Our dogs are more than just “pets.” They are family.
They bring joy, comfort, and unconditional love to our lives every day. Whether they’re wagging their tails, licking our faces, or snuggling next to us on the couch, their love is pure and heartwarming.
Of course, they have no (no?) control over their lives. We decide when and where and how they exercise, what they eat, who they play with, and every other decision big and small.
One of those big decisions, at least in my opinion, should be this: How do I make my dog happy?
It seems like the least we can do for them considering all they do for us! So, let’s find out what happiness is in a dog and how we can deliver it every day.
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How do I know if my dog is happy?
Dogs and humans have several things in common. Do you remember about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? We cannot feel true happiness unless we meet our basic needs. The same goes for our dogs, and it’s our job to meet their needs. That should be the baseline: food, water, warmth, rest, and–going up a level on the pyramid of needs–security. We shouldn’t question providing those for our dogs, and we certainly shouldn’t punish them by taking away one of those needs.
With that foundation in place, how do you know if your dog is happy?
Unless you collect saliva data to measure oxytocin levels (if only!) you have to rely on your senses. What do you observe?
- Does your dog have a loose and wobbly body?
- Are his eyes soft? Instead of staring or staring, is his focus soft?
- The barking is happy and stubborn rather than angry or defensive–I always think of Cooper’s excited barking when I throw his toys as opposed to when another dog has the nerve to walk past our house.
- Does he have floppy ears? Obviously this varies by breed, but perked-up ears may not indicate a happy and relaxed state.
- Is your dog open to play, pets, walks, or anything that generally brings joy?
The five things to watch out for are generalizations. They won’t be consistent across breeds or individuals, but it’s a good place to start. For example, Cooper LOVES to go for walks. If I ask him to walk or pick up his leash, and he doesn’t jump… that tells me he’s unhappy, in pain, sad, whatever. On the flip side, he really doesn’t like much physical affection, so if he resists petting, well, that doesn’t necessarily tell me something.
Think about your dog in the context of these questions and see if you can come up with a happiness profile for your pup.
On the other hand, do you recognize 5 common signs of stress your dog? Also know what signs of stress your dog is giving off, and by putting together your solid list of emotional indicators, you can tell what your dog is feeling at a glance.
Want to dig into happiness a little more? Check your dog against the “five freedoms” in this post: Is your dog happy??
What really makes a dog happy?
I wrote a post about the five love languages for dogs. Here, I’ve shared some silly ideas for what can fill your dog’s cup.
In reality, every dog is very different–just like us humans. What makes me happy (reading in bed after a long day) may not work for someone else (John likes watching movies).
General dog fun items include:
- walking or walking
- play sessions with toys
- curled up on the couch
But your dog may have something extra special. Maybe swimming. Or playing tug in the backyard. Maybe your dog goes bananas over frozen yogurt or a soothing massage. Whatever it is, find something that will make your dog’s life easier, and make time to do it as often as possible.
How can I make my dog happy?
True happiness comes from safety, security, love, trust, and–of course–finding ways to bring joy into the everyday. A few little things I do for the Coop:
- This morning, I added a fried egg to his breakfast.
- Last weekend, we let him take us on a long walk. We let him sniff whatever direction he chose and follow him.
- I subscribe to BarkBox because toys are life for him. I have a link for duplicate toys if you want to try them for your dog: click here for the best. Cooper is happy to scream, chase, pull, and remove them all.
- He gets a heating pad on his sore hip every night. Does it make him happy at the moment? Probably not, though I bet it feels good for him. Happiness will come later when he can chase his squeakies with more mobility! For our older bubbas, making a senior dog happy usually comes down to security and comfort.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- Does my dog need another dog? (Usually this answer is no… but it doesn’t hurt to consider!)
- Does he prefer to be inside or outside?
- Is my dog bored at home?
- Are we training enough?
- Is my dog getting enough exercise? (Also, often the answer is no…)
- Should we see a vet?
- Are we spending enough quality time together? Playing, walking, cuddling, whatever quality means to you.
So many options! Get to know your dog’s personal preferences, and cater to them as often as possible!
How does YOUR dog show happiness?
What are the signs you see from your puppy? How do you know if your dog is happy or sad, tired or depressed, happy or bored? Are there any clues you see?
And what steps do you take to ensure your dog’s happiness? I’d love to learn from you and build this list of fun ideas for all of our pups!
After all, they deserve it!
Photos: IvoryMix, Hanson Lu on Unsplash, and Laula Co on Unsplash