Hap-py dog. 🎵 Happy, happy, happy, happy, Hap-py dog! 🎶 If you’ve been on Tik Tok or social media, you’ve probably seen happy dogs trotting around to the catchy “Happy Dog” song. And, if you’re like me, you can’t get enough of their wholesome cuteness.
But what makes a dog happy? And, even more importantly, you may be wondering…
“Is my dog happy?”
The other day, a first-time dog parent asked me how he could tell if his dog is happy.
What are the signs of true happiness for our puppers?
Since we’re all about happiness here at Happy-Go-Doodle®, uncovering the signs of happiness in dogs sits squarely in our wheelhouse…errr…doghouse. And, since you’re here, you probably want to know if your dog is happy, too.
Chloe, my Goldendoodle sidekick, makes me happy every day. All I have to do is look down into her chocolate chip eyes and my heart melts into a puddle of happiness. But is she happy?
With this question in mind, we tracked down the answers to understanding what a positive emotional state looks like for our puppers.
Let’s get started!
What is happiness?
Since dogs can’t use “hooman” language to tell us if they’re happy, we have to gauge happiness by observing their own style of doggy language—their facial expressions, body language, and gestures.
To understand what doggy behaviors mean, we dug into some scientific studies, and then checked in with our puppers to capture the behaviors the research described.
Snuggle up with your pup and see how many of these signs of happiness you’ve observed in your furry pal.
10 signs your dog is happy
1. Relaxed posture or belly up happiness
Does your dog relax belly up with all four paws floppy? Floppiness, or being relaxed and not tense, is one sign your dog is happy! Experts call happiness a positive emotional state. We call it belly-up blissfulness…
2. Happy smiles 🐶
The other day, a family member said, “Look! Chloe must be happy! She’s smiling!” Her mouth was slightly open and she had a relaxed, happy expression. So we checked to see if her smiling was a sign of happiness. Turns out it’s true!
There are many scientific sources (Veterinary Partners was our source) explaining that a relaxed mouth and face with teeth showing (in a non-aggressive way) are signs your dog is happy.
3. Healthy appetite 🥕
If your dog is not eating, it can be a sign of a bigger issue such as stress or illness. On the flip side, if your dog is eating, chances are he or she is happy. Yes, a good appetite is another measure of happiness or contentment for our puppers.
4. Happy sniffs 🌤
Have you ever walked outside and breathed in the smell of crisp autumn air or a warm spring breeze and felt happy?
It turns out enjoying scents and smells is happiness for dogs, too.
If your dog’s nose is to the ground sniffing all the sniffs, know that he or she is probably loving life.
By giving your dog the chance to explore the world, your dog is most likely happy. You can even encourage and foster this happiness by taking your dog on a sniffari—a sniffing walk.
5. Play bow
That classic posture of your dog’s wiggly rear up in the air and front paws and chest on the floor is a sign that your dog is up for some fun!
6. Happy to greet you at the door
At our home, all we have to do is to say “Where’s Papa?” and our dogs will go running to the door in anticipation of greeting their human with tail-wagging happiness. From the look on their faces, it’s easy to recognize that they’re happy.
But does science back up our observations? Yes, and more!
According one study, dogs who had been apart from their pet parent and from food, chose to greet their pet parent before choosing to eat.
7. Leaning into you
Has your pupper ever leaned against your leg or leaned into your hand as you scratch the chin? This small physical act is a sign that your dog is enjoying you. Almost every morning my dog leans against my leg and I give her scritches under her chin or on her belly.
8. Happy play or activities 🎾
What’s your dog’s favorite thing to do? Fetch? Agility training? Hide and seek? The next time you’re doing one of your dog’s favorite things, watch your dog’s facial expression and body position. Most likely, your dog looks happy.
In our pack, our Goldendoodle is happiest when she’s playing fetch and our Labrador Retriever is happiest when we go for a sniffari walk. BTW…if you’re like us and always on the lookout for fun activities to do with your dog, check out our post, 14 Games to Play with Your Dog.
9. Tail wagging…or even a full body wiggle
Does your dog wag his or her tail when you walk in the door? Maybe even gets so excited the wag turns into a full body wiggle? That’s doggo happiness!
By the way, the next time you greet your pupper watch to see if your dog’s tail wags primarily to the right.
According to one research study in Current Biology, dogs showed more tail wags to the right side more often when greeting their pet parents. However, when greeting other lesser familiar stimuli such as a stranger or a cat, dogs’ tails wagged to the left.
10. Doggy laughter 🤣
Number 10 on our list of signs your dog is happy, may surprise you.
According to this UCLA.edu article Animals Laugh too, animals— including dogs—vocalize during play as a sign of laughter. So, if you ever think your dog has a case of the giggles while playing, you’re on to something!
Also, since dogs playing together can look rough-and-tumble, the sounds can help provide an auditory clue to the physical play behavior.
Bonus: Want to boost your own happiness?
Finally, do you need a happiness boost? Try giving your dog a gift!
Yes, according to research on happiness, giving your dog a toy or a gift can actually increase your own happiness levels.
In a recent study from the Journal of Positive Psychology, pet parents who spent money on their furry pals were happier than the people who spent money on themselves.
Personally, I think there’s no better gift to give or to receive than time spent bonding with our puppers.
The next time your dog flops belly up on the couch, leans into your leg, or shares a play bow, you can smile and know that your dog is showing you a sign that he or she is truly happy.
And when your dog is happy, everyone is happy. 😀