The Star-Herald

The science of dog happiness

What do we really know about making our dogs content? Why do we need science to make our dogs happy? The exciting thing is that there have been real increases in interest in canine science recently and those scientists have been studying ordinary pet dogs. The research is fascinating. There’s a lot to take away from it that is useful for ordinary dog owners. 

Everyone wants to have a happy dog. Recognizing that dogs have emotions means that they are more similar to us than we used to think. 

How can we tell when our dog is happy or unhappy? I think most people are good at recognizing when a dog is happy — a wagging tail, and wiggly body and nice, relaxed eyes and open mouth. 

Dogs will be happiest if you socialize and habituate them to the human world when they are still puppies. When they’re puppies, that means socializing them to all kinds of experiences, making sure they have positive experiences of everything they might come across in later life — all kinds of people, other dogs, being handled and so on. This will help them to grow up to be happy, confident adult dogs. 

Here are some different things you can do to make your dog happy. 

Go on a walk where you really let them sniff. The nose is a very important organ for dogs. That’s how they perceive the world. If you take them on a “sniffari” and they get to smell all the interesting smells, that is very enriching for them. 

Play with your dog. Even if dogs love playing with other dogs, it seems that play with a human has a different motivation for them, so it’s important for us to play with our dogs, too. 

Give your dog a choice. Choices help animals feel in control, so that’s good for their mental health. It could be as simple as which direction to go for a walk, or which toy to play with. Do they want to play fetch or tug? 

There are lots of ways to make a happy dog, and a happy dog is a good dog. All this and more you can find in the Time Special Edition “Inside Your Dog’s Mind.” This is a great magazine you can find in most stores. 

If you are looking for a new addition to your family that has four legs, check out The Central Aroostook Humane Society at 26 Cross Street in Presque Isle. We have some wonderful fur-babies looking for their forever home. Our hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 Please remember to be a responsible pet owner — spay and neuter! 

“Happiness … starts with a wet nose and ends with a wagging tail” (

Gail Wieder is a member of the board of directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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