If you’re a dog owner, chances are you’ve asked yourself a lot of questions about your pup. It’s completely normal to consider what they may be thinking or feeling. Would we really be human if we didn’t wonder what they thought of us – of their life?
There are many questions that might run through your mind on a day-to-day basis. What are dogs dreaming of when they’re twitching in their sleep? When they sit with you on the bed, are they waiting for a walk, for some food, or do they just want to spend quality time with you? Why is that toy – you know, the one they carry everywhere – their favourite?
But one of the most common questions that plagues a dog owner’s mind is: “is my dog happy?”
Any dog owner will tell you that the thing they want most is for their dog to live a long, healthy, and happy life. There’s nothing better than seeing your dog’s biggest smile as they look up at you.
But it’s often hard to really gauge what a dog may be feeling at any given moment. So, how do you know if your dog really is living a happy life?
Well, we decided to find out so you don’t have to.
Animal Welfare: The Five Freedoms
Before we really dig deep into some of the ways to tell if your dog is happy, we’ll start by outlining the basics. For a dog to be universally happy, it’s considered necessary for animals to receive their “five freedoms”.
These are international standards in animal welfare that date back to the 1960s. But, essentially, there’s an argument that if the five freedoms are met, then the road to pet happiness is a much easier one. So, let’s dive into them.
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst. Ensuring easy access to fresh water and a good diet covers this need.
- Freedom from Discomfort. By providing an appropriate environment, shelter and a safe, comfortable resting area, your dog can achieve this with little issue.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease. This one is a little more complex because of factors that are often out of our control. But adequate veterinary treatment can certainly help.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour. Providing space for your animals to be themselves can be hugely beneficial, especially if they’re able to be around other dogs.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress. Ensuring your dog remains free from mental anguish or suffering will help with this one.
These aren’t going to make your dog happy on their own. The love and affection from its owner will have a direct impact. However, providing the five freedoms to your pup can have a huge benefit on the dog’s physical and mental wellbeing!
This, in turn, will help your dog on the road to happiness.
How to tell if your dog is happy
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, we can dive into some of the more specific behaviours you should watch out for in your pup.
So, here are some tell-tale signs that your dog is happy:
- A high, wagging tail. We’re all more than aware of this one. It’s the simple go-to sign to ensuring your dog is happy with the current situation.
- A relaxed body. It probably goes without saying that a relaxed pooch is a happy pooch. If they’ve got loose shoulders, a calm posture and droopy eyelids, chances are you’ve got one very comfortable dog.
- Floppy ears. Alongside a relaxed body comes relaxed, floppy ears. This means they’re not tense or flat against their head. Of course, any upright ears can also be an indicator of focus and not necessarily unhappiness.
- A playful attitude. If your dog is happy, then it’s likely you’ll be bombarded with playful requests. This is especially true in younger pups. It’s a sure-fire sign of a good mood!
- Lots of physical contact. A happy dog will want to enjoy your company and attention, so if they lean into you or even cuddle up to you, then your dog is probably feeling pretty content.
- A normal and healthy routine. If your pooch is sleeping, eating and going to the bathroom without issue, then it’s likely to be doing just fine.
How to tell if your dog is unhappy
No one wants an unhappy dog. However, it’s not always easy for your pooch, just like sometimes it isn’t always easy for us.
So, here’s some easy ways to spot an unhappy or uncomfortable dog:
- A low or tucked tail. Tucking its tail between its legs can be a huge indicator that something is wrong. A tucked tail or even a low wag can indicate fear or insecurity.
- Body language and position. A stressed or worried dog will be very tense. They may shrink away from touch, stay low to the ground, and avoid eye contact. A completely still dog is very uncomfortable in the given situation.
- Ears are back or flat. An anxious pooch will have tense ears pinned back and flat against its head. A stark contrast to the floppy ones you’d see on a happy dog.
- They turn or pull away from you. If your dog is uncomfortable with something you are doing, they will turn away from you or try to create some distance.
- Walking away. If the distance wasn’t enough, then your dog may result to walking away from you. Sometimes, they will even attempt to hide in times of stress. This could be behind you, if someone else is distressing them, or behind an object.
- A dog who is submitting to you by laying on its back to lying down for you in a still or tense manner may be uncomfortable in the current situation. They’re trying to signal that they want the situation to stop, but they’re not trying to hurt you.
If your dog is displaying any of the above behaviour, you should pay attention to their wants and needs. If they walk away from you, leave them be – providing it is safe to do so. Sometimes your dog will just need a time out.
However, if you’re seeing this behaviour often, it may be cause for concern. Think about how you are treating your dog and assess what could be triggering this reaction from them.
What makes your dog happy?
All-in-all, you should be able to identify whether you have a happy dog in your household. If they’re reacting positively to the activities you do with and for them, then that’s fantastic.
Each dog is individual and will like and dislike different things, environments, and activities. So just pay attention as much as you can and we’re sure you’ll have a happy pup on your hands.