Do dogs really smile?

Undoubtedly some dogs do indeed smile. This is not a natural form of dog communication however. Rather, it is a testament to the close bond and friendship that dogs have with humans and from which many of them have learned that we respond favorably to a joyful smile from another.

In the wild what we may mistakenly misinterpret as a smile is more likely to be a snarl. This happens when members of the dog family are displaying their teeth, having curled back their lips, in order to clearly say, ”back off”. When this happens they are probably feeling threatened and are being protective of themselves, some food, or of other pack members.

Our own pet dogs still share this natural instinct. When they feel unhappy and threatened they may well snarl in this way. But, if you have a dog that can smile you will definitely know the difference between defensive snarling and happy smiling.

Just as we humans are able to pick up new ways of communicating so can our furry pals. The amazing thing though, is that in the case of smiling our dogs are learning how to communicate like us, rather than finding new ways to communicate like dogs.

There again, one of the main natural forms of communication for a dog is via the non verbal route. They do, off course bark and make many other noises, but by and large they depend more on getting their message across by using body language.

This is perhaps why dogs are so observant and have been able to pick up on smiling. In the world of dog talk you need to be very sensitive to reading the body language of others. You need to notice when another dog has his ears flat and his tail up in an aggressive pose. You need to be aware that another dog is rolling on their back with their belly on display so that you can relax.

What’s even more amazing is that not only have dogs learned to smile, but they have learned when to smile. Rather than wondering around all day grinning and chuckling from ear to ear they pick the right moments smile. This may happen when we walk through the door after a long day at work. It may occur when we mention the word, ”walkies”. It may also happen when another dog who knows how to smile is spotted. Then they can both smile at each other and begin playing.

One of the most interesting aspects about dogs when they smile is that they never force an insipid grin upon us. When they smile their whole face lights up and there is no mistaking that they are genuinely happy. If only some humans were more like dogs…….

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