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What A Dog Needs To Be Happy

Happy dogs make happy owners!  Just having a dog is rewarding, but as good owners, we want to make sure we are providing the best life for our furry friends.   So, what does a dog need to be happy?

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to provide what a dog needs to be happy and it’s easy for you to see when you’re getting things right.

Signs of a Generally Happy Dog

It doesn’t take a veterinarian to determine whether or not you have a happy dog. Happy dogs are jolly, affable, and energetic.

Appetite is also a great indicator of good health and happiness.  Voracious eaters typically feel great both physically and emotionally.

When dogs feel unwell or unhappy, you will often notice them eating less or not at all.   Allie came down with a strange infection, and I immediately knew something was wrong because she wasn’t eating.

The happiness of dogs is also apparent in the way they look.  Healthy dogs are happy dogs!  There are plenty of physical signs of good health, like a lush, shiny coat, and healthy mouth and ears.

The behavior of your dog can also be an indicator of their happiness.  Stressed dogs often show their anxiety in their behavior.  They may appear nervous or walk with their tails low or between their hind legs.

Whereas, happy dogs present in a relaxed manner.  Their tongue may be hanging out and their tails should be up and wagging.  A happy dog should also be energetic and thoroughly enjoy playtime.

Lastly, the best sign of a happy dog is that they’re always happy to see you. They look forward to seeing you get up in the morning, their daily walk, and following you around during the day. Your dog should also excited when you get back after you’ve left. When that excitement dies down, they’re warm and affectionate.

There’s nothing like having a happy dog at home.  Following these simple guidelines will help ensure you have a happy dog for years to come!

How to Provide What a Dog Needs to Be Happy

  1. Feed your dog proper food.

The topic of proper dog food could be a tricky one. While some staunchly believe that fresh food is the way to go, others believe that kibble is the best option to ensure complete nutrition.

In truth, what you feed your dog should be based on your personal preference (and your dog’s as well!).  It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh food or kibble.  You simply have to make sure that your dog is getting the right nutrition. Avoid fillers and unnecessary carbs and sugars. Also, make sure your dog is getting the right amount of fat and protein.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the average adult dog weighing around 33 pounds should get 25g of crude protein and 14g of fat per day. Puppies weighing around 12 pounds should get around 56g of crude protein and 21g of fat daily.

Apart from changes in weight and size, there are signs to look out for to see if you’re feeding your dog the proper food.

First, shedding should be at a normal amount for their breed and their coat should be lush and healthy.  They also shouldn’t be scratching constantly.

Second, watch out for stool consistency. Ask your vet about the right amount, color, and consistency for your dog. If your dog has normal stools, you’re probably feeding them well.

Lastly, look out for spikes in energy levels. If your dog typically becomes hyperactive after eating, it could be a sign of too many fillers in their food. It could also be a sign of intolerance to an ingredient.

  1. Help your dog maintain a normal weight.

There are standard weight guidelines per breed. For example, you can find standard weight recommendations for German Shepherds on a site like this.  You should be able to easily find a weight chart for the kind of dog you have online.

You should weigh your dog occasionally just to make sure they’re within a normal range.

If you have a mix and don’t know what chart to follow, ask your vet for recommendations.  They will be able to provide healthy weight ranges based on your dog’s expected size at maturity.

  1. Go for regular visits to the vet.

During puppyhood, it’s easy to go for regular vet visits because of the required vaccination schedule. Once that’s done, though, we tend to wait for the required annual shots or until our dogs are ill before we go for a visit.

However, it’s good to take the time to get your dog checked out just to make sure you’re on the right track. Make sure your pup is the right weight and that everything including the teeth, ears, and paws are healthy.

Regular visits will also get your dog used to the vet’s office. They’ll soon understand that not every visit requires shots and so they won’t be too anxious every single time.

Surprisingly, as much as my dog has been to the vet for various non-pleasant things (she is accident-prone) – she LOOOVVVVESSS going to the vet.  If you need information about how to find a great veterinarian, check out my article on how to find a great vet near me!

  1. Keep your dog properly groomed.

While not all dogs require a parlor trim every month, all breeds would benefit from regular grooming sessions, and it doesn’t have to be professionally done.

For example, German Shepherds just need to be bathed and brushed at home.  Learn about the appropriate bathing frequency for German Shepherds here.

Apart from regular baths, their nails need to be trimmed, their teeth need to be brushed, and their ears need to be cleaned.  Just by making sure they’re clean and groomed, you can be sure they’re comfortable and happy.

  1. Spend quality time with your dog.

Nothing makes your dog happier than being with you, so you should spend as much time with your dog as you can.   This article on 21 Ways to Exercise Your German Shepherd offers good ideas that are applicable to all dogs.

