5 Things Your Dog Does When They’re Happy

By helloBARK!
Updated on 30 March 2021
Expert Content

Does your dog wag their tail a lot?

This could be a sign that your canine companion is in a happy mood.

There are lots of behaviors that could indicate your dog is feeling extremely happy.

It’s important that dog owners are able to spot some of the tell-tell signs that their dog is happy, anxious or scared.

With this in mind, we spoke to six experts to shed light on some of the things that your dog does when they’re happy.

Our experts range from vets to dog behaviorists, professors to CEOs.

Downward facing dog (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Downward facing dog (Photo: Adobe Stock)

A Play Bow

Philip Tedeschi, Clinical Professor And Executive Director Of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection At The University of Denver

The new science of sentience suggests that dogs have a range of complex
emotions and cognitions like us. Although we want to be careful not to
require that dogs have to have human emotions in order for us to recognize
them, we know dogs share much of the same neurological structures and that
when investigated use the same parts of the brain as people do when feeling
love and affection.

An example would be that dogs use play to express friendship and happiness,
so body language, like a play bow, is an invitation to sharing in a loving
ritual. If a person responds by starting to play, a dog gets the message of

Labrador puppy eats grass (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Labrador puppy eats grass (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Playing With Toys And Treats

Heather Gibbs, Dog Behavior Consultant And Business Manager For Courteous Canine

• Zoomies! – Frenetic random activity periods, or FRAPS (like the popular coffee drink!), can happen when your dog is feeling excited and happy. When your dog has these zoomies, they are often running around at a rapid pace, bouncing and bounding around playfully. Zoomies make for some fun photo and video opportunities.

• Nudging your hand for more pets – The next time you are petting your pup, be sure to pause and take a break to see if they would like the petting to continue. This form of interaction is a very polite and respectful way to help gauge your dog’s reaction to petting and hugs. Not all pups like to be hugged or pets in certain spots! By stopping and asking your dog if they would like to continue, you give them choice in the interaction and improve your overall bond with each other.

• Stopping to smell the roses on your walks – Dogs have super sniffing capabilities that have been used in detection work and heroic missions of search and rescue! While loose leash walking is a wonderful skill for every dog to have, it is also important to stop and smell the roses on your walks. By letting your dog stop to sniff (safe) items on their walks, you will have a happier, more relaxed, and sleepy pup. These sniff walks can be affectionately referred to as sniffaris!

• Relaxed body language – Some indicators of happy body language can include: Relaxed, open mouth, softened eyes, ears held in their resting/normal position, tail wags, raised hind end in the air with front legs low to the ground (this is called a play bow), relaxed breathing.

• Play with a toy/treats – Happy dogs have a variety of toys and new treat items in their daily routine. Experiment with dog-safe food snacks and treats that your pup may have never had before. Hide and rotate toys to make them feel like new again! Changing up your dog’s environment in this way can make for a very happy pup.

Golden Retriever helps dog owner work from home (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Golden Retriever helps dog owner work from home (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Happy “Smiling” Expression

Jamie Freyer, DVM and Guest Contributor For Honest Paws

Much like humans, dogs have a multitude of ways to express their emotions. Most of us are familiar with the main behaviors that we associate with happiness in dogs, like a happy “smiling” expression and a wagging tail. But dogs do have more subtle signs of happiness as well.

Facial cues such as relaxed eyes and ears or a lolling tongue can indicate that a dog is happy. Some dogs will vocalize, making a little grumble of contentment when finding a particularly comfy spot to nap. Other dogs may even bark with joy if something is especially exciting.

Some dogs throw themselves into their happiness, quite literally! A happy dog may bounce with delight, or run frantically around the room – a behavior also known by dog owners as “the zoomies”.

Mastiff caught on camera (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Mastiff caught on camera (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Happy Dogs Seek Out Their Person

Heather Mishefske, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Certified Behaviour Consultant, Owner Of emBARK

• Our dogs give us so much pertinent information about their internal emotions through body language. A dog will display loose body motions in contexts when they are happy. Low loose tail wagging, a relaxed mouth, eyes that are relaxed without any wrinkles in their brow and their body that is moving towards their person. Body language cues are the biggest indicators of just how a dog is feeling under those conditions. Learning your dog’s body language cues is the best way to understand what they are feeling in each moment.

• Happy dogs offer playtime to their person. This is exhibited through play invitations like a play bow with their paws outstretched and rear end up in the air. Another way to ask for play is to turn their bodies into a C formation and check you with their hips as they are wagging their happy tail.

• Dogs who are happy offer discretionary effort when asked to perform a cue. Training using positive reinforcement produces a happier learner who exhibits body language that aligns with a willing partner. Research shows us that dogs trained with positive methods have lower levels of cortisol in their saliva and demonstrate more stress behaviors. Consent based training produces happier learners!

• Zooming and jumping is included in a happy dog’s repertoire. Called Frenetic Random Activity Periods, zoomies can come from exuberantly happy energy. Dogs often jump up to greet their humans after an absence, attempting to greet them by getting to their face.

• Happy dogs seek out their person. Whether it’s while on a hike, while on the couch, or while moving around the yard, a dog who is happy with their relationship with their person will seek out their person. Dogs who feel comfortable and trust from their relationships will voluntarily seek out that person to be near. The most vulnerable time for a dog is while they are sleeping, and that they seek you out before doing so is a big leap of love.

Yellow Labrador in his crate (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Yellow Labrador in his crate (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Higher-Pitched Bark

Brandon Werber, Founder And CEO of Airvet

When a dog is content, they exhibit relaxed ears, mouth, and body. Generally, they’ll wag their tails and lay on their belly in a playful manner when feeling happy. Along with a healthy appetite, a happy dog will lean into your hand while being pet, showing their joy in the affection they’re receiving. Another way to tell if your dog is happy can be based on their interaction with other dogs. Their playfulness will show. The same is true for the level of excitement they’ll display when they see their owner for the first time in the day. Dogs use non-verbal communication to convey their emotions however, even a higher-pitched bark can be a way dogs express happiness through a more verbal form of communicating.

Leans Into You

Dr Michelle Burch, DVM For Safe Hounds Pet Insurance

• Tail Position – A happy dog will have a high and wagging tail compared to a low, tucked tail.

• Relaxed Body – Happy dogs will have a relaxed body position with ears up and forward, mouth slightly open, eyes soft, tail wagging, and light panting. Dogs that are not happy or anxious are typically more rigid with wide eyes.

• Playful – If you see your dog enter a downward dog position or “play bow,” this indicates your dog is happy and ready to play. They usually will enter this position with a toy in their mouth or nearby prepared for you to play tug of war or fetch. Your dog may also be wagging their tail and give a small bark to get your attention.

• Leans into you – When your dog starts to lean into you for comfort and pets, this is a sign they are relaxed and happy. This tale-tale sign means that your dog is not having to be on guard or is anxious about a situation. Leaning can occur while standing up or while cuddling on the couch.

• Expose their belly – When a dog exposes their belly to you, this is a sign of trust and happiness. The abdomen is one of the most vulnerable areas on a dog’s body and presenting this for belly rubs means they are happy and calm.

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