Dogs that “Smile”

I believe for a fact that dogs truly can smile. Some dogs appear to smile showing their teeth, like humans when we’re happy. If you own a dog, you know when you four-legged pooch is blissfully happy.

My dog, Abby, smiled earlier today. She was delighted to bring a dirty ball in from our garden. This ball is not usually allowed inside. She snuck in with it on the sly, and proceeded to parade around the living room, tail wagging with the ball in her mouth to show-off. Her ears were in a very relaxed state, tucked in a backward position close to her head. She made a purring sound that is difficult to describe, similar to clearing her throat – almost gargling. Once finished with her parade she lay down on the floor. Then she dropped the ball and let out a loud exhale, followed by a bit of panting. Her eyes were smiling at a mission accomplished while looking our way.

Growing up my family had a black lab named Benjamin. He was one of those dogs that actually smiled with his teeth at times of pure joy. It was always random which made the event even all the more special.

I have always wondered why some dogs smile exposing teeth while other dogs do not.

I have observed this when a dog greets a person they may not have seen in a while. The reunion is a pleasant situation and both the two and four-legged are thrilled to see each other. I walked a little dog named Sunny for many years. His owner retired recently and my walking was not required any more. Recently I was asked to look after Sunny for the day. Upon arrival he was just as excited as I was and flashed his pearly whites my way. I had forgotten that he “smiled” and this little guy made my day!

Research has proven that dogs that smile showing their teeth are linked the wolves’ heritage. This behaviour is one of submission when wolves would gesture to another. So why do some dogs “smile” bearing teeth?

Some research tells us that dogs learn this behaviour from us. A dog smiles, and we in turn reward it with a belly rub, pat or a treat, plus positive attention. The dog realizes he/she gets something desirable in return from a human being. It may become genuine over time as an association of something that causes happiness to the dog. Dogs roll on their backs to show submission, but learn to give in to their owners with the perk of a wonderful belly rub.

Any owner that has a dog that “smiles” believes it is the real deal. I remember walking a Wheaton named Murphy temporarily for a woman. He would flash me a smile upon each arrival for a walk combined with all the other physical signs of a happiness. Was he displaying submission? His owner told me he was a smile-er and that he always smiled in happy circumstances.

Youtube is full of videos of smiling dogs if you want a guaranteed smile yourself! There is one I laugh seeing over and over of a Golden Retriever who loves his owner playing the guitar, This dog is seen clearly enjoying his owner’s musical talent. The dog is showing exactly what our Abby was today. Panting at a slow rhythmic pace, eyes relaxed and focused on his owner and incredibly bobbing his head to the beat of the tune! When the music stops the dog’s expression goes from serene to a sudden look of what happened? His mouth closes and his eye expression becomes very puzzled. The interesting part of this video is once the music starts again the dog resumes his happy face. It is not a simple coincidence as over the next few minutes different time intervals test the dog’s reaction. I found this fascinating.

There is another video of a Golden-doodle named Milo. This dog is seen smiling with teeth in response to his owner’s happy voice, The smiles are endless!

What are your thoughts? Have you witnessed a genuine dog smile? Do you think it is a learned behaviour? I think that we are very lucky that our canine friends can show us in so many different ways that they are happy, whether through their pearly whites, eye expression, ears or a tail or body wag!

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About dogstwentyfourseven

Becky White is a dog walker.She and her husband live in Toronto with their two daughters.Becky has been a dog lover all of her life and feels now is the right time to share her stories, experiences and adventures!
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3 Responses to Dogs that “Smile”

  1. Jon says:

    Great article Becky. I walk a dog named sky who smiles at me everyday as he comes down the stairs. It makes the day better.

  2. It doesn’t take much to make our golden smile. A treat. A walk. A hug. She’s a pushover.Who says you have to talk to communicate? Dogs know how to make us smile. Nice post Becky!

  3. Lady Ashmire says:

    I’ve had two dogs that give a toothy smile when relaxed and being given belly rubs. It is odd since we’re taught that kind of expression on a dog is usually when they’re going to bite, and it is, but you can tell it’s different in this context. It is true that I tend to unthinkingly smile a lot when snuggling with dogs, and I know at least one of them was capable of imitating human behavior through observation, so they might learn it from us—in which case it would probably be a sign of an extra-clever doggie.

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