Is That “Smiling” Dog Happy?

A topic on our minds, we recently came upon this Great article about signs of stress in your dog. It’s true, some dog’s are not “smiling” or “happy” when their owners post photos of them with tongues out, teeth bare (etc.) If anything, your dog is probably wondering what in the heck are you doing?! Like some humans, not all dogs are…photogenic. I know I am not, whenever someone pulls out a camera, I personally…RUN.

Don’t forget to check out – Dog Facial Expressions: Stress – posted by the same author. This Article will also give you some good pointers for signs of stress in your dog, like whale eyes or panting.

Common Signs of Stress (include, not limited to):

– Turning head away, looking sideways

– Whale Eye, Pupils dilated

– Body tense, stiff posture

– Nose lick/flicking of tongue

– Yawning

– Tail held low/tucked

– Body held low – leaning backwards

– Submissive urination

– Shaking/shivering

– Holding ears loosely backwards

– Repeating a specific behavior (stretching, bowing, shaking – as if wet)



Maybe, but maybe not!

We humans tend to get warm and fuzzy feelings when we see dogs “smile.”

It’s true that some dogs’ mouths open in a cute smile when they are relaxed and happy. But a dog with his mouth open could alternatively be panting from pain, stress, or fear.

Can we tell the difference?

The following pairs of photos show my dogs stressed (left column) and relaxed (right column). The dogs have their mouths open in all the photos.

The usual disclaimers apply. When you run across someone’s still photo with no context, you can’t fairly make assumptions. It might have been taken during the millisecond in which a dog changed his expression. It could be misleading for a dozen other reasons. Videos are better, but we still miss context and may lack knowledge about the particular dog. But in this case I can vouch for the emotional states of my dogs…

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