How to Tell If Your Dog Is Happy or Sad

It’s hard to distinguish between a joyful dog, an “okay” dog, and a sad dog. Our canine companions’ inability to speak makes it feel like us doggie parents need to act like psychics or prophets.

When our dogs lick their paws, we can’t tell whether they are just bored, anxious, or in pain. Usually, they groom themselves to feel a little comfort.

On the other hand, you’ll know they’re in a good mood when your pup is social at the dog park and friendly with other pets.

So how can you tell if your dog is happy or sad? Find out whether dogs are capable of sadness and the signs of happiness and sadness in dogs. We also share what triggers these emotions for our furry friends! 

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happy dog signs

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Happy

It’s easier to notice the signs of a happy dog than the signs of a sad one. In fact, they are full of joy when our furry friends open their mouth wide as if they are smiling. 

Here are some great ways to tell if your dog is happy:

  • Floppy ears. When their ears are well-rested or naturally falling from their heads instead of being pinned back, chances are, your dog is happy. 
  • Body wriggle and wagging tail. A relaxed and soft body that wriggles like jelly often means they’re excited and feeling great, whereas an unrelaxed and tensed body is a sign of aggression or sadness.
  • Friendly to everyone. If your pup is social at the dog park, friendly with other family pets, and not overly aggressive to new animals or humans, these are all signs they’re in a good mood.
  • Play bow. A play bow is a position where your dog lowers their chest to the ground but keeps their rear in the air. When they do this, it means they are up for a game.
  • Obedient attitude. Just like us, dogs tend to show good behavior when they’re in a good mood. It means they’re mentally stimulated and at a great state of mind.
happy dog

Can Dogs Get Sad?

Dogs are not always as stable as we think and they do experience the blues as well. In fact, they can be diagnosed with depression

Dog emotions are real but they’re less complex than that of humans, just like how their brains are smaller than ours. The sadness that our fur babies feel is usually straightforward and simplistic. 

We get depressed because of chemical imbalances, emotional, and psychological experiences. Our dogs can get sad as a reaction to immediate surroundings and experiences, such as a shift in a routine or home. 

Other times, although rarely, it can be a traumatic past that caused sadness-adjacent emotions like anxiety or shyness.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Sad

Detecting your pet’s negative emotions, and maybe even depression can usually be more evident in their actions and behaviors rather than how they look. And even if it’s not depression, it’s still a problem that must be addressed.

Sometimes, it can be obvious in their facial expression too. If you miss this sign and notice others, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad guardian. Dogs are unique and some are more likely to show emotion than others. 

Here are some signs that your dog may be sad:

  • Sleep changes. The average adult dog sleeps 12 to 14 hours a day. Puppies sleep up to 20 hours a day. If they sleep more often, less often, or in a restless way then it can be a sign of sadness or a more serious medical condition. 
  • Lack of interest. An apathetic dog could indicate that they are not feeling well. This happens when they lose excitement during walks, receiving treats, or playtime. Withdrawing socially, especially from people, is also a sign that there is something wrong.
  • Appetite changes. Does your dog get extremely hungry? Or are they suddenly not interested to munch on their favorite food? Then they could be sad.
  • Excessive grooming. It’s difficult for dogs to tell whether they’re physically or emotionally in pain. Sometimes, they lick their paws or whole body to “fix” their feelings. Or maybe it could be pain from a bacterial infection, eczema, joint pain, or dry skin. 
sad dog signs

Why Dogs Get Sad

Our furry friends’ personalities are distinct from anyone else’s, so the cause of their sadness may vary. 

Here are some of the possible reasons why a dog may be sad:

  • Moving to a new house
  • Loss of a fellow dog or owner
  • Jealousy due to a new spouse, child, pet, etc.
  • Change in the regular schedule of eating, walking, and other routines
  • When they see us sad.

How to Make Your Dog Happy

The good news about having upset dogs is that this feeling doesn’t last long! However, if yours seem unusually happy all the time, or their behavior changes significantly, this can be a sign of depression. 

Start with a check-up at the vet. A thorough examination is needed to guarantee that there is no underlying medical problem causing your dog’s behavioral symptoms. 

A bit of effort on your part in observing your dog will help to pinpoint when the signs began and identify what probably caused the behavior.

If your dog is diagnosed with depression, then follow your vet’s recommended treatment, dosage, and time for taking antidepressants. Most dogs who go on prescription antidepressants only need them for 6-12 months but always talk to your vet about the right treatment plan.

If you believe that your dog is not experiencing any physical pain and is just sad, then here are some things that you can do to cheer them up:

  • If the death of another pet is what you think is causing their anxiety, then get a new dog for them or let them socialize with other pets in the park. 
  • Praise your dog and reward him with treats when he seems particularly animated and happy to encourage them to help themselves.
  • Spend more time with them. You can play with their favorite toy, go for a walk, go for a ride in the car, and even snuggle up together.
  • Try taking the natural route by using aromatherapy, tonics, and probiotics to help them improve their wellness. 

Watch this video to learn more about what you can do about your dog’s depression.

As doggie parents, part of our responsibility includes interpreting our dog’s body language to gauge their state of mind and well-being. If they seem happy, do your best to maintain and even improve their circumstances. If they seem upset, then try to cheer them up.

Another thing you have to do when your furry companion is lonely is to look for other symptoms that may indicate physiological issues like arthritis, abdominal pain, etc. As always, take them to the vet as soon as you notice an unusual symptom. Remember, a healthy dog is a happy dog!

Most of all, make them happy in a way that caters to their needs as dogs. Try not to project your human emotions onto them. You can respect and respond to your dog’s emotional needs without assuming they feel sadness the same way you do.