Dogs really can be our best friends. They-re such loving creatures. Besides, don’t you just love it when their eyes go like, looking to the side? You know the look. Above all, the team of highly skilled emergency veterinarians loves it when dogs smile.
We don’t know why, but it’s incredibly wholesome when we see the faces of our patients just fill with joy and smile upon recovery and seeing their parents come to get them once they’re safe.
Dogs make us smile, jump with joy, walk outside, and do many more great things. They’re also a big responsibility; one we take seriously here at BrightCare Veterinary Center.
We know you know how much we love dogs and many other pets who require frequent professional checkups, so we wanted to dedicate this blog post to one of the many things that make us love dogs: their smiles.
Do Dogs Smile?
Ok, so the hard truth is that many behaviorists would not consider our dogs’ smiles in the same vein as human smiles. However, there’s no denying that some changes in their expressions that look like our smiles match their emotional state and happiness.
Dogs may not smile in the traditional sense as humans do, but the behavior they display when they’re happy certainly includes smiling.
Some humans may mistakenly consider some expressions as smiles. These include:
- Wide-mouth panting,
- Relaxing with their tongues out,
- Aggressive baring of the teeth,
- And more.
If you want to get all technical about it, there are two main reasons why experts and scientists would agree that dogs smile. The first is called neoteny, which is just a fancy term referring to behavioral traits an animal species retains from infancy since they’ve become domesticated.
In the case of dogs, this includes many of the friendly traits we know in love, such as:
- Emotional greetings,
- And the lovely canine smile or canine grin.
The second is that dogs love to analyze human behavior and respond in kind. When we smile, they smile back. As an evolutionary advantage, the more they smile back, the more treats and love they receive. It’s a win-win scenario, really.
Is My Dog Really Smiling?
Let’s quickly consider a couple of behaviors that we may interpret as equivalent to human smiles in dogs.
When your dog feels safe and comfortable around you, they will adopt a posture and facial expression that reflects their emotional state. Maybe you’ll notice your dog squinting their eyes and lips that appear relaxed. Likewise, as their facial muscles relax, their ears will sit normally on the head instead of being pinned back against their skull.
Pay close attention to a gentle tail wag as it usually goes hand in hand with a relaxed grin that shows your dog is as comfortable and relaxed as it can be in the moment.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have this type of grin. As your dog feels uncomfortable and unsafe. Fortunately, the grin itself is a gesture that indicates a desire to build a better relationship. Take it as an appeasement gesture that says “I really want to be your friend.”
This is not an aggressive gesture, but you should learn to read it as an indicator that the dog is feeling intimidated. Please proceed carefully when you see someone else’s dog react like this to your presence.
The dog will have lips that are tightly retracted and reveal all of its teeth. Similarly, their eyes are wide, their bodies tense, and their ears pinned back.
How Can I Know if My Dog Is Happy?
So, dogs can smile when they’re happy, but not everything we see as a smile may be an indicator of happiness. How can you tell if your dog is happy? You may not become an expert in canine body language or your dog’s facial expressions, but we can all start somewhere.
Another common misconception is that all dogs wag their tales only when they’re happy. Pay close attention to the tail’s position and combine that with their grin to know if the dog is truly happy.
A relaxed grin joined by a neutral position of the tail (meaning they’re just holding their tail slightly up) means the dog is relaxed. Tail wagging is a show of excitement and that can be either good or bad for the others.
A wagging tail hanging low is usually a sign of submission and anxiety, while a raised tail is more of an aggressive or dominant motion.
You can tell your dog is happy by their body language and willingness to play instead of focusing only on their facial expression and what looks like a smiling dog.
Will Visiting the Vet Make My Dog Happy?
That’s a trick question. Many dogs are afraid of the vet because they’ve had bad experiences with teams that mistreat them. That is not the case when you come to us for your pet’s emergency vet services in Irvine. We love our patients and try to help them as carefully as possible while making sure they receive the professional care they require.
Managing that is not easy, but it’s our set goal to make sure they remain as happy and smiley as possible while giving you the confidence that your pet is in capable and loving hands.
Make sure to make the most out of the times when you see your dog smiling and happy to take them to the vet and ensure their health is in an optimal state. Get in touch with us if your dog requires emergency vet care and we’ll gladly help.