Dogs have always been a part of my life and family. We had a Border Collie named Chaser when I was very young. He picked the people he liked and he wasn’t sure if he really liked me that much. But I loved him regardless. We then got a tiny teacup Poodle called Taffy. She couldn’t have weighed more than 1lb, even in her adult life. She also had braces because she was so small and she had too many teeth, so she was usually the source of a joke, but she was very loved.
I’ve had mainly smaller dogs, but Indie is 110lbs. I got him nearly eight years ago from a litter of 12 dogs. I chose him because he was not the “perfect” one. With his breed— Golden Retriever—people normally try to pick the best looking puppy, but the Indie was sitting in the corner and he was the first to the feeding bowl and the last to leave it. I knew he was the one.
I love making silly videos with him and at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I was recording a bunch of videos of Indie, and sharing them on Instagram. A friend told me I should get onto TikTok. To begin with, my mentality was that I’m not 12 and I wasn’t going to lip sync. But my attitude quickly changed and I started uploading videos.
Like other pet enthusiasts, I lean into my dog’s excitement. Indie never lets me forget that each morning, I have to take him in the car to our local coffee shop and give him his treat. If I don’t do that, he gives me the worst stink eye or he ignores me. But after he has that treat and his breakfast and has been outside, he gets “the zoomies”—those explosions of energy animals have. He came inside that day, grabbed his toy and he flopped on his back and started wriggling around, he was super happy. He has that happy moment every day. That’s when I captured the Happy Dog video. I am someone who makes up bizarre, outlandish song parodies or funny lyrics that are catchy all the time anyway, so there wasn’t really an inspiration for the song I sang along to the video. It might be genetic—my father was like that too. Perhaps jingles are in the Moody family bloodline.
I posted the Happy Dog video and the next morning I woke up to see that it had received 1.2 million views overnight. I asked my friend if that was normal and she went berserk. She said getting that many views was huge. On TikTok, you’re able to pull the audio from a video and repurpose it, so people started pulling the audio of Happy Dog and repurposing it and it really went viral.
I have more than 10 million views on my original Happy Dog video, but when there was another video that used Happy Dog and it became huge, people who follow me would tag me in it. It was very interesting to see that unfold. But I was just thrilled to have it out there and I would thank people for using my audio. Some people don’t tag me, but I don’t care too much. The actor who plays Pee Wee Herman, Paul Reubens, repurposed Happy Dog for one of his videos—that was pretty funny.
Happy Dog first went viral on TikTok in April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, but it didn’t reach many other social media platforms at the time. When it did, it really started to spread and it blew up again in late 2020. But the biggest viral moment was probably at the beginning of 2021 when my Happy Dog song was used in other TikTok videos that have been viewed more than 150 million times .
I’ve had many companies reach out to me for licensing deals for the Happy Dog song. It actually aired on MTV in July. That’s one of those things you don’t really think about. It’s been interesting.
No-one has contacted me about having Indie on TV or in commercials yet but so many people have said I’m good at jingles. Happy Dog makes people laugh and gets stuck in their head, so creating jingles is something I’ve looked into. Never say never. Happy Dog has opened doors to places I never thought I would go. If some of those doors opened to guest staring in shows or events, I would be happy to lean towards that as well.
Since the video went viral, anything else I share—whether it’s art or photography—will always have people commenting and asking where the happy dog is or saying they’re a happy dog. But it’s great to continue sharing posts with Indie too.
On a recent flight, I had a couple recognize me from social media. They were a little “star struck” and asked for a photo with me. It’s been fun for me to hear people at coffee shops or local parks see dogs and spontaneously start singing Happy Dog.
But for me, the biggest reward is seeing the comments people make on social media about Happy Dog. The most common ones are people saying “thanks for the serotonin,” or saying that they have to come back and watch it every day. I just love that.
There is something about Indie. He has these cartoon-ish eyes and loveable openness about him that people relate to. As well as our morning ritual, we always take an evening ride to the park. Indie will stick his head out of the window of my car, and it’s great to see the reaction from oncoming traffic. People are always driving with a frown, and then they see Indie sticking his head out the window, just being happy with his mouth open and ears flowing in the wind. It evokes instant happiness in them, people love seeing it. That’s one of my favorite things to do.
To be able to do that digitally with the Happy Dog song and reach so many people— it’s amazing.
Dustin “DJ” Moody is a marketing director living in Salt Lake City with his dog, Indie. You can follow him on TikTok @deejaymoo41 and on Instagram @deejaymoo41.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
As told to Jenny Haward.