Is that a Smile On my Dogs Face?

Is that a Smile on my Dogs Face

If you fall off the stairs, it’s improbable that your dog would smile at the sight of its owner in such unfortunate event, but the pet could still “smile” if you rub its tummy. So, what about smiling doggies? We usually see them on the “Happydogs” Subreddit or in funny memes. But what about facial expressions and dogs?

As Kirsten C. Theisen, former director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States told The Dodo –one of our favorite websites-: “A dog who has the open mouth, the tongue hanging out, and the wrinkly cheeks is not necessarily a ‘smile’ in the way we think of a smile,” and that it could be a grave mistake if we mess up with a not-so-friendly-furry-showing-its-teeth.

She also said that “almost all mammals have some facial expression” and that, linked with the study made in 2012 by Philip Low called “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” just proves that animals have the ABILITY to show how they feel. Because, yes, they feel.

Threatening or smirking smile?

Smiles are not necessary real laughs, even if we think of them as one, it may be just the dog weirdly showing their teeth. And that takes us to Denver, the retriever who “smiles” nervously when she’s guilty. We just have to pick up the body language and the signals our furry baby is giving us! Or that other dog that shows its teeth when it’s about to bite.

If we see a smiling dog, then we have to take in consideration other signals that we can easily see: wagging tail, relaxing pose, the position of its ears, the expression of its eyes; but the thing that shows the grandest state of happiness is the tongue out. Also, we have to think of the context: what is the canine doing? Is it playing with friends and fun humans? Or is it meeting an aggressive or threatening animal?

Eeeeks and yaaaays!

There’s another signal much harder to get and understand, but it has been proven in a study made by ethologist Patricia Simonet, from the University of Sierra Nevada, that dogs do also show emotions by making sounds. Simonet meticulously studied the sounds with microphones and a lot of time spent hearing the dogs, and she found out that our furry friends make a different pitched toned sound when they are playing and being happy and that it can also lead to excite and invite other dogs to play. This last fact is known because in the study, the sounds were played back to baby puppies and the reaction was priceless: they became infected with the same happiness and playfulness they were hearing.

So, I want to make my dog smile! What should I do?

There are many things that can make your furry child smile:

1. Take your dog on a car ride.
2. Give it treats!
3. Throw the ball or the stick.
4. Tummy rubs!
5. Take its food and do like you’re going to feed your doggie. The expectation of having lunch from previous experiences will make it smile.
6. Let it play in the snow, grass and even dirt (the bath after that could be rewarding, or punishment so have this in mind)
7. Talking about bath… You can play with water, with a hose, with a swimming pool, the possibilities are infinite.

Now that we know that animals can feel let’s make them happy whenever we are with them!

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About the Author


Hi! My Name is Nataly and I´m in a long serious committed love story with both of my rescued dogs: Frida and Amelia. I use the time that's left, between fetching balls at the park and tummy tickling, to collaborate here at with heart melting dog stories and tips to take better care of our furry friends. I’m also developing a career as a Fashion-Beauty writer and Makeup Artist. Follow me on IG: Soy_nats to meet my babies and check some of my work. High Paws!

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