Every dog owner loves seeing their dog’s grinning face. But many owners don’t realize that there’s more than one type of dog smile, and each type of smile means something different.
While some smiles indicate happiness, others can be a sign of submissiveness or nervousness. If you’re curious about what your pup is trying to tell you with their smile, here are three different types of common dog smiles.
1. The Happy, Relaxed Smile
This is the smile all dog lovers want to see! When your pup is feeling relaxed and at ease, they’ll usually squint their eyes, and they’ll relax their facial muscles. They’ll also either close their mouth or open it just a little bit. The skin around their mouth will typically be wrinkle-free, and their ears also won’t be pinned back.
When a dog is relaxed and happy, they’ll show it in their whole body, from their eyes to their tail.
“In terms of body language, relaxed muscles are seen when a dog is safe and comfortable,” professional dog trainer Dr. Robin Bennett told iHeartDogs. “If they are in that sort of state they can also relax and play.”
2. The Submissive Smile
Many dogs put on submissive smiles from time-to-time. For a good example of a submissive smile, check out this video.
Posted by Amanda Robles on Saturday, January 9, 2016
As you can see, the dog’s lips are retracted, their eyes are wide, and their teeth are pressed tightly together. The dog’s ears are also back, and its body is still and tense. This dog was rescued from a home where he was neglected, and so he’s most likely giving his owner a submissive smile because he wants to please his new family.
Dogs don’t use the submissive smile much with other pups—it’s only usually used with humans. Many vets think that it’s a way for dogs to appease humans.
Some people even think dogs are mimicking humans’ smiles when they give a submissive smile!
3. The Tense Grin
If you see your dog pinning their ears back and slowly closing their mouth, there’s a good chance they’re giving you a tense smile. The pup may also begin panting, or they may yawn or start licking their lips. Some dogs will also become very still if they’re feeling tense.
Your pup may also get “whale-eyes” while they’re giving you their tense grin.
Whale-eyes is a term that’s often used by trainers, and it means that the dog is looking sideways with their nose forward, allowing you to see the whites of their eyes. This often happens when a dog is guarding something. If your dog gets whale-eyes and their body and mouth seem still and tense, it’s a sign that your pup is feeling a bit anxious.
Dogs are complicated creatures with their own ways of expressing themselves, which can sometimes be confusing for us humans. The next time you see your dog giving you one of these smiles, you’ll now know what they mean!
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