Is your dog as happy as you hope?
How many times have you wished your dog could talk just so you know what they are feeling and wanting? Luckily, even without language dogs are pretty great at telling you how they feel using only their posture, and facial expression. According to veterinary behaviorists you can tell if your dog is happy by simply analyzing their body language. In general, a happy dog is a relaxed dog, with calm eyes, relaxed ears, a gentle pant, and an overall laidback look.
It’s not just one thing your dog does that tells you how they feel, but all parts combined. Here are some of the most important ways your dog uses to communicate how they feel, plus 4 ways you can make your dog even happier!
How To Read Your Dog’s Body Language
Each part of your dog communicates something different. You must take into consideration each aspect of their body language in order to accurately analyze if they are happy, threatened, angry, or stressed.
This dog’s facial expression says he is happy, and his ears show he is interested in something up ahead
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and this saying includes dogs as well. The expression in your dog’s eyes can clue you in if they are scared, sad, relaxed, or happy.
According to the ASPCA, when your dog’s eyes appear larger than normal this may signal your dog is feeling threatened or aggressive. If your dog’s eyes are smaller than usual this may indicate they are scared or feeling stress. Squinted eyes often signal your dog is not feeling good or is in pain.
Your dog’s mouth is full of telling signs about their emotional state. The positioning of a dog’s jaw and lips indicates if they are feeling aggressive, territorial, or happy and at ease. A happy relaxed dog will usually hold their mouth slightly open or gently closed.
When a dog starts to feel scared or threatened you may notice the lips pull back at the corners. This expression often exposes a dog’s bottom and top teeth, as well as the back molars. Some dogs will also move their tongue in and out of their mouth.
Depending on the type of ears your dog has they will use them to signal their feelings in different ways. Generally speaking, a happy and relaxed dog will hold their ears naturally. A curious dog will hold their ears up and in the general direction of whatever has their attention.
If your dog’s ears are slightly pulled back, this often signals they are feeling friendly. When a dog is feeling threatened or frightened they tend to draw their ears much further back so that they are stuck to the sides of your dog’s head.
This is the same dog in both images. On the left side the dog is displaying a happy, relaxed expression. On the right, the dog is showing an aggressive expression. Photo Credit: ASPCA
A wagging tail doesn’t always signal a happy dog. When a dog is comfortable and happy they usually hold their tail in a relaxed, natural position. If your dog’s ears, eyes, and mouth signal happiness and they are wagging their tail, they are likely very happy. When your dog becomes really excited they will wag their tail so hard it causes their whole body to swing side to side. When your dog is feeling scared or threatened they will tuck their tail between their legs, and possibly near their belly.
Your dog’s fur coat will also signal how they are feeling. If they are rapidly shedding this is a sign of nervousness or fear, hence why your dog may shed a whole lot more when you take him to the vet than on an ordinary day. Another way your dog’s fur can speak to you is if it is raised up near their withers or along the entire spine. This can signal playfulness if your dog is currently running about and having a great time. It can also signal fear or aggression, depending on the other signs your dog is signaling through body language.
In order to know how your dog is feeling at any given moment you have to take the entire body into consideration. Your dog’s face, tail, fur, and overall posture all work together to signal everything currently running through their mind.
Is My Dog Mad At Me? Analyzing Your Dog’s Actions
Simply taking your dog for more walks might solve any issues associated with acting out or showing signs of unease.
Dogs are not as complicated or spiteful as humans can be, and analyzing their behavior requires thinking like a dog instead of a human. If you come home from work to find your dog has chewed up a pillow or dug through the trash you may instantly assume this is a sign your dog is angry with you. This is not always the case though, dogs are not trying to be spiteful, and instead they might be afraid of being alone. Since dogs are pack animals it’s not uncommon for them to display signs of separation anxiety, which may include tearing up your house when they are left alone.
Upon your arrival home, your dog may hold their tail between their legs and wear what looks like a guilty expression. Some dogs may feel guilty, but generally this posture signals fear because your dog doesn’t know how you are going to react to what they have done. Some dogs cause a mess because they need more stimulation, in which case giving your dog more exercise might help cease the problem. If exercise doesn’t help, maybe your four-legged friend wants another friend to hang out with, especially if you are gone for much of the day.
4 Ways You Can Make Your Dog Happier
1. Always Be Calm Around Your Dog
Dogs pick up on emotions and read your body language very well. If you are nervous they are going to know it. Dogs feel anxious, nervous, and a host of other negative emotions when their pack leader is signaling nervousness or anxiety. Take a deep breath and focus on acting calm around your dog at all times.
2. Claim The Role Of Pack Leader
Your dog wants you to be the dominant pack leader and not just a member of the pack. Your dog needs you to take on this role so that they feel protected and safe. According to Cesar Millan, “Being a pack leader is not a part-time occupation; it’s all the time. Your dog is always looking for consistency and structure.”
3. Give Your Dog A Job
A dog that is given three solid meals a day and let loose to play in the yard can easily get bored. Dogs want a job, so give them one! Strap a pack to your dog’s back when you go out for walks, or create obstacle courses that require your dog to put their nose to work. Giving your dog the sense that they have a job can make all the difference in terms of overall happiness.
4. Keep your Dog Healthy And Happy
When your dog doesn’t feel good it’s usually pretty obvious, for instance they might not want to eat. Yet, less obvious signs can also signal your buddy isn’t feeling his best, like a dry, rough dog nose.
If your dog is feeling healthy they are far more likely to feel happy. The moment your dog seems sick you want to take him or her to the vet for the medical attention they need to feel better. A good appetite, soft fur coat, consistent weight, soft paw pads, and a wet nose are all signs your dog is healthy.
If your dog has a dry, crusty nose this is a key indicator he is not feeling well, or is allergic to something in his environment. Without a moist snout your dog can’t smell as good, and smelling is your dog’s number one sense. Without scent your dog can start to feel lost, nervous, and unhappy, after all dogs use their nose to analyze the world around them.
All-natural Snout Soother cures even the worst dry dog noses time and time again. Make your four-legged friend happier than ever with the soothing relief of Snout Soother. After all, at Natural Dog Company our mission is simple: Soothe, Heal, Wag!