Trainer shares the surprising secret to boosting your dog’s happiness and encouraging good behavior

A yellow Labrador Retriever dog smiles as it lays on a wooden bench outdoors on a sunny day
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to boosting your dog's happiness and encouraging good behavior, it's likely that you spend most of your time focusing on the obvious things - feeding your dog a healthy diet, rewarding them with the longest lasting dog chews, taking them on big walks and giving them a comfortable place to sleep at night.

But if you're anything like us, you may have overlooked one of the quickest and easiest ways to tell that your canine companion is happy and keep them that way - their body language.

According to Julianna DeWillems, owner and head trainer at JW Dog Training & Behavior, our dogs are always talking to us and if we pay attention to what it is they're trying to say, we've got a much greater chance of ensuring that they're thriving, both mentally and physically. 

"Dogs can talk to us through their body," explains DeWillems. "They're communicating with us all day long, they just obviously don't use words." 

Instead, DeWillems says that dogs use body language and behavior to communicate to their humans how they're feeling and what it is they want.

"Learning to read your dog's body language completely opens up lines of communication between you two. Being able to notice more subtle body language, like the size and shape of your dog's eyes, if they've got tension around their mouth, where their ears are, to more obvious body language like if they're yawning, if they shake off, where they carry their tail can give you a ton of insight about how they're feeling and maybe even a guess about what they're thinking."

While many pet parents worry that trying to read their dog's body language will require them to get a fancy degree in dog whispering, DeWillems says it's easier than you think - and it's a game changer when it comes to your relationship.

"One of the best ways to bond with your dog is to learn what they are trying to tell you through their body language and behavior. It takes time and practice, but there are so many subtle body language cues to look for in your dog."

Whether you sign up to take an official doggy body language course or simply start observing the changes in your dog's body language and behavior, checking in with them frequently and seeking to understand what it is they're trying to tell you can help improve their behavior and boost their happiness.

For more great tips and tricks to help boost your dog's mental and physical health and wellbeing, check out my dog doesn't like long walks so I use these four brain games to tire her out.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.