Why Does My Dog Look So Sad?

I have thousands of pictures of my dog Honey. But almost none of them show her looking happy.

You know—with loose floppy ears and a big smile.

In fact, in most of our pictures my dog looks kinda sad. Or at least still and calm instead of joyous and frolicsome.

Honey the golden retriever laying in fall leaves.

C’mon, really? Would you be happy lying in a pile of leaves?

Is it me? Is it her? Or is something else making my dog look so sad?

When Honey Is Happy

Yesterday I walked Honey to the Farmer’s Market. She doesn’t get to go there very often.

Dogs aren’t allowed in the pavilion so I can’t do my shopping when she’s with me. And in the summer, it’s a madhouse. Has anyone else ever been to a farmer’s market so popular that they have staff directing traffic in the parking lot?

But yesterday was a perfect day to take her. It was cloudy, windy, cold, and occasionally raining. Which meant we had the path to the market almost to ourselves. And Honey got to express her inner joy in the form of off-leash zoomies.

Honey the golden retriever runs zoomies.

I have no idea why I’m so happy. But I just have to zoom.

I got a few bad pictures that by no means showed her happiness. And I tried to burn the sight of her joyfully running around into my memory.

But it got my thinking. It’s not that Honey isn’t happy. It’s that it’s nearly impossible to find photographic evidence of her happiness.

A Cash Prize To Anyone Who Can Capture A Photo Of My Happy Dog

I wonder if a good animal photographer could capture a happy picture of Honey? Because I’ve certainly done a rotten job of it.

Honey the golden retriever with flowers.

Okay, one more picture. Now can we finish our walk?

And when I sit down and think about it, there are even a few reasons I don’t have happy Honey pictures that aren’t my fault.

  • My camera is very slow. If Honey is moving, I won’t capture it.
  • It’s almost always cloudy here. Making the camera even slower.
  • Even with a good camera, I’m a horrible photographer.
  • Honey doesn’t like the camera. With work, she’s accepted it more. But she’s not a natural model.
  • I’m unable to take pictures during some of Honey’s happiest moments, like when she’s meeting strangers.
  • Most of the time, Honey is serene instead of puppy crazy with joy.

I’m considering buying a new camera or video camera. That could help.

Honey the golden retriever smiles.

How’s this for a smile? Are you happy now?

And maybe I’ll even spring for some professional pictures of Honey by a photographer capable of bringing out her joyful side.

My sweet girl is turning five years old in a few months. She’s getting her first grey hairs (interestingly, at the base of her tail, not on her muzzle). We won’t be together forever.

So maybe it’s time to put more effort into capturing Honey’s happy moments so I don’t look back at the thousands of pictures I’ve taken of her and ask myself, “Why does my dog look so sad?”

Honey the golden retriever in the woods.

I promise the more time you let me run off leash, the more I’ll smile.

Your Turn: Can you capture your dogs moods in pictures? Or do you find you have thousands of pictures that don’t show all the things you love about your dogs?

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  1. Roxy and Torrey are so expressive, that it’s pretty easy for me to catch their moods.

  2. I’m thankful for how easy it is to catch expressions from Mauja and Atka. I love Honey’s serene look :)

  3. Jack wears his heart on his sleeve, so he’s easy to catch. Maggie has pretty much one mode…watchfulness. Once in awhile I can catch her in a relaxed state if she’s in her bed or lying in the yard and once in awhile I can get a little bit of an excited look when it’s dinner. But happy, no I don’t usually see Maggie happy.

  4. Blueberry has a lot of different expressions (the vet gets a kick out of her, as do I) – I just haven’t decoded all of them yet. Sometimes when she looks really serious I imagine her plotting my demise. I usually try to do the photo shoots after we’ve been walking/hiking for a while and after I’ve had her do a couple of fun tricks she knows. I had a dog, Copper, that looked sad in EVERY SINGLE PICTURE I ever took of him. I half expected him to bring his paw to his brow and lament, “Woe is me”. I guess he didn’t want me to have proof that he was (mostly) happy living with me.

  5. Honey looks happy in those pictures when she’s off lead. She probably doesn’t enjoy being posed. I hope you get that shot that you are looking for. Maybe hide in the woods with a telescopic lens?! Interestingly, Kelly LOVES the camera. When I get it out, or even my phone camera, she runs and stands in front of me. She gets upset if I am trying to take a picture of Ike or Zeke (or heaven forbid, Grace!) We use the squeaker from a disemboweled stuffie to get her ears up. I also have an app on my phone that makes cat meows, knocking on the door, and other attention-getting sounds!

  6. She doesn’t look sad to me. Those are looks of total contentment. Callie and Shadow have the same look when Ducky’s at daycare!

  7. I know what you mean about having a slow camera, mummy’s phone takes terrible shots and I either look demonic or sucidal lol

  8. SO true! As soon as they see me coming with the camera they ALL put there ears down. lol

  9. We have a hard time getting happy pics of Katie, but when we had the photographer do a shoot with us two years ago, she brought out Katie’s smile no problem.

  10. It’s been quite a while ago when I decided to stick to taking movies for most part. Capture things much better and I’m able to pick and pull stills from it. Only sometimes I take actual photos.

  11. Both Rita and our angel Abby always seem to look sad in most of our indoor pictures. But get them out on a walk or when they’re playing, they’re all smiles. Hopefully Rita’s not really sad when she’s just hanging out in the hosue with me, cuz that would mean she’s sad for the majority of her days! Hopefully with both Rita and Honey it’s just a case of mostly being calm and content, rather than sad!

  12. Both of my dogs will do something that I would love to get on camera, and they both stop the moment I pick up the camera! I’ve decided to give it up as a bad job. I would rather be in the moment with them, living it, than insuring I have a great photo to show but am so busy taking that photo I miss the moment!

  13. Harley epitomizes the popular phrase: A picture is worth a thousand words!” I love taking photos of him for that very reason.

  14. I feel like many/most of Elka’s pictures are a lot more serious than she actually is. She’s a bouncy, joyful, “hey, why don’t we play or at least share that food you’ve got” kind of gal! But I think I take enough pictures that I can capture the moments well enough (I err on the side of quantity, since my quality as a photographer is not guaranteed).

  15. Frankie loves having his photo taken, Beryl doesn’t mind too much and neither does Asher. But Asher is quite a solemn chap for a young fellow and it’s difficult to get a photo of him looking happy. I think you have got some lovely smiley photos of Honey. A good camera will definitely help you get better smiley action photos and a professional photo shoot isn’t a silly idea. You’ll need a good camera when you head off sailing won’t you?

  16. I’ve noticed the same thing with my dog – she doesn’t seem to look “happy” when she’s not panting or playing. I don’t think it means they’re not happy, I’m guessing it just has to do with whatever their relaxed or neutral expression may be. Growing up I had a Lab that looked like he was happy all the time for some reason. With Laika when I get photos she either looks concerned, bored, or if she’s panting – happy.