Heart failure is a common, complex condition with a poor prognosis and increasing incidence. The syndrome of heart failure comprises changes in electrophysiology, contraction and energy metabolism. This complexity, and the interaction of the clinical syndrome with very frequently concurrent medical conditions such as diabetes, means that animal modelling of heart failure is difficult. The current animal models of heart failure in common use do not address several important clinical problems. There have been major recent advances in the understanding of cardiac biology in the healthy and failing myocardium, but these are, as yet, unmatched by advances in therapeutics. Arguably, the development of new animal models of heart failure, or at least adaptation of existing models, will be necessary to fully translate scientific advances in this area into new drugs. This review outlines the mouse models of heart failure in common usage today, and discusses how adaptations in these models may allow easier translation of animal experimentation into the clinical arena.