Though they can't actually tell us how they feel, just like cats, there are several non-verbal ways happy dogs express their contentment.
Here are 6:
#1. Their Eyes
Photo Credit: recompose
A dog's eyes actually change the shape and size with their emotions. A happy dog will relax them and leave their eyes the way they are. They’ll appear normal in size and shape – it shows they are at ease with you and the environment around them. When a dog feels threatened, their eyes will appear very large. This is their way of saying “I’m feeling uncomfortable and scared!”
#2. Their Mouth
Photo Credit: StephenMitchell
A dog communicates with his mouth to tell us when he/she is happy as well. A relaxed, open, “smiling” mouth, communicates that the dog is pleased. I say “smiling” because sometimes dogs will show their teeth and their lips will be in an upward, relaxed position – just like a smile! I’ve seen this when my friend’s dog, Sheba, lays on her back to ask for a belly rub. She always has a silly grin on her face, which makes it hard not pat her stomach! :)
#3. Their Ears
Photo Credit: LOWSPEED
Ears are trickier to read, because every breed has a different kind. Some dogs have droopy, floppy ears while others have pointed ears. Whatever way a dog’s ears sit on their head naturally, is the position they are in when a dogs is happy. An alert pup will raise his/her ears higher than normal. When a dog is feeling friendly, he will pull his ears back. However, if the ears are complete flat on his head, they may be indicating your dog is feeling very scared.
#4. Their Tails
Photo Credit: Rusty Clark
A dog’s tail can tell us so many things. If your dog is feeling relaxed, they’ll hold the tail in it’s natural position. A happy dog will wag their tail from side to side. He’s saying “I love you and want to tell you how happy I feel!” A REALLY happy dog will express his feelings by wagging his tail. His tail may even travel in a circular motion!
#5. Their Hair
Photo Credit: Scarleth White
You wouldn’t think dog’s hair would show much of anything, but it really does! You just have to look for it. The amount a dog sheds may allude to how they are feeling. A happy dog will shed as much as they do normally, which varies for each breed. If a dog feels scared or stressed, balls of fur will fall out in abundance. Have you ever seen a dog stick up their hair? Usually the hair right between the shoulder blades will raise up if they are afraid, angry, insecure, nervous, or even excited. To determine which one of these it is…look for other non-verbal cues mentioned above.
#6. Their Body Posture
Photo Credit: L.C.Nøttaasen
A dog has three different body stances: normal, small, or large. When a dog stands normally, these means he/she feels at ease. Their muscles appear relaxed and all their weight is distributed equally among their four legs. A playful dog will look similar, except be bouncing and jumping around to show their excitement! A small body posture tells us our dog is scared or submissive while a larger than normal positioning communicates aggressiveness.