A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

12 Telltale Signs Your Dog Is Happy

Or should that be tell-tail signs? Either way, if your pup exhibits these behaviors on a regular basis, it's a good thing!

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amazing portrait of young crossbreed dog (german shepherd) during sunset in grass

Decoding your dog’s behavior

Dogs don’t affect an air of aloofness like cats (and some humans), and they don’t play hard to get. If they’re happy, chances are you’ll know it, between the tail-wagging, licks, and yelps of joy. Despite that, pet parents often wonder whether their pups are truly happy on a consistent basis. After all, they can’t tell you with words, so you have to figure out what their behavior means. And dogs do sometimes get mad at you, so if that’s the case, you’ll want to remedy that problem ASAP. But if they’re exhibiting the following behaviors, you can rest easy: They are indeed as happy as you’ve been hoping they are. Then, find out the signs your cat is happy, too.

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French bulldog dog waiting for owner at the window

They greet you when you get home

Your pup may be patiently waiting for you right at the door when you turn the key in the lock—or, in many cases, is jumping up and down and barely able to contain his excitement. Whatever your dog’s personality and particular greeting style, the message is loud and clear: He’s happy you’re back. “When your dog meets you at the door, it’s a sign that you two have a positive relationship and that they are eagerly awaiting interaction with you,” says Rebecca Woodruff, an animal behavior consultant for Best Friends Animal Society. If your dog’s enthusiasm suddenly starts to wane when you come home, something could be wrong: Lethargy may be a sign that you need to call the vet.

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A red and white mixed breed dog lying in the grass and receiving a belly rub
Mary Swift/Shutterstock

They expose their belly to you

“A dog that exposes its belly to you—usually with a slightly open mouth, light panting, and wagging tail—[is exhibiting] a sign of trust,” says Evelyn Kass-Williamson, DVM, an integrative veterinarian who specializes in pet nutrition. It’s also a sign that your dog would be delighted to get a little belly rub. If you’ve got a feline in your family, too, exposing her belly also one of the sure signs your cat trusts you—though she might not actually want a belly rub.

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Naughty dog left home alone, sitting in the middle of mess on the floor. Disobedient dog with bad behavior. Puppy chews everything while teeht are growing

They mind their manners

Dogs who exhibit destructive or aggressive behaviors—such as tearing up furniture or clothing, biting, or snarling—are generally under stress, anxiety, or perhaps even bored, according to PetMD. (These behaviors may be more likely to occur when you’re away from the house, so check out these smart tips to keep your pet busy while you’re at work all day.) Conversely, when dogs exhibit good behavior, it’s a deeper sign that they’re feeling content. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, and some breeds are feistier than others, but a dog with good behavior and manners is generally a happy dog.

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sleepy dogs
David Charles Cottam/Shutterstock

They cuddle up with you on the couch

If your pup is allowed on the couch and hops up to curl up next to you, this is a reaffirming sign that he’s happy to be around you. “Dogs are social creatures and like to sleep next to the individuals—people, dogs, or other animals—that they’re bonded to,” says Woodruff. “This behavior means they trust you and want to be close to you.” These are the other signs your dog really trusts you.

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girl and dog sennenhund breed the dog loves his mistress leans on her. the hostess's legs the dog and the leash

They lean into you

It’s one of the most endearing things in the world when a pup rests its body against yours. Like cuddling with you on the couch, it’s also a sign that they enjoy your company and trust you enough to be that close. A leaning pooch is a happy pooch. On that note, so is one that follows you around the house!

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A playful black and red Dachshund mixed breed dog in a play bow position with a ball in its mouth
Mary Swift/Shutterstock

They assume the “play bow” position

The “play bow” is a common position that dogs assume when they’re feeling happy and playful. What is it, exactly? “The front end is down, tail is straight up and may be wagging, ears are forward, eyes are steady on you,” says Dr. Kass-Williamson. “The play bow is a clear invitation to play, chase, or wrestle.” Make sure you know these other 19 things your dog wants from you, too.

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Hungry labrador retriever is feeding at home.
Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Their appetite is healthy

A dog that’s eager to chow down is generally feeling happy, healthy, and content. If your pup refuses to eat or has a diminished appetite, it could be a sign that they’re not feeling well, or that they’re experiencing anxiety or stress. It could also be something more serious. If your pup isn’t eating like his or her usual self, talk to your vet. Here are some other possible reasons that your dog might not be eating.

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They tilt their head when looking at you

We all know that adorable head tilt accompanied by an inquisitive look that dogs love to give. Dr. Kass-Williamson says it’s a sign your pooch is in a good mood. “This may also be the look you get close to dinner time,” she adds. “Their ears are down, but their eyes are focused on you and their tail may be wagging.” Wondering what else your pooch is trying to tell you just by looking at you? Here’s what your dog’s facial expressions really mean.

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dog with leather leash waiting to go walkies
Javier Brosch/Shutterstock

They get excited when the leash comes out

“If your dog has positive experiences when you take them outside, they make the connection that their leash or harness is a sign of a good time,” says Woodruff. This usually sets them off into a happy dog dance that consists of jumping up and down, spinning in circles, or tapping their feet. By the way, this is how much exercise your dog really needs.

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Purebred Jack Russel Terrier dog outdoors on a sunny summer day.

They get the zoomies

“Dogs love to run. When they are very happy, they need a way to burn off excess energy. They will often run in circles around the house or yard multiple times,” says Dr. Kass-Williamson. “When running, their tail is up, mouth is open, and tongue is often hanging out. They may even bark to let you know how happy they are. Just remember to get out of the way!” Don’t miss these other reasons behind your dog’s weird behaviors.

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dog wagging

They do a full-body wag

A wag that engages your dog’s entire body is a clear sign of joyfulness. This might happen before eating, when you wake up in the morning, or before a fun car ride. But it’s important to note that not all tail wags indicate happiness—especially stiff wags that don’t engage the rest of the body. Some types of wags can indicate fear, aggression, or anxiety. Check out these additional common dog “facts” that are actually false.

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Purebred beagle dog lying on white sofa in luxury Hotel room
Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

They appear calm and relaxed

Happy dogs aren’t always overt about their happiness, so if you’ve got a particularly chill dog, don’t worry. Being calm and easygoing are also signs that your furry BFF is content. “Their ears are up and forward, mouth is slightly open, they’re lightly panting, and their eyes are soft,” says Dr. Kass-Williamson. To keep your dog happy and healthy, make sure to avoid these mistakes every dog owner makes at some point.

Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a Phoenix-based veteran lifestyle reporter covering home and garden, pets, wellness and travel for outlets such as Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Insider and Reader's Digest. She received her bachelor's degree from Franklin College of Indiana's Pulliam School of Journalism, graduating magna cum laude. She has a second bachelor's degree in Philosophy.