Can Dogs Smile?

Everyone loves a fluffy grin. From your dog's instagram, to the dog park, to the millions of dog pics clogging your phone's memory, it's safe to say that goofy doggo smiles truly make the world go round (and our hearts fill to the brim with love).

rescue dog in red bandana looking happy
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But have you ever wondered if your dog is actually smiling? Or is that just how his face looks? How do you know your dog is happy when he smiles? Wait, can dogs actually smile?

Luckily, we at Cuteness have compiled all you need to know about puppy smiles. So kick back, relax and say cheese!

Can dogs really smile?

Kind of. Dogs can make their faces appear to smile. But really, it all comes down to context and body language. Chances are that you have probably even seen a million dollar fluffy grin for yourself, but this may be because doggy "smiles" can occur in situations when a dog is relaxed, or their owner assumes that they are happy.

Can dogs recognize facial expressions?

Yes, dogs can recognize facial expressions. Dogs are very astute animals and have learned to adapt to the human forms of communication, including human body language. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dogs have the social recognition skills similar to that of a human infant aged 6 months to 2 years. And, similar to a human infant, dogs learn from humans by observation: they have even learned to track with their eyes by mimicking humans!

If my dog is smiling, does that mean my dog is happy?

As a dog owner, if you see your dog smiling, you may be wondering if this is a sign that your dog is happy. But keep in mind that the meaning of your dog's facial expressions is entirely dependent on dog behavior and dog body language. Sure, maybe your dog is happy, but he may also be aiming to please, mimicking your own facial expressions, or exhibiting submissive behavior. Unfortunately, it isn't all that simple: you have to read the situation to determine if your dog is truly happy.

portrait of a cute little dog looking like she is smiling
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The submissive smile

According to Michelson Found Animals, submissive smiling, albeit rare, is a dog's way of communicating respect to both humans and canines alike. It's basically your dog's way of saying that he just wants to be friendly! You can distinguish a submissive smile from an aggressive smile simply by reading dog body language. This can often include relaxed body posture, laid back ears, a raised paw, and other submissive dog behavior.

How do you know if your dog is happy?

A dog owner must have a good understanding of dog body language to know if his or her dog is happy. A relaxed dog will have a soft body posture and eyes that are looking off to the side. Contrarily, yawning, whining, and a licking of the lips may indicate stress in your dog. So, read the room, human! Your dog could indeed be happy and smiling, but it's also important to remember that like people, your dog may be smiling on the outside, but feeling not so great on the inside.

Portrait of smiling Golden Retriever
credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/GettyImages

Conclusion

There is nothing like a doggie smile to get you through the day. But if your dog is all smiles, you may wonder if this is a sign that your dog is happy and comfortable. While your dog may appear to be smiling, you mus

t look to his body language and behavior to truly know if your dog is happy. Smiles do make the world go round, but understanding dog behavior will help to ensure that your dog is happy, healthy, and feeling his best.