How to Tell if Your Dog is Happy
We have had five dogs over the course of the 20+ years we’ve lived in California. We started with Sally, who we got as a sweet little 8 week old pup. Then we added Tino about 2 years later. When Sally passed away we adopted Becca, when Tino passed away we adopted Jack and then when Becca passed, we adopted Maggie and here we are with Jack & Maggie, our eleven year old seniors.
Each of our dogs has had a distinct personality and way of being in the world. Sally was our most playful dog, probably since we had her since she was a little pup and that’s what life was – fun & games. She would play every single day and if we forgot to give her playtime, she would insist upon it, going and getting a toy and dropping it at our feet or pushing it into our hands. It was easy to tell when she was happiest because she would climb in our lap, plop down facing us and hug and kiss us like crazy. We were treated to that loving up almost every single day.
Tino was a much more serious boy. He had such a hard life before we rescued him so he never took his life for granted and lived to the fullest everyday, but in a very solemn manner. We could get him riled up a bit sometimes and he would spaz out a little – he wasn’t a very graceful romper. He would race around with Sally and their playmate Lucy, but mostly Tino was a thinker and would guard his yard and his family with somber diligence. I could tell when he was particularly happy as he would also come to us for some loving – he wasn’t quite as aggressive about it as Sally, but he would bow his head and lean into us for some pets.
Becca was a working dog before we adopted her, carrying a pack for her owner, so if it was possible, she was even more serious than Tino. She would stand next to me at attention until I released her…even though she wasn’t “working” for us, it was ingrained in her. If I told her to “go lie down”, she would break her stance and lie down and relax. It took probably 6-8 months for her to realize she was retired and no longer on duty. Eventually, we learned she loved to play fetch, so that became her happy place. If she hadn’t had so many orthopedic issues, she would have willingly fetched for hours with a big smile on her face.
Jack & Maggie are pretty laid back dogs and not very playful, probably due to their difficult history. We can get Jack riled up and he’ll grab a toy and race around for a few minutes. Not so easy with Maggie. She will never puts anything in her mouth (except food of course) so she won’t pick up toys or Kongs or anything like that. If we’re playing with Jack, she’ll join in on the sidelines, running along with us, but she quickly gets overwhelmed and steps back into observer mode.
It’s easy to tell when Jack is his happiest – we get treated to this little dance:
Maggie, I’m not so sure how to tell when she’s “happy”, she’s so somber all the time. I think her happiest is when we open that door to let her out to play “find the food”. I mean, look at that smile.
How about your dog – how to do you tell when they are really happy?