Many owners worry about the mental state of their dog just as much as they do their own. They want to know whether their pooch is happy or not. It’s important!
Finding out, though, is a challenge. It’s not like your dog can just pipe up one evening and tell you that they’re feeling down in the dumps. You have to figure it out yourself.
Fortunately, dogs do help a little bit. When they feel happy or sad, their body language changes. What’s more, how they act is universal across the breeds, just like humans. It doesn’t matter whether you have a chocolate lab or a border collie; the way that they behave will be the same.
Are you ready to find out whether your dog is happy or sad? Here are some of the signs.
Signs That Your Dog Is Sad
The signs that your dog is sad are almost as visible as the signs that they are happy. Here’s are some of the things you need to watch out for.
- Hiding or walking away. Most dogs will do all they can to be as close to you as possible, including jumping up with excitement whenever they see you. But when they feel miserable or depressed, they are much more likely to hide or walk away. The reasons for doing this differ from one situation to the next. Sometimes, it is because something in the environment scares them. Other times, they just need some time out. If that’s the case, don’t follow them. Just let them get their feelings out of their system. Dogs bounce back.
- Their ears are low. When dogs feel happy, their ears flop around all over the place. But when they are miserable, they look pinned back, as if they’re stapled to the top of their head. Usually, this is a sign of stress and anxiety. The dog is trying to make itself look as small as possible because it senses danger.
- Tense posture. When dogs are unhappy, they will sometimes change their stance. Their muscles tighten, and they become ready to take action. Typically, they will arch their spine and put their head lower to the ground. They might also hold their head low and avoid eye contact. Sitting rigidly still like a statue is another sign that something is wrong.
- They engage in appeasement behavior. Dogs usually love it when you rub their bellies when they lie on their back. For many, it is a joy. Unhappy dogs, however, have trouble enjoying the moment. They can see it as a threat and, therefore, engage in appeasement behaviors. Sure, they’ll lie on their back, but they’ll remain tense and rigid, ready to fight you off if necessary.
- Tail tucked between the legs. Happy dogs don’t think twice about holding their tails high and wagging them in the air. Sad dogs, though, aren’t in the mood. They hold their tails low and, in some cases, between their legs. That’s not to say, however, that a flat tail means that your dog is miserable, but it is a good sign, especially if it persists.
Signs Of A Happy Dog
Fortunately, your dog also engages in several behaviors that show happiness too.
- Leaning into you. Dogs that feel happy with you as their owner will often automatically lean into your to show their affection. Sometimes they do this without thinking, but often it is so that you’ll hug them or pat them on the head. Attention like that can help to lift their mood.
- They want to play. When dogs are sad, they don’t want to do much other than sitting around and mope in the corner. A depressed dog might stay on its dog bed all day. Happy dogs, by contrast, always want to play. If your dog makes noises or indicates that it wants to go outside, then it is a good sign that it is in a good mood.
- A wagging tail. Having a wagging tail that is high in the air is the best sign of a happy dog. It is not necessarily iron-clad proof that your pet is in a good mood, but it is just about as good a sign as you can imagine.
- Floppy ears. As we discussed above, dogs with ears pinned back to their heads are usually scared. If their ears are floppy, it means the opposite – that’s why content and relaxed.
What To Do If Your Dog Isn’t Happy?
If your dog isn’t happy, you can sometimes feel at a loss about what to do. As an owner, you don’t always know what the best move is. Consoling a dog is nothing like providing emotional support to a person.
The first thing to do is remove or eliminate whatever it is in the environment that is making them sad. Tracking down what this is can be a challenge. If the problem is you, change your behavior. If it is something in a particular area, try to find out what it is. For instance, you might notice that your dog seems much happier whenever you take them away from the house. Or their happiness level could change depending on who you’re entertaining at night. Where possible, try to be scientific about it, making one adjustment at a time to see if that deals with the problem.
If your dog still isn’t happy, it could be a sign that they are ill. When pooches feel under the weather, they’re much more likely to keep themselves to themselves. They just don’t have the energy that they usually do to interact with you. If your dog doesn’t want to eat its food, then take it to the vet immediately for a checkup. It is better to be safe than sorry.
If your dog isn’t ill and there’s nothing in the environment that is freaking them out, then you may need to make lifestyle changes.
If you’re a busy person out at work all day, then your dog can get lonely and scared. Remember, dogs are pack animals. They evolved to live in groups. When there’s no one around, they feel afraid. They’re not sure how to cope. It freaks them out.
If your pet is at home for hours and hours every day, then you might need to hire a pet sitter to take care of them for an hour a day. It is an expense, but almost always worth it for the happiness of your dog.
Similarly, you might want to try bringing your pooch with you to work if your boss allows it. That lets them feel a part of a pack all day and reduces their stress levels.
Other lifestyle factors, like exercise, can also make a big difference in how your dog feels. Pooches that don’t get exercise can often slip into what looks like a depressed state. Being able to run around and enjoy themselves is a fundamental part of the life of a dog. If they’re not doing that, that they can feel low.
When it comes to your dog, you’ll never know for sure if they’re happy or not. However, they do provide you with some helpful signs that give you plenty of hints. Remember, a sad dog isn’t necessarily just sick and tired of life. It is invariably for a reason. The question is, what?
Most often, it has to do with illness or fear. If they feel unwell or are scared of something, that’ll show up in their body language.