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Do Dogs Smile? | Pupford

June 19th, 2023

Filed under Lifestyle + Stories

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The million-dollar question – do dogs smile?

You know what we’re talking about. When you’re talking to your dog, playing a game, or petting them in just the right spot and there it is -- you could swear they’re smiling at you.

Like this ⤵️

brown-dog-smiling | Pupford

There’s no denying that looks an awful lot like a human smile, just a little furrier of course. But do dogs really smile?

Is that their way of telling you they’re happy? What does it really mean?

If you’ve found yourself asking those questions about your dog, you’re not alone! We’ve gotten quite a few questions about dog smiling lately, so today we’re going to give you the full scoop.

Here's what we will cover in this article:

  • Do Dogs Smile?
  • What Does a Dog Smiling Mean?
  • How to Make Your Dog Smile
  • Showing Off Those Pearly Whites

Now let’s start answering some questions about dog smiles.

Starting with the big one…

Do Dogs Smile?

dark-brown-dog-smiling-while-laying-on-grass | Pupford

The shorter answer here is that there is no short answer.

While dogs do contort their faces in a way that resembles smiling, it’s a little different than a human smile.

When engaged in exciting activities like playing an intense game, dogs will open their mouths and pull their cheeks back to pant more efficiently. This looks like a human smile and happens when they’re doing an activity they love, so it’s commonly mistaken for a doggy grin.

But, it’s a sign of a relaxed, content position, so interpreting it the same as a human smile isn’t totally off!

Dogs also smile in a way that’s a little more complex than you probably think. Dogs are great at observing and manipulating human behavior (which I’m sure you know if you’ve ever tried to have a snack near your dog).

Kim Brophey, a canine behavior consultant, explains dog smiles this way.

Dogs can sense that humans smile to convey a positive emotion, and they try to emulate that. Further, love, affection, and the treats dogs get when they smile further motivates them to repeat the behavior.

Whether your dog smiles on their own or as a reaction to your smile, there’s no denying it -- dogs do smile, and it’s absolutely adorable!

Get more in-depth answers to other dog body language questions with our Dog Body Language Course.

What Does a Dog Smiling Mean?

white-dog-frowning | Pupford

For the most part, a dog’s smile means one of two things: they are content and enjoying what they are doing, or they are watching and engaging with your behavior.

But it’s important to know the difference between a “smile,” and some other facial expressions that may look similar but mean very different things. Remember, just because a dog is showing their teeth does not mean they are smiling.

If their ears are pinned back and they are sitting down or leaning away from you, that’s a scared grin.

If their ears are forward and their bodies are tense and leaning towards you, they are snarling and might be angry.

It’s important to look at all of your dog’s body language to make sure their smile is a positive one. If you notice any signs of your dog being uncomfortable, encourage everyone around you to not reinforce the behavior.

Then, assess the situation and the surroundings to correct what is making your dog scared or angry, so they can be back to their happy selves in no time!

Related Reading: Appeasement Behavior in Dogs

How to Make Your Dog Smile

If you love your dog’s smile and want to see them smile more, you’re in luck! There are things you can do to make your dog smile.

The first is to smile around them a lot and show them that it means you’re happy. You can do this by showing them affection, using a happy tone of voice, and engaging in activities your dog loves while you smile.

Once they are able to interpret your behavior and reciprocate it, be sure to reward your dog -- give them lots of affection, act excited, and have some training treats on hand for the occasion.

You can also work smiling into your training routine. You just have to be a little more patient teaching this behavior as opposed to others, since it’s not something your dog typically does on their own.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Use what’s called a “whisker tickle.” Gently tickle your dog’s whiskers or stroke their cheeks to prompt them to pull their lips into a smile. Once they do, mark and reward them with a training treat.
  2. Repeat that 5-10 times.
  3. Once your dog is getting used to it, add a verbal cue to the mix. Continue doing the whisker tickle, but add a verbal cue like “smile” or “say cheese” right before doing so. Keep rewarding with that training treat!
  4. Eventually, you will be able to phase out the whisker tickle and your dog will begin to respond to the verbal cue. Be patient and keep on rewarding!

PS- Want to learn 20 other tricks for your dog?! Check out the Trick Training Course, part of Pupford Academy.

trick training thumbnail | Pupford

Show Off Those Pearly Whites!

white-dog-with-white-teeth-showing | Pupford

While we know you love your dog’s smile no matter what, you want to give them a smile to be proud of.

Not only does dental hygiene make for a picture-perfect smile, but it’s also a really important part of keeping your pup healthy.

While professional dental cleanings for dogs can be expensive, we know brushing your dog’s teeth yourself can be a challenge. So we put together 11 simple ways to clean dog teeth without brushing, to help supplement your dog’s dental hygiene routine.

This way, you’ll be able to snap that Instagram-worthy smile with bright shiny teeth!

And speaking of posting on Instagram -- if you have a great picture of your dog smiling, we’d love to see it. Post it and tag @pupford and you might just get featured!

Recap of Do Dogs Smile

The short answer is, in a sense... yes, dogs smile!

Just be sure to read your dog's body language and look for cues that what might look like a 'smile' is actually them showing fear or anger.

Learn more about dog body language, like what your dog's tail wagging could mean with our Dog Body Language Course.

Have a great pic of your dog smiling?! Drop the link to your dog's Instagram in the comments below!


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