Do Dogs Get Bad Moods?

Some people have such a simple view of dogs.

If you train them, they’ll make excellent companions. Or if you’re a strong leader, they’ll be perfect.

But don’t dogs ever just get bad moods?

Honey the golden retriever naps on the couch.

Whoa is me. I can barely lift my head.

Living In A Moody Household

Poor Honey. She’s such a calm presence in a moody household.

Actually, I have one main mood—gloomy.

But my husband runs the gamut. He may start the day talking a mile a minute and end it sulking. Toss in an angry rant and gut-busting laughter and you’ve either got an actor practicing his skills or my husband on a typical day.

Honey is more even-tempered than either of us. But she has her moods too.

Golden Retriever Puppy Smiling

How do you make a dog laugh?

Moods In A Dog

I don’t know exactly what combination of weather, biochemistry, and past experiences influences Honey’s moods. But I know she has them.

Some days she can barely control her jumping on a neighbor or friend. Other days she has the manners of a trained service dog.

One day a squirrel will run across her path and get no attention. Other days, Honey goes running for a tree half a block away because she heard a branch rustle.

Sometimes Honey is clingy.

Most mornings, she’ll nap on the couch or sleep under my desk while I’m writing. At least until 6:30 a.m. or so when her stomach clock goes off.

But this morning, she has already come by twice for lovies and just dropped a ball at my feet. I have no doubt that if I sat on the couch, she’d curl up in my lap in five seconds flat.

Golden Retriever sitting on man's lap in beach chair.

Sometimes I find it comforting to sit on someone’s lap.

Understanding A Dog’s Moods

The people who understand a dog’s moods the best are people who work with them closely.

No, not research scientists. I’m talking about people with service dogs, folks who run agility courses, farmers.

If a dog’s only job is to hang around the house and be a companion, only a particularly sensitive person will notice their changing moods (you know, like the kinda people who come here and read about dog moods). But when your dog has a job, it’s easier to see the moods because their performance will change, sometimes for reasons you can’t see or explain.

It must be their moods.

Golden Retriever sitting on Mike's lap

But sometimes I’m just trying to get a better view.

Working With Moods

Both my husband and I have learned that we can’t always give into our moods. Sometimes you just have to do stuff when you’re feeling bad. And a good day is no sign that you’re on the right track. It might just be the longer, sunnier days interacting with your brain chemistry.

But you can’t ignore moods either.

And I’ve tried to pay more attention to Honey’s.

I’ve cancelled training sessions because Honey wasn’t in a mood to focus. Why frustrate her or me if she’s not in a place to work?

I’ve found that when Honey is barky and frustrated, it’s best to just get up and take her for a walk or game of fetch. After all, I won’t get anything done with a moody dog in the house. So why not solve the problem and get a little exercise at the same time?

A bit of wrestling and tug has been a good mood stabilizer for both Honey and my husband. I wonder if psychiatrists have ever thought of prescribing it for their patients with mood disorders?

Honey the golden retriever loves to tug.

I like the doctor who says, “Take one puppy and call me in the morning.”

Like A Dog And Not Like A Dog

One thing I love about dogs is how different they are from us.

And the other thing I love about dogs is how similar they are to us.

Personally, I think dogs are a lot more than their training and socialization. And their emotions and moods make them very complex creatures to live with.

But if Honey can put up with my moods, I’m happy to put up with hers.

Your Turn: Is your dog moody? Or does he or she have a pretty even temper? Do your moods influence your dog’s moods?




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  1. Bailie and I are pretty much happy all the time, except if we know we need to get groomed or something, then we go hide. Katie on the other paw has been moody her entire life. Her moods are her own, not influenced by Mom, just some days she is not happy, some days she appears mad, other days she is happy as a clam. Once reason Mom loves the GBGV breed is we are basically happy all the time.

  2. Interesting! Miley tends to get a little grumpy, some days she tolerates her little brother better than others!

  3. Maggie is pretty even keeled…her main moods are ‘wary’ and ‘food?’ Jack has more moods and I can usually tell by how far he gets from me. The farther the more relaxed he is…when he goes out on the deck without me, I know he’s having a happy day.

  4. I do think female dogs can be a bit moodier than males, but I always wonder when Haley seems a little down, whether it’s a mood or maybe she doesn’t feel good.

  5. I can tell when Torrey is getting bored, and I can tell when Roxy just does not want to go for a walk. Their body language can be pretty loud at times.