However, quality time with your pups doesn’t always have to be lively and energy-filled.  Sometimes, all your dog needs is a cuddle, snuggle, and get scratched.

  1. Have a regular exercise routine.

Regular exercise should be a part of any dog owner’s daily routine.  Without regular exercise, your dog will probably use up their energy in ways that aren’t ideal for you.

Exercise is a good way to both tire your dog out and spend quality time bonding with your dog.

For many dogs, daily walks are the perfect form of exercise.  However, it never hurts to plan for weekends at the park or beach as well.

Try to schedule daily exercise at specific times of the day. This way, your dog knows when to expect it.

For example, I typically walk Allie first thing in the morning, so when I get up and get dressed she knows that it is walking time.   If you schedule your walks every day after work, your dog will be looking forward to that time with you.

A consistent exercise routine will make your dog very happy!

  1. Stimulate their mind.

Apart from physical exercise, dogs need constant mental stimulation.  Dogs are incredibly smart animals and they always love a challenge.

Try to think of games that force them to think and use their natural abilities. For natural trackers like the German Shepherd, you can try hiding treats in different places for them to find.

There are also puzzle toys for you to buy if your dog doesn’t like tracking games. Activities like this don’t just stimulate their mind but also allow them to have fun with you at the same time.

  1. Teach your dog something new.

Part of regular mental stimulation is constantly teaching your dog something new. You can opt to enroll them in a new class or teach them yourself.

Just as they love a challenge, they enjoy making you happy when they do something good.  Take the time to train your dog with a trick every now and then.

The trick doesn’t have to be extremely complicated. It just has to be challenging enough to be stimulating.

The excitement you show and the praise you give when your dog gets the trick right is definitely something that makes them happy!  The time you spend training them is something they definitely cherish as well.

Check out this article on how to teach your dog to shake hands for a new trick your dog can learn today.

  1. Surprise them with a new toy.

Toys are important to dogs because it’s a way for them to address their natural instinct to chew.  Toys also help them entertain themselves while you are busy or to have fun playing with you.

Generally, once you find good toys that aren’t easily destroyed, you don’t need to keep buying them new ones.  However, surprising them with a new toy is always worth it when you see how excited they get.

Obviously, this doesn’t need to happen every day, but when their old toys start to get worn out or when there’s a special occasion, maybe show up with a new toy.

Check out this article on tough dog toy options to get some ideas on new toys for your pup. 

  1. Play with them using their own toys.

Take the time to play fetch, tug, or even hide-and-seek with their toys.  Although many dogs enjoy playing with their toys on their own, your dog will enjoy those toys even more if you play with them too!

I’m sure you’ll see increased enthusiasm and excitement when you reach for a toy to play with your pup.  Playing with you will make your dog ecstatic!

  1. Be consistent with discipline and rules.

Dogs need consistency, or else they get confused. Establish clear house rules so your dog knows the expectations.

Reprimand them when they break the rules and praise them when they follow the rules. No matter what, you need to be consistent.

You can’t allow them on your bed one day and then get mad at them the next time they jump on the bed. They don’t understand why you’re mad and the confusion will make them unhappy.

  1. Praise your dog when they have earned it.

Dogs are probably happiest when you praise them because that’s when they know they’re making you happy.  That’s also when most of the treats and head-scratching come.

Whenever they do something that pleases you, make sure they know it. The praise is enough to make them happy and it is the best way to reinforce lessons about good behavior.

  1. Socialize your dog.

Socialization is about showing your dog the world outside your home, but it also involves teaching them how to behave around other people, other dogs, and other animals.

This might involve visits to the dog park or even playdates. Proper exposure will help them be better, well-rounded pets. They will also enjoy the extra attention they get from others.=

  1. Help your dog feel safe.

While dogs have the natural instinct to keep you safe, you have the responsibility to make them feel safe as well. This doesn’t take much more than providing good shelter especially when it’s too hot, too cold or raining outside.

If they’re skittish around other people, make sure they don’t feel too exposed. As you spend more time with your dog, you will notice their fears and insecurities. Take the time to address those and help them feel safe in your care.

  1. Make sure you make them feel loved.

Love is the most basic guiding force to keep your pet happy!  If you genuinely love your dog, you’ll have the instinct to provide the right care and attention to them. Love is something your dog will be able to sense, and they’ll definitely make it known that they appreciate you and love you back.


Although having a pet is a huge responsibility and involves a lot of work, keeping a dog happy doesn’t take much more than providing ample care and attention.  Following these guidelines will make the dog in your life feel happy and love.

I truly believe that having a happy dog makes our lives more rewarding and meaningful.



  • National Academy of Sciences (accessed Nov. 2018). Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide for Pet Owners. Retrieved from
  • Pet Health Council UK (accessed Nov. 2018). How can you tell if your pet is happy? Retrieved from
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