Expressions of Contentment in Dogs

by Teri Webster
    A content dog appears to have a relaxed posture and relaxed facial expressions.

    A content dog appears to have a relaxed posture and relaxed facial expressions.

    George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Contentment is defined as being happy and satisfied with life in general. Your dog probably seems happy about most things in life, whether he’s playing with a favorite toy, enjoying a treat or giving you an enthusiastic greeting when you arrive home. Even so, a closer study of your dog’s expressions, body language and behavior can offer further insight into how content he is feeling.

    One way to tell if you dog is content is to study the expression on his face. Unlike people, dogs are not adept at hiding their facial expressions.
    When your dog is happy, his eyes, mouth and ears will appear relaxed and natural, not tense or exaggerated. His mouth can be closed or opened and gently panting. His eyes will look soft and he might be gazing off into the distance or looking at you in a playful manner.
    A dog's ears are a little trickier to read because they come in so many shapes and sizes. As a general rule, a happy dog will hold his ears in whatever position they normally hang (or stand up) in.

    Play bowing, with the rump raised in the air and both front legs flat on the ground, is another indication of a happy dog. In this pose, your dog's body language is saying, "Let's go, I'm ready to play and have fun."
    A content dog also has a relaxed posture. There is a lack of tension in the muscles and he stands balanced on all four paws, neither lurching forward nor leaning back on his hind legs. A relaxed posture does not always mean inactive. Dogs can run and romp around while having an air of contentment.
    A dog with a normal or relaxed posture will not attempt to make himself appear bigger or smaller. A fearful dog often will make himself smaller by slinking down near the ground, while an aggressive dog will stand particularly tall and rigid.

    Contented pooches find it easy to relax because they think their environment is stable and safe. They sleep well at night and greet the morning bright-eyed, ready to eat and ready to play and interact with you.
    A dog that is relaxed might even sleep on his back, with all four paws dangling near his body. This is sometimes viewed as a dog expressing trust toward his environment and you. Part of the reason is that a dog sleeping on his back is exposing his underside and neck, two of his most most vulnerable areas.

    Happy dogs will have fewer behavioral problems than dogs who are stressed, fearful or aggressive. A content dog is not an expert in "interior design," meaning that he will tear up or otherwise arrange everything in your home while you are out.
    Destructive behavior usually means your dog is simply bored and needs more attention, exercise and playtime. In other words, a content dog is usually a well-trained and well-exercised dog. For persistent behavior issues, it is best to contact a reputable dog trainer or behaviorist in your area.

    Photo Credits

    • George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Teri Webster is a writer, blogger and author. She was a longtime newspaper staff writer who now writes for the web and other outlets. She holds a BA in English from the State University of New York. In addition to writing about pets, Webster is a professional dog walker.

    Trending Dog Behavior Articles

    Have a question? Get an answer from a Vet now!