How to make your dog happier

A puppy looking happy as it mouths its owners hand

Many of us pet lovers rely on our dogs to put a smile on our faces with their cheery antics and affectionate ways. When our mutt is miserable, it casts a shadow over the whole family.

So how can you tell whether your hound is happy? And what can you do to cheer up a sorrowful spaniel or a gloomy greyhound?

Of course, the first thing you must do is check your canine is in good health – pet insurance will cover the vet’s fees. But once you’ve ruled out any underlying health conditions, there are several steps you can take to ensure your dog’s life is a contented one.

Read on for our guide to mutts and their moods and how to make them happier.

Signs your dog is unhappy

Recognising that your dog is down in the dumps is the first step to resolving the problem. Dogs tend to be pretty communicative animals – but do you speak their language?

Look out for body language such as a low or tucked tail, or a slow rather than vigorous wag. All these are signs that your dog is stressed or scared.

How is your hound holding itself? If it’s very still, holding its head low or looking away from you, it could be feeling uneasy. In certain breeds, ears pinned back flat against the head is another sign of anxiety.

How is your dog behaving around you or others? If it turns its head away – perhaps giving you a quick lick first – it needs some personal space. If it rolls onto its back and lies there stiffly, it’s worried but wants you to know it’s no threat.

And if your dog hides or walks away, let it have some time to calm down. It’s stressed about something or someone, and if you follow it or try to insist on involving it in a game or activity, its anxiety will only worsen.

A sad looking dog laying by the front door

Warning signs of aggression in dogs

A very unhappy or ill dog, or one that feels cornered or attacked, could show signs of aggression.

As a responsible owner, you want to act fast and calm the situation before your dog starts growling, baring its teeth, or even attacking another dog or human. While reliable pet insurance does cover third party liability, you really don’t want the situation to get to that point.

So what signs tell you that your dog is building up to aggressive behaviour?

A stiff tail that’s shaking rather than wagging is one warning signal. Alternatively, some dogs tuck their tail behind them.

Dogs may stand stiff and alert with their head pointed towards you, or cower to the ground ready to spring. Their ears might point forward or be pulled back.

One key sign is a fixed stare. If you spot your dog holding still while staring straight at you or another human or dog, you need to act fast to defuse the situation. It’s usually best to back away and stop any interaction with the dog until it’s relaxed.

Rule out health problems

It’s important to remember that all dogs will have moments of unhappiness – that’s just life! But if your dog acts aggressively, seems down for an extended period, or is frequently miserable, then you need to take action.

Your first port of call should be your vet. He or she can give your pet a thorough check-up to make sure there’s no underlying health condition that’s causing the low mood or anxiety. Pet insurance cover will cover the costs of any treatment.

Once your vet has ruled out that your animal is in discomfort or pain, he or she can also give you advice on what could be causing the low mood. If the problem’s severe, your vet could also provide you with a recommendation for an animal behaviour expert.

However, it’s most likely that there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your dog’s happiness yourself.

A dog looking at its owner on a vets table as a vet inspects it

Make a fuss of your dog

Generally speaking, dogs are not very psychologically complex animals. They love praise and strokes, and hate being told off.

Remember: dogs are pack animals. As you’re their pack leader, it’s your job to let them know that their place in the hierarchy is secure.

So give your dog plenty of attention, both verbal and physical. Tell them – often – that they’re a good dog. Snuggle up on the sofa with them, stroke them, and enjoy each other’s warmth and company.

In fact, there’s a good deal of research that suggests that 10 minutes spent stroking a dog is beneficial to your health, too. Happy dog equals happy human!

Keep your dog in good condition

As an owner, it’s your responsibility to keep a close eye on your animal to ensure it’s in tip-top condition.

An overweight dog is at risk of developing conditions such as arthritis that will cause pain. A flea-ridden dog will suffer from itchiness, making it restless and miserable.

So keep your dog well groomed, and make sure it’s eating the right amount of nutritious food. If you’re unsure, ask your vet for advice. With insurance for a pet from Purely Pets, you get access to a 24-Hour Vet Helpline to answer all your queries and concerns.

Go for walks

A walk is the focal point of your dog’s day. It’s what it looks forward to when it wakes up in the morning, and what it dreams of each night.

Why are walks so great? There are several reasons. They allow your mutt to burn off some energy. They give it mental stimulation – all those fascinating scents to smell and sticks to chase! And they’re great opportunities for bonding time between human and hound.

Really, most dogs are never happier than when they’re trotting along by their owner’s side, stretching all four legs and sniffing at all the interesting smells. So make sure your canine is getting plenty of good quality walks and runs.

While exercise is essential for dogs’ health and happiness, there is always a small risk that your animal will pick up an injury while out and about. So make sure your canine is covered with pet insurance to pay for any emergency vet trips.

