Communication is more than just words. Our body language and tone of voice often help deliver what we mean. While humans can communicate through a combination of words, voice, and gestures, our dogs, unfortunately, cannot. Canines rely solely on body language to convey their feelings. So, how can you tell when your dog is happy, sad, hungry or scared?
According to animal neuroscientist Gregory Berns, dogs have the emotional capacity of a 2-year-old child. They experience joy, fear, and anger and undergo the same chemical changes during emotional shifts.
Like a toddler, your dog lacks the vocabulary to express what he feels. Since we cannot teach them how to speak, communicating with your dog requires a little psychic ability. Learn to spot physical and behavioral signs of a happy dog or if something might be wrong.
Physical signs of a happy dog
As dogs age, their activity levels may change. But in general, a happy dog will exhibit a relaxed body language. Here are common physical signs of a happy and satisfied pet.
- Puppy dog eyes. Happy pups have a soft gaze with relaxed eyes and eyelids that blink often. Narrow eyes with a hard gaze can indicate fear or aggression.
- Soft, slightly open mouth. Dogs that are happy sometimes appear to smile with some showing a few teeth. Smiling should not be confused with panting which could be a sign of stress.
- Floppy ears. Happy dogs have relaxed ears, not tense or pricked upright. One ear may be cocked up while the other is loose and floppy.
- Smooth brow. Like humans, your dog can express worry with a furrowed brow. A wrinkle-free forehead is often a sign of a worry-free dog.
- Relaxed body. Joyful dogs have loose, soft, wiggly bodies. If they seem stiff, tight, or tense, it could be an indicator of discomfort. An overall relaxed posture, raised head, loose shoulders, relaxed tail and confident stance are all good clues.
- High and waggy tail. This is the easiest way to tell that your dog is chill. Cheerful dogs wag their tail along with the rest of the body. If the tail wags stiffly, your dog may be nervous or alert.
- Healthy coat. One indicator of a happy pup is a beautiful coat. When dogs are stressed, they tend to shed like crazy and flakes appear on the skin.
Behavioral signs of a happy dog
In addition to body language, there are behavioral signs that tell you when a dog is happy.
· Non-destructive behavior
Excessive chewing could be a sign of stress, anxiety, or boredom. Happy dogs, on the other hand, are less likely to destroy your home or misbehave. Of course, you must rule out a young puppy’s playful chewing.
· Belly up
Rolling over to show their belly is often a sign of happiness.
· Play bows
Making a play bow means your dog is in the mood for fun and interaction. When a dog lowers his chest to the ground with his rear up, that is an invitation to play. While dogs do slow down with age, reluctance to engage could mean they are not feeling well.
· Healthy appetite
For happy dogs who have a good appetite, changes in appetite are one of the first signs of discomfort.
· Healthy sleep
Happy and content adult dogs usually sleep for up to 16 hours per day. So, if they are not sleeping much, it could be a sign of distress.
· Leaning in
Happy puppies often lean into their humans. For example, they lean into your hand or body while waiting for you to stroke them.
· Happy barks
Dogs generally bark with a high pitch and for a short period of time. Agitated dogs, on the other hand, will bark nonstop and at a lower tone.
Dogs are always excited to see you when you walk in the door. Some even hop or bounce around when they see a human or canine that they like. Happy dogs greet you when you wake up and keep an eye on you when at the park.
Happy dogs often like other dogs. If your pup is friendly and not overly aggressive to strangers, these are signs of happiness.
There are individual factors that could impact dog behavior such as breed, age, health and personality. But, in general, these are some of the most common ways that dogs express happiness.
Let Positive Paws Help You Enrich Your Relationship with Your Dog
Here at Positive Paws Pet Training, we promote a healthy relationship between human and canine through successful communication. With clear expectations, our behavioral and obedience classes can help you and your dog understand each other better. Since every family is unique, we identify the best training program suited to your personal goals. We also provide all training at home, since this is where the most challenging behaviors show up.
Finding the right dog trainer in St Charles, Mo is an important decision for any family. Talk to us today to know if we are the right fit.