Yoga, swimming, snow, balloons, rolling in manure . . . it’s what makes a dog happy


LEWISTON – Soon after Daphne, a rescue from Alabama, came into Marita Bryant’s life, Bryant noticed that the dog seemed to enjoy doing yoga.

So much so that “Yoga Dog” is now Daphne’s nickname, “because of her regular and excellent execution” of yoga moves, said Bryant, of Lewiston. “What’s so funny is she does it so regularly.”

Every time Daphne wakes, she does the down dog, “front paws on the ground stretched out, butt in the air,” Bryant said. “Then the up dog. She holds the stretches for several seconds.”

Daphne also does a morning sun salutation/meditation every day: She sits facing the sun for several minutes, eyes closed.

Daphne loves meeting people too, Bryant said, charming them with her head tilt. “When people talk to her, she tilts her head. They just start laughing.”

Others responding to a Sun Journal query asking what makes your dog happy offered a range of answers including: snuggling, snow, the sun, water, car rides, visiting patients, visiting “grandparents,” paddleboarding, popping balloons, chasing golf balls, mountain summits, rolling in manure, hiking with people and hiking with horses.

The lover of horses and manure piles is Emma, a German shepherd that likes to trail ride “with her big sister,” a horse named Akiela, said owner Abigail Austin of Hartford, who is the Sun Journal community news editor.

“I’ve given up trying to keep her out of the manure pile,” Austin said. Before you can say eewww, Emma cleans up by swimming.

On the trail Emma is off leash and wears bells so the horse and Austin knows where she is. Often she’s out of sight, under bushes, swimming in the river. She runs out in front, scoping out noisy birds, turkeys and partridges that might fly at and spook the horse.

“I don’t know if she knows what she’s doing, but it works,” Austin said. Meanwhile the horse is careful not to step on Emma. “It’s good teamwork.”

When Austin is getting her horse ready for a ride, Emma runs around, whimpering and excited. “If I don’t take her, she sits in the house and howls.”

Getting outdoors makes her happy. In 2011 Austin did a 1,000-mile hike with Emma. “She doesn’t run out of energy,” Austin said. “She’s a hoot.”

Katrina Richards of Mexico and Robin St. Jean of Eustis said their dogs like to nap and snuggle.

What makes Richards’ little Candis happy “is being able to get outside on a sunny day, roll around in the grass, ‘warm my belly with the sun while the grass is on my back.’”

St. Jean’s Riley is the absolute happiest “cuddling up to Dad (husband, Steve) in Mom’s spot (in bed) for an extra hour of snooze time” in the morning, St. Jean said. She shared photos of Riley snoozing under the covers.

Katherine Ledger of Auburn says her doggie pool and hose are what make her two dogs happy.

Camille, 2, a rescue from Tennessee, “is a mermaid in German shepherd clothing,” said Ledger. “She loves water, the pool, the hose.”

Jake, a black shepherd, was never into water until Camille came along. “Four broken sprinklers and one hose later, he likes the water after all,” Ledger said.

Bethany Lyons of Greene said their family is owned by their golden retriever, Nickel, from Tennessee. Nickel is a toy dog; not the little kind but the kind who loves toys.

He doesn’t stop attacking a toy until he can rid it of its “evil squeaker” and stuffing, Lyons wrote. Then, when only the shell remains, Nickel proudly carries it around.

The family now buys toys he can’t easily destroy. A Southern native, snow also makes Nickel happy. “He will literally roll down the walkway each morning in the fresh snow” chasing 12-year-old Ashton, Lyons said.

Paula Foss of Auburn said her shih tzu-dachshund mix Tobey, is happy to go for a “R-I-D-E.” (The word is spelled out because Tobey gets too excited when he hears it.) In the car, Tobey jumps up and lays in the back window. “I have my own bobbing-head dog,” Foss said.

Car rides are popular with many dogs. Deborah Richardson of Auburn said when her dog, Bella, hears “go for a ride,” she “jumps into her car seat before we hook her up.”

Yes, Bella has a car seat.

Christine and Richard Collins of Livermore have two pit bull mixes, Sully and Keela, both Southern rescues. The dogs “are our children,” Christine Collins said, adding that the two dogs love to snuggle.

Keela recently joined their family. Sully is a certified therapy dog with a happy, calm disposition. “We visit hospitals, nursing homes. He absolutely loves it.”

