10 Signs Your Dog is Happy

Sweet Puppy Dog Eyes

Happy dogs have relaxed eyes and eyelids. They blink often and their gaze is soft, says Beth Mullen, director of behavior and training at Washington Humane Society. Narrowed eyes and a hard gaze can indicate aggression, she says, while wide eyes, particularly if they whites are showing, could mean the dog is frightened.

Relaxed Ears

Ear shapes vary from breed to breed, but in general, happy dogs wear their ears in a relaxed fashion, says Mullen. One ear may be cocked up, or both may be loose and floppy. If a dog’s ears are pinned back, it could be a sign of fear or aggression, says Dr. Rachel Barrack of New York City’s Animal Acupuncture. Ears pricked forward often indicate that a dog is interested in something that is going on around them.

Relaxed Mouth

Happy dogs sometimes appear to smile, says Dr. Georgette Wilson, DVM, the director of scientific and regulatory affairs and resident veterinarian at Hartz. The mouth is open, and while some teeth may be visible, the animal is not baring them or curling back its lips in an aggressive manner, she says. Open mouth panting should not be confused with smiling, as this could be a sign the dog is stressed or overheated, says Barrack.

Tail Movement

“Happy dogs wag their tails in a manner that involves the whole body,” says Barrack. If the tail wags stiffly but doesn’t shake the rest of the body, your dog may be telling you she’s alert and assessing a new situation, she says.

“If the tail wag is soft and loose and typically held in a more neutral position on the body, this is likely a happy dog,” says Wilhelm. 

Healthy Appetite

Content canines have good appetites, says Barrack. While not every dog is ravenous, she says, a sudden drop in appetite could be a sign something is wrong. Conversely, an unexpected increase in appetite can also be a symptom of disease.

Lolling Tongue

Ever wonder why dogs stick out their tongues when they’re sleeping? Usually it’s because they’re so relaxed they can’t be bothered to keep it in their mouths, says Wilson.


Healthy, happy adult dogs usually sleep for up to 16 hours per day, says Mullen. “If your dog isn’t sleeping that much, it could be a sign of distress,” she says.

Lean In

If a dog reacts to pets by staying close and even leaning in to your hand, it’s a good sign she’s enjoying the contact, says Wilhelm. Staying just out of reach or walking away could be a sign she needs more space.

Rear’s Up

A dog is telling you she’s up for fun when she play bows, says Wilhelm. In a play bow, a dog lowers her chest to the ground but keeps her rear in the air. “It's a sign that a dog is inviting play and wants to interact,” she says.

They’re Excited to See You

Happy dogs greet you at the door, get excited when you wake up, and keep an eye on you when they're playing in the dog park…unless their best canine friends are demanding all their attention, of course.

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