A man walking 2 dogs through a woodland path

Give your dog plenty of playtime

Most of us don’t have hours free for walks each day – and many dogs would get exhausted by too much exercise. Instead, we need to find other ways to stimulate their brains.

Indoor toys give dogs lots of fun – and, hopefully, also stop them turning your prized possessions into playthings. So buy them a few puzzles, balls and chews that they can wrestle with at home.

Rather than buying new toys continually, keep existing toys on rotation. That way, your dog always has something interesting to keep it occupied and happy.

Best of all, find games to play with your dog. If you’ve got a good-sized garden, then you can throw a ball for your canine to catch. Many mutts also love a good round of hide-and-seek! It’s a bonding experience for you both, and a great opportunity for cuddles and praise when they find you.

Give your dog tasty treats

Yes, the route to a hound’s heart is through its stomach! Dogs love their food, and they enjoy tasty titbits best of all. Not only do they taste delicious, but your pooch also knows that they’re a sign of approval from you, the pack leader.

While your dog probably has its favourites, it’s a good idea to try out new treats from time to time. Dogs love exciting new smells and tastes, so an intriguing treat is a double pleasure!

Of course, don’t overdo them – you don’t want your dog to become overweight and unhealthy. But we all need a little boost from time to time, and a yummy morsel can be just the ticket for your terrier.

If you’re concerned that your pooch is piling on the pounds, your vet can weigh it and give you advice. Specialist pet insurance can help cover the costs of special diets.

A dog taking a treat from its owner

Give them baths

Baths – really? Yes, many dogs love these: they’re times of fun, excitement and cuddles. And even reluctant pooches will enjoy the feeling of clean skin and fur afterwards.

So make baths fun for your furry friends. Chat to them, give them a lovely rub down, treat them to some new toys in the tub and a few tasty treats afterwards. Best of all, let them run wild into the garden to dry off.

The more fun you make bath time, the happier your hound will be about the prospect, and the easier it will be for you to keep them clean and their coat glossy.

Regular baths are essential to protect your pet from sore or itchy skin conditions, which can make your dog very unhappy indeed.

If you do spot your pup licking or biting at their skin, ask the vet for advice. With insurance for pets from Purely Pets, you can ring the 24-Hour Vet Helpline, too.

Teach your dog new tricks

Certain breeds of dog, particularly those bred for working, are highly intelligent. Border collies are reputed to be the cleverest of the lot: they are capable of not only following orders from their masters, but also solving sheep-rounding problems themselves.

So to keep a clever pet happy, you need to make sure it’s always learning something new. You could try training your animal to fetch something, or giving it an obstacle course to increase its agility.

When teaching your dog a trick, it’s easy to get carried away. Always keep an eye on its body language to check that it’s still eager to learn, and isn’t getting tired, stressed or frustrated by the training session.

Look after yourself

As we said above, you are the leader of your dog’s pack – and if you’re unhappy, your pet will pick up on your mood.

Your dog can sense when you’re tired, stressed, anxious or depressed. You might well notice it whimpering and trying to cuddle up to you – or it might slink off, uncertain of its place in your affections.

So how can you cheer yourself up? Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of your hound!  Research suggests that dogs improve their owners’ heath: pet ownership has been linked to better heart health, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and fewer minor ailments such as colds, among many other benefits.

And, of course, canines bring you oodles of happiness, too. So look after your dog and it will look after you – it’s a fantastic win-win situation!

A dog licking its owners face as he uses his mobile phone

Signs that your dog is happy

So how can you tell that all your hard work has paid off, and your canine is content? Well, they tend to be very good at letting you know! The following signs indicate that your hound is happy.

There’s the classic wagging tail – a surefire sign that your dog is in a high state of happy excitement.

Their body and ears will be relaxed, and their eyes will look soft rather than staring. Whether they’re chilled out in their basket or playing in the park, they should seem relaxed and carefree.

They might well come up to you for a snuggle. A dog who leans into your hand when you’re stroking it is a very contented canine, who wants nothing more right now than to be close to you.

In fact, dogs’ ability to show happiness is probably why they have such a special place in our hearts. They really are humans’ best friends.

Get a quote from Purely Pets today

At Purely Pets, we love nothing better than a healthy, happy dog. That’s why we’ve designed 15 levels of lifetime cover to suit every dog owner’s budget and requirements.

The benefits of our pet insurance policies include cover for vets’ bills between £1,000 and £15,000, a low excess from as little as £60, and a 24-Hour Vet Helpline. For dogs, third party liability is also included.

Added benefits may include cover for travel abroad, dentistry, and loss by theft or straying.

You can manage your policy online at any time, and make claims online or by calling our specialist team.

Contact Purely Pets for a quote today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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