Having happy dogs at home certainly makes for harmonious living, so the best thing to do as a pet owner is to learn how to make your dog happy.

Just like humans, dogs can experience and exhibit signs of negative emotions, like anxiety, fear, and restlessness. This may result in aggressive behavior. One way to combat this is to make good choices while crafting a solid plan to help keep your dog healthy, happy, and content.1

Read on for a little insight into dog behavior and some great ways you can make your pet’s day. Hint: It goes beyond handing out the occasional nice treat or giving them a good massage once in a while. Seeing the change in your furry friend makes the hard work well worth it.

Signs Your Dog Is Happy

How can you tell your dog is happy? Watch your pup’s body language for these physical and behavioral signs.

  • A relaxed posture: Happy dogs often display a calm stance (as opposed to looking tense or defensive) with loose shoulders and a soft gaze.
  • Soft, floppy ears and a wagging tail: Pricked ears and a low, slowly wagging tail might mean your dog is stressed or upset — but floppy ears and a high, wagging tail likely means your dog is having a great time.
  • Positive reception to your affection: A happy, calm, and content dog may often appeal for your attention and enjoy cuddle time. They’d also lean into you when you pat or stroke their head. Licking your hand or face is definitely a great bonus, too.2

Now that you know the kind of response you’re looking for, here are some strategies you can try in the quest to please your pupper.

Provide Enough Quality Time

happy dogs | Ultimate Pet NutritionDogs need a lot of stimulation and exercise, and newsflash — there’s probably no one they’d rather do all their activities with than you. Make sure you allocate enough time in a day to spend with your dog one-on-one, beyond the usual walk outside to do their business.

Supplementing your walk or playtime with a new game or two is a nice little surprise sure to perk your dog up. Try a casual game of tag, fetch, or hide and seek in your yard or favorite spot to head to. If your dog is a little more low-key, or if you don’t have the opportunity to hang out outdoors, giving them a good massage while you chill out on the couch after a long day is a nice surprise they’d be sure to appreciate.3

Stay off your phone, remove distractions, and focus all your attention on your canine companion for a bit. Reflect back on all the great memories the two of you have shared.

Be Generous With Positive Reinforcement

Using positive reinforcement methods while training is also a good way to not only spend quality time with your dog, but also help them use up that boundless energy in a more constructive fashion. It’s a win for both: You provide the enrichment dogs need through mental stimulation, and your pup can acquire a great skill or two, practice problem solving, and become more confident and at ease as they bask in your positive feedback. Plus, you won’t feel guilty for doling out a few extra favorite treats to such a good boy (or girl) since they’ve earned it.4

Take Your Dog Out And About

dog at beach | Ultimate Pet Nutrition

Letting your dog tag along with you as you head out for a relaxing weekend is something they’re sure to love. Choose a pet-friendly establishment where they can people-watch as you have coffee with a friend, or allow them to sniff around and explore as you jog or work out at your local park. You’d be surprised how many popular establishments will be willing to provide a nice treat for your dog if you ask.

You can also take them out to a dog park or organize a playdate with other pups you know in the neighborhood so they also have a chance to socialize. It’s good exercise, your dog gets the stimulation and attention they crave, and everyone goes home happy.5

Use A Food Dispensing Toy For Your Dog’s Meals

Doling out a healthy treat here and there is always good, but using a special food dispensing toy or mechanism might make things even more fun for your pet (without much involvement from you — perfect for days that are busier than usual).

These types of toys tick several boxes: They reward your dog’s hard work with a nice treat, they help stimulate and practice your dog’s problem solving skills, and they allow your dog to do a lot of chewing (definitely a plus in your pup’s book).6

No worries about these treat dispensers undermining your dog’s healthy diet, either. You can choose one that lets you stuff it with something homemade or healthier, or you can adjust the amount of friendly treats it dispenses.

bathing dog | Ultimate Pet NutritionMake Grooming An Enjoyable Activity

Even pet grooming can become a form of bonding and quality time for you and your dog. Take a few minutes to brush your dog’s coat and gently massage them (this may be especially enjoyable for senior dogs). If tooth brushing is a pain for both you and your pup, consider playing with chew toys that help clean their teeth and freshen their breath.7

Get Some Quality Chew Toys

Gnawing on stuff is natural for canines, but you don’t want them to do it on your shoes or furniture. In fact, that could be a sign that your dog needs a good chew toy to contend with. It may take some trial and error to find the best one (pups have preferences, too), but good chew toys are a solid investment.

These toys can entertain your dogs and give them a good outlet for their chewing habit, and you’ll be known as the all-powerful giver of amazing toys and nice treats.8

How To Make Your Dog Even Happier

A final piece of essential advice: Don’t neglect your own mental and physical health if you want to be a good dog owner. It’s widely accepted that dogs respond to their owners’ own moods, and they can mirror it with responses of their own.9

happy dog | Ultimate Pet NutritionIf you want a happy and healthy dog, you need to become happy and healthy yourself. You’ll need the positive energy and bright outlook to lead your dog during fun activities and the patience and cool head to direct them during training sessions. Model happiness and contentment, and your pup will be sure to follow suit.10

The Right Support Matters

With the right vet support, a healthy diet, and your commitment to caring for your pet, your dog can thrive and become even happier. Equip yourself with the right information from credible sources, listen to your chosen vet, and select the right food and exercise routine for your pup’s age and breed, and you’ll be more than just a responsible pet owner: you’ll be the best pet owner you can possibly be for your dog.

Learn More:
How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash Beside You
Nose Games That You Can Play With Your Dog
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Happy And Healthy: Info For Pet Parents

1 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/canine-body-language
2 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/canine-body-language
3 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/how-to-make-your-dog-happy/
4 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/how-to-make-your-dog-happy/
5 http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-ways-to-help-make-your-dog-happier
6 https://www.puppyleaks.com/make-your-dog-happy/
7 http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-ways-to-help-make-your-dog-happier
8 https://www.puppyleaks.com/make-your-dog-happy/
9 https://www.rover.com/blog/is-my-dog-happy/
10 https://www.rover.com/blog/is-my-dog-happy/

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About the author

Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM loves animals, and is passionate about keeping them healthy and happy as long as possible. He has received more than 30 awards due to his expertise in the field, and The American Veterinary Medical Foundation recently named Dr. Richter “America’s Favorite Veterinarian.” Dr. Richter has been at the forefront of pet nutrition for two decades, and he is also the author of the bestselling “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide.”