  6. Blueberry is pretty even tempered. I’ve never noticed she’s had a bad mood as much as I notice when she is feeling extra impish. I try not to take my moods out on her. When I am grumpy, I am less patient with all her sniffing on our hikes. Sometimes I just want to keep moving. I recognize it as a mood swing/hormones and so I just try to take some deep breaths and let her have her fun without spoiling it for her. Although a couple of times, my mood has gotten the best of me and I’ve said to her, “For the love of Pete – can we please just walk?? Do you have to smell every single thing you see?”. Then I feel like a heel. Of course, she usually just keeps sniffing, I sigh, and we go on our way.

    Dogs are pretty special to put up with us and our many moods, aren’t they?

  7. Wilson is a very even tempered fellow, basically a saint, no real highs and lows. Jimmy, on the other hand, has many moods. He is an extremely animated dog. It is easy to read his moods.

    Both boys are definitely affected by our moods, especially the bad moods. If John and I are irritated with each other, both dogs peer at us with worried eyes. And just like Blueberry’s mom said above, if I am feeling grumpy, the boys definitely know about it on our walks. Sniffing is particularly annoying. I’ve actually trained words “jig-jig” (pick up the pace!) and “keep moving” (don’t sniff that mailbox!) for when my mood just won’t tolerate endless stop/sniff events. I say it with the lightest possible tone, but I am sure the boys can sense my mood.

  8. I definitely notice mood changes with my two, moreso with Mauja. Some days she will be extra barky and on alert, but other days she will be extra clingy. I try and tailor our activities based on my perception of her mood. If she’s on high alert, we exercise more. Longer walks, more training sessions. If she’s acting clingy, we cuddle on the couch while I write or watch TV.

    I don’t seem to notice Atka’s moods as much. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s more even-tempered or if I’m missing subtle clues. I’m sure once we get into therapy work, the moods will become more prevalent.

    • I didn’t even mention Mauja’s grumpiness! She does not hide her displeasure at ALL. It’s actually pretty funny, which I’m sure frustrates her even more 😉

  9. Buster is so moody. I affect his moods for sure and vice versa, so we’re just not a very mood stable household sadly. There are definitely days I cancel our training classes or prior plans or can’t trim his nails, etc. because I know he would do horribly. Those are usually the days we snuggle on the couch or play in the backyard. I’ve mentioned to my coworkers “Oh I need to trim Buster’s nails but I can’t today because he’s having a bad day,” and they laugh. But it’s only logical. I have bad days too so it makes since my dog does.

  10. That’s so funny about your husband! He sounds so much like mine!

    Zoe is a very moody dog. If you follow Denise Fenzi at all she talks about attitude and about how getting the right attitude for “work” is so important. If their attitude is poor they are not going to do will in the ring, etc.. It makes total sense. I have a very hard time getting Zoe’s attitude UP. She is a very anxious dog and a lot of things bother her. Today I was just trying to get her picture and she pinned her ears back and gave me the “YOU are TORTURING me” look. Not at all cute for pictures. It can be really difficult living with her sometimes.

    Phoenix is mostly happy go-lucky. She’s fearful and a bit reactive to hyper and rude dogs and sometimes she gets scared of people or kids but for the most part she’s happy about whatever we are doing.

  11. All my dogs are moody, I think they take after me. lol I can always tell when Brut needs an extra walk, or Zappa doesn’t want to dog sled. They all got a bit of attitude and can be fussy about being touched or need to be alone. It’s one reason they get their one-on-one walks with us, so they can get away from the other dogs. Whether plays a big role, I’ve noticed with my dogs as well, how active they may or may not be. And when the barometer is low, so is the dogs mood, just like me!

  12. I’ve found that Dante is my even keeled boy, sometimes he is sulky – like due to lack of exercise but not much else bothers him.
    Ziva on the other hand gets grumpy if she’s tired and then she start growling/grumbling at all sorts of silly little noises I think she’s saying, “Mom, seriously did you have to set your glass down so noisily?” or, “really dad, why did you slam the door while I was sleeping?!”
    She’ll lay on the couch, open one eye, grumble, and go back to sleep. :-)

  13. I’m happy most of the time, but if I’m feeling restless then a game of football (soccer) works wonders!

  14. Harley doesn’t get in a bad mood, but he does become melancholy sometimes. There are those days when he prefers to be completely under me. I recognize those little things that he does to get my attention and I stop what I’m doing when I can and just sit with him. He misses Leo a great deal, when the two of them were in the house it was like a circus almost all day long. I can’t fill that void for him – I know how he feels….

  15. Nellie has different moods, boy can she be crabby at times. I call her sharkie

  16. I can tell if one of my dogs is in a mood of sorts. They are impatient with the other dogs, sulky, melancholy, ignoring me. It always makes me sad.