Dogs are pretty well-adjusted creatures, but they also have a sensitive, emotional side that can be easily disturbed at times - learn how to tell if your dog is happy or stressed using the signs below.
Most days, our pups are happy merely being around us. But they process emotions using the same physical system that we do, which leaves them prone to feel fear, upset, and even depression at times.
A fully grown dog has the mental and emotional capacity of a 2.5-year-old human, and just like a toddler, they need some help from us, their owners, to keep them happy.
How do I know my dog is happy?
Learn to read the signs your dog presents to you loud and clear - we'll share the common signs a dog shows when it’s happy and the different body language it uses when it’s unhappy.
7 Telltale Signs of a Happy Dog
I learned how to tell my dog is happy from the simple physical and behavioral cues he gives off - and you can do the same! Look for these telltale signs of happiness.
#1: Healthy Appetite
A happy dog is a hungry dog, so if your pup has a pretty big appetite, it's a good sign they're feeling good.
Dogs that skip meals and are picky about the food they eat may be feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed - like people, dogs can lose their appetite as a symptom of emotional change.
A dog's lack of hunger may be the sign of an undiagnosed illness, too.
#2: Body Language and Postures
Dogs can't speak, so they've evolved to show their feelings with their bodies instead.
A happy dog looks relaxed and comfortable, without tension in any part of its body.
The tail is the window to a dog's soul, and a high, wagging tail in its natural position tells you a pup is having a fantastic time.
#3: Happy Facial Expressions
Your pup's face and ears will show signs of their happiness, too - a happy dog will have floppy, natural ears, relaxed eyes, and a closed or slightly open mouth that may even appear to be smiling at you.
#4: Asking for Attention
Dogs are social pack creatures that thrive on spending time with their loved ones. A happy dog wants to spend time with their "pack," and that's you!
Does your dog run to the door every time you get home? And come to see what you're doing throughout the day?
When your dog is happy, they'll often come to you for attention and "ask" you to play with them.
#5: High-Energy Levels
A happy dog will have an energetic zest for life and keep moving throughout their day.
They'll want to play, jump, and get into general hijinks - do they pick up their toys, or are they completely uninterested? Do they sigh, lightly growl, and make other happy dog sounds at you?
Of course, dogs need to sleep quite a bit more than us, but healthy bursts of energy should balance the sleep while they're awake.
#6: Good Sleep Patterns
As we said, dogs like to sleep. Sleep is a healthy behavior for a dog, and ample amounts of good quality sleep are a good indicator that your pup is pretty well-adjusted.
Getting lots of exercise throughout the day makes your dog happy and very sleepy. If they pass out hard from all of the activity, it's clear they're satisfied by a day well spent.
#7: You Have a Shadow
Happy dogs show a strong interest in what their owners are doing through the day, as they know that fun follows wherever you go.
If your pup is always one step behind you, watching in anticipation, or cuddling up on your lap whenever you sit, you can be sure they're happy in their time with you.
Signs of an Unhappy Dog
If your pup is showing anti-social behavior and not interested in interacting with you, they may be feeling down.
Because they're pack animals, rejecting their pack in this way is a sign that something is going wrong in their emotional health.
If your dog ignores you or leaves the room when you're around, it's worth looking into this further.
#2. Paw Licking
Paw licking is the doggie equivalent to a human biting their nails - it's a soothing behavior that pups use to cope with their feelings of stress, sadness, or anxiety.
If your dog is licking their paws incessantly, it's a warning sign that they're not feeling well emotionally.
#3. Body Language and Postures
An unhappy dog's body language is tense and low; an upset dog may cower around others. Their tail will be lower than usual and possibly tucked between their hind legs.
#4. Excessive Whining
Dogs whine or cry when they need something from us, and if they're feeling upset, they may whine in an attempt to get us to help them feel better.
An unhappy dog may whine quietly, especially during the night.
#5. Weight Loss or Gain
An unhappy dog may start to overeat as a coping mechanism or lose its appetite altogether.
If your pup's weight changes at a rapid rate, there is reason to believe something is going on with them emotionally or physically that's affecting their eating habits.
#6. Lethargic and Low-Energy
If your dog's energy drops below their usual levels and they need prodding to exercise, your dog may be feeling down and depressed, a known energy zapper.
#7. Destructive Behavior
Fully-grown dogs know that destructive behavior is unwanted by us, and when they're happy and getting enough attention, they won't destroy things.
How long can you leave a dog alone before they get destructive?
You should be able to leave your pup for several hours on their own, but it depends on your dog's breed and temperament.
No matter how long you leave a dog alone, the tendency for destruction raises other red flags.
If a dog is behaving destructively, they're likely experiencing stress or anxiety and desperately want your attention and help.
How to Make Your Dog Even Happier
There are a few essential ways to make our dogs' lives a little happier.
- Diet. Ensure your pup is getting their basic food and water needs met with a healthy, satisfying diet.
- Exercising. Tend to their intellectual needs with training and lots of stimulation, and keep them happy emotionally with ample attention and affection.
- Be happy. Another way to keep your pup happy is by keeping yourself happy - dogs are incredibly sensitive animals that pick up on others' emotions. Pups care for us so deeply that they feel what we feel, and if we're chronically upset, sad, anxious, or stressed, they likely will be too.
Remember that it's okay for dogs to be unhappy sometimes. Like us, they experience a wide range of emotions, and they aren't all going to be positive.
By accepting negative feelings in our canines, we communicate that it's okay to be upset sometimes. Trying to change all of our pets' negative emotions puts pressure on the pup to alter their mood, which usually stresses them further and worsens the situation.
How to Keep Your Dog Happy
These signs should help you to decode your pup's moods, whether they're happy or feeling a little stressed, anxious, or depressed.
If your dog tends to fall into negative moods often for no apparent reason and it feels a little unbalanced, it's a good idea to consult a vet, who can rule out any potential health issues and give advice on how to improve your pup's general mood.
We wish you and your pup a very happy dog day!