Dogs do not differentiate between good and bad behaviors the way we do.

“Bad behaviors” simply mean your dog is trying to communicate. Malaway suggests asking yourself questions like: “Are they in a situation that’s causing them discomfort?” and “What is the rest of their body saying?”

If you are stuck, work with a dog trainer to learn your dog’s communication style. A certified dog trainer can teach you how to teach your dog the “right” way to behave.

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