At Halloween the Collinses dress up Sully as a frog, which makes patients smile. “He doesn’t mind wearing clothes,” Collins said. “He’s a very good boy.”

He loves meeting people, and she loves showing people that “pit bulls are not vicious dogs. It’s not what you see on the news.”

Cindy Valley said her dog’s favorite activities are playing with tennis balls, swimming and popping balloons. She submitted a picture of Lady about to pop a balloon.

Jared and Cindy Rossignol of Sabattus have two rescues, Piper and Sully. Piper, 2, is happy when she can swim in Cindy’s parents’ pool.

“Before we turn into my parents’ road, they know we’re there,” she said. They get excited and whine in the car. Soon Piper’s in the pool where she “plays pass with beach balls.” When tossed the ball, Piper tosses it back with her nose. “She’s very energetic.”

Sully isn’t. He doesn’t like the water. “He likes to sleep. He likes to eat. He’s like an old man.”

Both are happy to get their holiday Twizzlers. Rossignol explained that her father buys Twizzlers on holidays and shares them with all the dogs in the family. (There’s no controlling grandparents.)

“They hear the plastic of the package and get excited. It’s a special treat from Pop.”

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Why do they do that? A vet tells all

By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer

AUBURN – After hearing from readers about what makes their dogs happy, the Sun Journal asked Dr. Stephen Kinney of the Auburn Animal Center how to tell when a dog is happy?

Every dog is different, but typically happiness is shown by a dog’s posture and facial expressions, Kinney said.

A happy dog has his or her head high, tail up, maybe wagging. For facial expressions, “you can almost tell they’re smiling,” Kinney said. “Their eyes are really bright. They’re really paying attention, maybe cocking their head.”

Ways to make a dog happy can depend on the type. Hunting breeds such as retrievers are more active and often love fetching and playing with balls, Frisbees, and swimming. Most dogs enjoy water, Kinney said.

All breeds like structure, a routine. “Going for a walk every morning, even if you’re not up to it, those types of things are something good to do,” he said. It’s a good way to get out a dog’s energy. “For a dog, to be happy is to be active. A bored dog may start destroying things, have separation anxiety.”

Dogs are pack animals. They’re social. They like being around other dogs and people. If there are no other dogs, “they’re happy to make (humans) their pack,” Kinney said. Spending time with your dog “increases their general well being.”

To show a dog a good time, especially those without regular dog companions, Kinney recommended visiting a dog park or taking a walk on a beach where there are other dogs.

For humans who must be gone from home for long hours, Kinney advises picking the right dog. A border collie left alone for hours can become destructive; they may need a day or two each week at doggie day care. On the other hand a shih tzu may like to spend much of the day curled up.

Several readers said their dogs like car rides so much, they have to spell the word “ride” to prevent their dog from going berserk.

Rides “are visually attractive to dogs,” Kinney said. “They’re looking out the window. It’s visually stimulating to them, rather than being at home and looking out the window.” Peering out a car window “is almost like going to a movie for dogs. The scenery is constantly changing. Dogs like to be stimulated.”

Like small children, some puppies get car sick and are distressed to get in the car. But, Kinney noted, most dogs outgrow car sickness.

Dogs start to whine or bark excitedly when approaching a favorite destination because they recognize where they are. “They’re looking out the window and notice the same tree, a certain home.” Dogs are perceptive of their surroundings, Kinney said. “My mom, who’s 90, takes her dog to the dog park. When she goes in that car and makes only two turns, that dog is so excited.”

Some dogs like to roll in manure, feces or on dead animals. People find it disgusting, Kinney said, but that’s a dog’s instinct.

“In nature it is a way a dog hides its own scent,” he said. A hunting dog going after prey will be more successful if its scent isn’t detected. “Dogs may not know why they’re rolling around in this disgusting thing. The instinct is really strong in the canine world.”

To the owner who said her dog does yoga moves, Kinney said dogs like to stretch. And, like people, dogs like the sun on their face and body.

Most dogs have a “fairly amazing vocabulary,” Kinney noted. “They actually understand a lot of words.” They don’t know the actual word, but recognize the sound and the way it’s said. Humans often underestimate their dog’s vocabulary, he said.

Overall, dogs are extremely perceptive, Kinney said. They constantly watch their humans.

“They know the way you’re walking, your posture, your tone of voice if you’re sad or happy.”