It’s International Dog Day! Learn how to tell if your dog is happy


s a dog owner, it’s important to be aware of what your pooch is trying to tell you. It’s believed that dogs have the capability to experience plenty of different emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, and even love.

In celebration of International Dog Day on Friday, August 26, experts at Napo Pet Insurance are sharing their insight on happy dog habits. Ever wondered what your dog’s tail is telling you, or even what that woof really means?

Napo’s expert vet, Dr Louisa Lane, says: “Your dog’s body language and even their facial expressions can tell us a lot about their mood and how they’re feeling. It’s important as pet owners that we are able to recognise some of these more subtle behaviours so we can understand whether our pets are feeling happy and relaxed, or whether they feel uneasy and anxious”.

Nothing makes pet owners happier than knowing their fur baby is happy, and there are a few ways you can work this out.

How can I tell if my dog is happy?

Tears in their eyes

Yes, dogs can cry. A study inspired by a scientist’s own dog found that canines are capable of welling up with joy, just like we do, when they’re reunited with their owners after long periods of separation. The study was published by Current Biology.

“We found that dogs shed tears associated with positive emotions,” said the study’s co-author Takefumi Kikusui, noting that the tears may be due to a release of oxytocin.

Oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone”, has previously been found in dogs and their human owners during interactions. The new findings suggest that the release of oxytocin solidifies the bond between humans and dogs.

“Dogs have become a partner of humans, and we can form bonds,” said Kikusui. “In this process, it is possible that the dogs that show teary eyes during interaction with the owner would be cared for by the owner more.”

Telling tails

Wagging of any kind signifies emotional engagement, but the speed and direction of the wag indicate different moods. They will tell you what kind of emotion the dog is engaged in and, unfortunately, a wagging tail doesn’t necessarily mean a happy dog.

A high tail position with rapid circular wagging which can even wiggle the dog’s entire body is a sure-fire, well-known sign of a happy dog.

Downturned tails or even tails between legs signify a dog is frightened or anxious.

Giving the eye

Yes, dogs can give you the eye to show you how happy they are. A gentle and relaxed gaze with frequent blinking and head tilts shows a pooch is in a good mood and is likely to melt your pet-parent heart.

And if that’s not cute enough, dogs can also smile to show their glee. An upturn at the corners of a soft, open mouth and even a tiny bit of teeth on show indicates your dog is happy and relaxed.

However, “whale eye”, where you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes, can sometimes indicate that your dog feels uncomfortable or stressed.

Relaxed and leaning in

It doesn’t get much more endearing than when your dog leans their relaxed body into you, whether they join you on the sofa (if that’s something you allow in your household) or simply lean against your feet, this is a sign your dog is happy in your company and trusts you being close to them. Even leaning fondly into your hand as you stroke them shows your dog wants you close and is happy to have your attention.

You can often tell if your pooch is enjoying your company and attention if you stop touching them and they come back to you craving more!

Bowing down

Also known as the “play bow”, when a dog lowers its chest and raises its bottom, he or she is showing their fun side and asking you to play along. Don’t worry, you don’t have to strike any yoga poses in return, engaging your dog in their favourite game is the perfect response to a play bow and will turn their good mood into a great one.

Barking mad

Some dogs can get pretty vocal when they’re happy and they want you to know it. Happy barks are higher pitched and usually only come in short bursts. Often dogs will show you their happy bark when they greet you, are about to be fed or they feel a walk coming on.

Barking can also be a sign that something is wrong though, so note your dog’s whole body language before interpreting that bark.

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