Dog owners can usually tell when their pet is happy because dogs are very expressive with their body language – from a wagging tail (usually, but not always, a sign of happiness) to canine kisses.

Some dogs even appear to be smiling when they are enjoying life.

But dogs, like many mammals, can disguise pain or express their discomfort in ways that may not be immediately obvious to their owners.

A dog may use its mouth to indicate pain or discomfort – they will lick their lips excessively, salivate more than usual, or pant when it isn’t hot.

And have you noticed that when a dog is tired it doesn’t yawn very often?

Yawning is more commonly associated with a dog that is trying to regulate its stress levels because they feel anxious or uncomfortable.

A dog in pain may also be overly focused on their paws, licking them excessively or chewing them constantly.

This could be a sign of a range of health issues from an allergic reaction to arthritis.

Other, perhaps more obvious, signs that a dog is unwell are a hunched back, low tail and pinned back ears. They may be more picky with their food, drink more water than usual or simply become more grumpy.

Another excellent way to check your dog’s (or cat’s) health is to assess the colour of their mucous membrane, and the most accessible place to do this is by looking inside the mouth.

If it is safe to do so, gently peel back your pet’s top lip and assess the colour of their gums which should be a healthy pink.

If the skin is a vivid salmon pink colour this is indicative of poisoning; and if it is white this indicates that the animal is in severe shock or has suffered significant blood loss.

A blue skin colour often means that the animal is struggling to breathe and has respiratory problems; yellow gums can be a sign of liver failure; and gums with dark coloured splotches can be an indication of a blood clotting disorder.

It is advisable to check your healthy pet’s gum colour on a regular basis so that you know what is normal, and if there is any natural pigmentation in the skin, and then you can pinpoint an abnormality more quickly.

The gums are also an excellent way to check for dehydration, and a healthy pet should have moist gums at all times.

Another way to check for dehydration is to gently pinch your pet’s skin – if the pinched skin flattens back into its normal shape as soon as you let go, then your pet is probably fine.

If the pinch takes time to flatten then your pet is dehydrated. The cause could be a stomach upset, or something more serious, and so it’s best to seek veterinary advice.

We have a very healthy and happy black Labrador in our kennels at the moment.

Cooper is only three years old and he still has more to learn about being a perfect canine companion. For example, for all he loves his human friends, he really doesn’t seem to like other dogs.

This reactive behaviour is the reason his previous owners handed him to us, but it is something that training and time can remedy.

Cooper is also still learning to walk nicely on a lead, and to appreciate that a shared outing side-by-side with a human is just as much fun as a romp.

He will need a garden to play in (he is super playful), and to burn off any excess energy.

But because Cooper is so bouncy we think he would be best suited to an adult only household, or one with older children.

If you would like to meet Cooper, or to discuss his personality in more detail, please contact the kennels team on [email protected].

You will also need to complete a home finder questionnaire, which is available on the adoption page of