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Can Dogs Smile?

We have all seen dogs when they are panting after a walk or when they bare their teeth in that weird non-aggressive way but is that smiling?

In fact, can dogs smile? Is it really them trying to communicate happiness or is it because they are doing it unintentionally?

Smiling is a human characteristic which we understand and use in day to day life.

Often times we like to give non-humans or even objects human-like characteristics in order to relate. We could be doing the same thing when most dogs are “smiling”.

Although it could be possible dogs have learned to smile as a sign of happiness, it is more likely that you are misinterpreting the situation.

Here are some common actions your dog might be doing that you mistake for “Smiling”.

Can Dogs Smile?

Things We Often Mistake For A Dog Smiling

Submissive Grins

This is not an aggressive snarl that you see when your dog takes a firm stance and gets aggressive eyes.

This is the opposite if anything your dog will position their teeth in an odd way to make sure you know that they are not attempting to hurt you.

Some other signs your dog is being submissive is a lowered posture of the body, squinty eyes, and their neck is turned upwards.

When your dog is doing this they attempt to make themselves look as non-threatening as possible.


This is a very common way people mistake a dog’s body language for smiling when really dogs are doing this to cool down.

If you have seen your dog do this while leaning out of a car window or on a walk, they are really trying to breathe in large amounts of air and cool off.

They pant in addition to sweating through their paws because they can’t cool as efficiently as humans in part because of the fur all over their bodies.

Aggressive Snarl

Most people won’t mistake this one for a smile because of the other obvious signs of anger a dog will have.

However, I will still stress the importance of the fact that this is NOT your dog trying to show happiness by smiling.

If a dog goes into aggressive snarl they feel like they are in danger and are preparing to get aggressive if the situation escalates.

They make themself look as intimidating as possible to scare away the person they think it threatening them.

Resting Face

Some dogs naturally have a resting face that smiles because of the curve of their mouth goes up.

For example, many Jack Russels are have resting faces that makes them always look happy. Whereas, Basset Hounds always look very sad or even tired.

Final Thoughts

Just because in many cases we might be misreading our dog’s physical gestures don’t think your dog isn’t happy!

Your dog is most likely happy all of the time and shows you as much as they can to say that they are happy and that they love you.

If you want to know how your dog expresses their love we have an article all about how they say “I love you” and how you can say it back.

Can dogs smile Pinterest image


I started this site because I am a dog lover. Most of my social feeds are full of dogs and I am always learning more about them. I also have a lifetime of experience with dogs packed with tactics, tips, and funny stories that I want to share with the world!

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