If you are like many dog owners, you may sometimes wish there was a way to better understand your dog’s emotions, seeing as they can’t exactly tell us how they’re feeling. 

Dogs do not have the same facial flexibility and control that humans have. Anthropomorphizing dogs by giving their behaviors human interpretations could lead you to misunderstand your dog and accidentally train them to exhibit unusual behaviors like “smiling.” 

Pay attention instead to the parts that the dog can control, such as tongue position, muscle tension, and how open or closed the mouth is. Your dog’s body language can reveal a lot as well – the tail and body posture convey information about your dog’s emotional state.

Answering the question – is your dog happy? – involves:

  • Detecting signs of fear and anxiety
  • Knowing the dog’s habits and social behaviors
  • Becoming aware of how your dog feels about you

Dogs have varying body types and facial structures, and they all express themselves differently. A sign of happiness, sadness, fear, or love in one dog breed might not be a reliable signal of that emotion in other dog breeds. The more time you spend bonding with your dog, the better you’ll get at understanding your dog’s emotional cues.

Signs Your Dog Trusts You

Does your dog trust you? is as vital a question as Is Your Dog Happy? Relaxation in your presence is a sign that your dog is content and that they trust you. 

You can tell your dog is relaxed from its tail wag, the looseness in the muscles around its body, the softness of its gaze, and the speed of its breathing. A dog’s belly is a vulnerable spot, so a dog rolling over and exposing its belly to you is a trusting gesture. 

Signs Your Dog Doesn’t Trust You

If your dog seems tense or uncomfortable around you and tries to leave or hide, your dog might have difficulty trusting you or humans in general.

Consider your pet’s history when trying to win its trust. If a dog has had a difficult upbringing or has had traumatic encounters with people in the past, it might show defensive or even aggressive behaviors around humans. It might take a while for the dog to accept that you are not a threat. 

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Happy Living with You

Many dog owners believe that a dog’s wagging tail or “smiling” face is a sign of happiness, but dog behaviors are more complex than most owners think. 

When a dog wags its tail, notice the tempo and how the dog moves its tail. Slow, relaxed, rhythmic tail movement is more likely to indicate happiness. Rigid, tense, and rapid movement of a dog’s tail can signify anxiety or tension.

In addition to your dog’s actions toward you, observe how much the dog eats, drinks, and plays. A happy, healthy dog will eat, drink, sleep, and play throughout the day. A dog that does not eat or drink enough, lays around all day, or shows abnormal, repetitive behaviors might be stressed, frustrated, or experiencing a health problem.

Some behaviors, like chewing, are natural in moderation, especially if you provide your dog with appropriate toys to chew. A stressed or unhappy dog might take these behaviors to extremes and cause damage to your home in an expression of unhappiness. 

How to Tell If Your Dog Loves You

If you are like most dog owners, you aren’t content with learning how to tell if your dog is happy or sad. You want to see signs your dog loves you. A dog that loves you will not only be relaxed in your presence but show excitement and energy when you are around. You should see their eyes light up when they enter the room.

A dog will often lower the front of its body and keep the tail end elevated when it wants to play. Eagerness to play is a good sign that the dog sees you as friendly. If you train your dog consistently to follow commands, your dog can demonstrate love as a desire to please you.

Forming a Bond of Trust and Love with Your Dog

If your dog is still wary around you, your behavior can overcome your pet’s reluctance and help your pet see you as a provider and a source of guidance. 

Avoid hand motions that approach a dog’s face from above, as they can give the impression that you are about to hit the dog or try to grab them. Instead, approach the dog with your hand from below. Allow the dog to sniff your hand and get used to it before trying to pet them.

Train your dog to associate you with rewards. Simple rewards like dog treats or bits of food can lead your dog to associate you with pleasant experiences. Be consistent in your behavior toward the dog. Once dogs can predict and anticipate your actions, they will be less anxious and more willing to trust you.

Avoid punishing dogs too harshly or punishing them for behaviors they cannot control. Use positive reinforcement to encourage behaviors you want and reward them for those behaviors.

Show Your Dog You Care with Penny Paws

Penny Paws has animal clinics in Dallas, Fort Worth, Richland Hills, and Grand Prairie, TX. We’re here to help you with any questions or concerns you may have about your pet. If the question of your dog’s happiness weighs on your mind, schedule an appointment at the Penny Paws clinic near you for a wellness check for your pet and for a veterinarian’s advice on how to bond with your dog and help provide it the happiest life possible.