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Do Dogs Really Smile When They Are Happy?

Do Dogs Really Smile When They Are Happy?

Many things make your dog happy, but do dogs smile? You may see them pant or pull their lips upward when excited. Many call that facial expression smiling. Their faces will change when they seem excited, stressed, tired, nervous, or scared. 

So what does it mean? Keep reading to learn if dogs’ have emotions, if they smile, and how to interpret them.

Can Dogs Feel Emotions?

Dogs display similar emotions just as humans do. They communicate these feelings through body posture, growling and barking, and their senses. 

Dogs appear to experience emotions like sadness, joy, anger, and fear. But they also exhibit love, distress, excitement, suspicion, and more. They display each through different mannerisms and actions. 

Additionally, dogs can interpret human emotions and often react accordingly. If you get angry at them, they may act submissively or scared. If you feel happy and excited, they’ll feed off that energy. They effectively “catch” our emotions. After thousands of years of cohabitating and adapting together, we really can’t be too surprised!

Do Dogs Smile When They’re Happy?

Most people think dogs smile when they pant. They stick their tongue out and pull their lips back, which can look similar to how humans smile. But panting can signal different things. Panting can be a sign of fear, nervousness, anxiety, or simply being too hot. However, there are other facial and body features that can tell you if your dog’s panting is happy and relaxed or nervous.

When dogs are happy, you may see their tail wag and ears relax. If they’re running, playing, or excited, they might also pant while displaying these other signs of happiness. However, not all dogs will express themselves in the same way. 

Dogs can have a “smiling” expression for other reasons, too. You should know the differences and learn how to read your dog’s posture and physical clues to help you determine how they feel.

happy dog in sweet pea flowers
There are few things more joyful than a happy dog!

Are There Other Reasons Why Dogs Will “Smile?”

A dog may pant or smile for many reasons. These cues can help you know whether you can safely approach them or if it’s best to give them space. Here are four “smiles” your dog may use.

The Relaxed Smile

The relaxed or content smile manifests with squinting eyes, relaxed ears, lips drew back, or a slightly open mouth. They’ll have relaxed facial muscles or sometimes pant as well. 

The smile may also look different depending on what made your dog happy such as playing or going outside. If they feel excited about something, they may smile without panting. 

However, if they have finished playing or running, they may smile with their tongue out to cool off. And may show this expression when they’ve released stress.

The Tense Smile

The tense smile often accompanies pinned-back ears and a tail between the legs. This shows that they don’t feel comfortable. They may even lick their lips or yawn to help relieve some tension.

Additionally, their body may get tense, and dogs may look to the sides while keeping their head forward. You may see the whites of their eyes, which can translate as anxiety.

The Submissive Smile

You may see a submissive smile for many reasons. Some interpret this as guilt when you catch them doing something bad. 

However, dogs typically only use this smile to appease humans, not other dogs. Therefore they want to submit themselves to you and show they pose no threat. They may pin their ears back, clench their teeth, pull up their lips, and have wide “puppy-dog” eyes. 

Dogs may also sit or lay down to make themselves small and submissive. Some people think this looks like a human grin because they bear their teeth as we do. 

The Learned Smile

Dogs want to appease their owners and often do anything for a treat. Some people have trained their dogs to smile on cue. This often looks like them bearing their teeth but keeping their ears and body relaxed. You may also catch your dog giving you this learned smile if they want a treat. Sometimes they’ll do every trick they know just for food. 

Do Dogs of Specific Breeds Love to Smile?

It may seem some dogs just look happy all the time. So, do specific dog breeds smile more than others? Typically, most high-energy dogs have the appearance of a smile, especially when stimulated. But dogs of all breeds can smile when they’re happy! You’ll also notice that dogs with outgoing or submissive personalities tend to smile more.

Let’s look at some breeds that love to smile.

do dogs smile
Papillions have big grins and bright attitudes.


Papillons, meaning butterfly in French, have bright smiles and energetic dispositions. They do well with adults and children. Though small, they have big grins and bright attitudes. Papillons love everyone and play non-stop. So you’ll likely see them smiling more when they’re happy.

Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu has a naturally curved mouth making them look like they smile a lot. These dogs like exercise and often have independent personalities. They require a lot of training and socialization but have the cutest faces. These smiley dogs have pointy ears and fluffy reddish coats and remain small to medium-sized.

French Bulldog

The French bulldog has a naturally wide mouth making it look like they smile more. However, they also love socializing and are generally happy and content dogs. You may see them give a little happy dance while wiggling their butt, panting, relaxing their ears, and narrowing their eyes.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Being active makes the Pembroke Welsh Corgi smile.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi has stubby legs and the cutest smile. These herding dogs require lots of activity and exercise. They can also bark a lot. And they love people but don’t do so well with children. Corgis like to play, and you’ll often see them smiling.


The Basenji is known as a quieter dog who doesn’t often bark (although they make other sounds). They require a lot of stimulation and have high energy levels. For this reason, they may smile more when they get to play. They have tall pointy ears, small frames, and short, curled-up tails.


The Samoyed has lips that point up at the end, making it look like they smile constantly. However, they also have social personalities, so they may smile more when interacting with others. They also have big eyes and lovable faces. These dogs have the cutest smiles when they’re happy.

Bichon Frise

The fluffy, peppy Bichon Frise has a bright personality and a big smile. Bichons loves to play and show affection. They make great family dogs, do well with children and other dogs, and train easily. You may find them smiling most when they get to spend time with their favorite human or play. 

Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds have big grins and love to play.

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd lives to work. They thrive when given a job and can run for days. And they have big grins and bear their teeth to smile on occasion. This smiley dog does well with children and loves to play. You can also train them easily. They also have some of the most beautiful multi-colored coats.

Alaskan Malamute

These happy-go-lucky dogs were bred to pull heavy loads in arctic climates. Alaskan malamutes have big coats and sometimes mismatched eyes. They have big grins and love to work and play. Some have mouths that curl upward. They may also pant more due to their thick winter coats.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The friendly and faithful Icelandic Sheepdog does well with young children and families. They always want to be near your side and live to please you. Their facial expressions make it look like they smile constantly. You may fall in love with this smiley, happy dog.

Do Dogs Feel Other Emotions?

Other than the main emotions, such as happiness, sadness, and fear, dogs display other characteristics or what might be perceived as personality. They might get lonely, depressed, nervous, scared, and anxious. And they exhibit these in many ways, such as hiding, sleeping, nipping, and chewing. 

On the other hand, they also get excited and express love and affection. These emotions may manifest in jumping, barking, licking, or spinning around in circles. However, it doesn’t appear that dogs feel things like contempt, pride, guilt, or shame. If you catch your dog doing something bad, it may react in a way that mimics how we feel guilt or shame. Instead, it’s likely an expression of fear, sadness, or submission.

do dogs smile
Dogs’ smile-like expressions give us an idea of what they need and how they feel.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Smiling for a Good Reason

Do dogs smile when they’re happy? Yes, they do! But not every smile-like expression means the same thing. Understanding how to read your dog will help you meet its needs. 

For example, don’t approach a dog you don’t know if they bear their teeth, has its ears pulled back, and has a tense body. Help your dog relieve stress and tension by playing, exercising, eating, or feeling safe. 

You want your dog to smile for good reasons. Have you ever noticed some of these four smiles in your dog?

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Petrics was born out of a love of helping animals and their owners live life to their fullest! Established in 2022, Petrics was founded by Caitlin and Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move, Discovery TV Show hosts and successful RV Travel Experts. They are a full-time RVing couple who loved traveling with their beloved rescue dogs. This Petrics team strives to share the most interesting questions answered, the most entertaining news and culture, and the most inspiring rescue stories. Additionally, our mission is to give back to animal welfare organizations so they can continue their good work in saving the constant stream of animals in need. In fact, 5% of all profits from Petrics are donated to animal-saving initiatives!

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