Wellbeing is defined as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” When we think of looking after our mental and physical wellbeing, it sometimes isn’t as easy to understand how our pet’s wellbeing can be catered for.
But, if we take the time to look closer (maybe observe our dogs for a morning or afternoon), we notice certain behaviours that show our dogs are feeling happy and comfortable. Watching my Yorkie, Teddy, exhibit such behaviours, such as, snuggling up in his bed of blankets, running around crazily in the garden, or “burying” his bonios on the sofa, lets me know he is happy and relaxed in my presence.
When I call his name, he comes bundling towards me, tail wagging, mouth open with tongue hanging out. This is what celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell calls – relaxed language. When a dog feels relaxed, they might wag their tail, bow and wiggle their backside, much like the downward dog yoga pose.
These signs of how our dogs are feeling can be used as a way of knowing what contributes to their wellbeing. The health and happiness of our dogs are important and it is instrumental to their wellbeing that these behaviours are recognised and understood fully.
Try observing your dog for twenty minutes or so and see how many different behaviours you recognise. Body language can provide a lot of information about how they are feeling. It can also make our relationship with dogs stronger. By understanding how their minds work, we can respond in ways that meet their needs.
For example, say your dog’s tail is tucked in between their legs and their head is held down low, this is a clear sign they are experiencing anxiety or stress, so you could approach them, slowly, from their level and keep your voice soft and quiet. That way, they know you pose no threat and you respect how they’re feeling.
Our relationships with dogs are complex and rewarding and we can always find ways to understand them better. This will improve their wellbeing, as well as our own since we can feel content in the knowledge that our furry friends are happy and healthy.