There are some people who would argue that dogs don’t have the ability to feel joy since they are not on the same emotional level as humans. But most pet parents would probably disagree—while we may not always be able to put our finger on exactly how we can tell, we are often able to perceive when Fido is in high spirits based on his body language. According to the book “Making Dogs Happy,” penned by Melissa Starling and Paul McGreevy, there are various physical signals that can help us confirm when our furry companions are feeling content. Some of their findings are also supported on petMD.com, with experts weighing in on canine bliss.
1. Take note when your pup touches you with its tongue. “Most of the time when dogs lick us, it appears to be a sign of affection.”
2. Pay attention to your pooch’s rear end. “Loose tail wags indicate positive states.”
petMD: “Happy dogs wag their tails in a manner that involves the whole body,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack of New York City’s Animal Acupuncture.
“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,” adds Tonya Wilhelm, dog training specialist and author of several training books.
3. Keep track of your dog’s ear positioning. “Ears of dogs who are awake, but relaxed, sit at roughly ten and two o’clock around the dog’s face and point forward and slightly out to the side.”
petMD: “Ear shapes vary from breed to breed. In general, happy dogs wear their ears in a relaxed fashion,” says Beth Mullen, director of behavior and training at Washington Humane Society. “One ear may be cocked up, or both may be loose and floppy.”
4. Gauge your pooch’s activity level. “Aroused dogs express their joy in expending energy.”
petMD: “Happy dogs enjoy playtime and walks,” says Barrack. “While all dogs slow down with age, if your dog seems abnormally quiet or reluctant to engage, this may be a sign they’re not feeling well.”
5. Observe how alert and eager your dog is. “Attentiveness to potentially rewarding signals is a good indication that your dog might be feeling optimistic.”