National Smile Day

National Smile Day

Have you ever wondered if your dog can really smile?  Today is National Smile Day so we decided to find out if our four-legged friends can actually grin when they are happy!  We’ve all seen an upturned mouth and gleeful expression on our dog, but are we actually seeing emotion? 


Do Dogs Smile?

National Smile DayIn short, no dogs do not actually smile as humans do.  However, dogs use their body language to communicate and share their emotions with us.  Dogs will display their enjoyment through acts such as wagging their tails, jumping back and forth, or licking.  When a dog is happy and content, his or her body will reflect that emotion and therefore can give the appearance of a smile.  The facial muscles become relaxed, allowing the corners of the mouth to turn upwards and the mouth to open slightly.  Even though your dog isn’t actually giving you a toothy grin, the expression likely still reflects contentment and happiness.


Positive Association and Reinforcement

Dogs are very intelligent animals and quickly learn that they get a positive reaction from humans when they “smile”, and will continue the behavior.  Seeing a dog grin tends to make humans smile, laugh, and often reward the dog with a treat and lots of belly rubs.  Most animals have some form of facial expression that they display when they want to come across as friendly or playful, and dogs can make that positive association with their relaxed expressions and treats.  Learn what your dog’s body language means and what their “smiling” face looks like.  Don’t forget to give them a special treat for their effort!


Dogs and Other Happy Body Language

Even though dogs cannot actually smile, there are several other different ways that they like to show their human companions how they are feeling.  Have you noticed any of these friendly behaviors in your pet?

  • Relaxed Body Posture– Your dog is not stiff or tense and may be wagging his or tail.
  • Tongue Out– A dog will often have a closed mouth when he or she senses danger or is on alert.  A relaxed tongue is a sign of a happy and relaxed dog.
  • Barking– A dog does not always bark when angry or on alert.  Some dogs have a higher-pitched bark that they use when they are happy and feeling playful.
  • Eyes– A happy dog will have relaxed eyes and eyelids.  Look for a soft gaze as opposed to a hard, fixated stare.
  • Good Appetite–  Your dog will be eating well and often, which will be a sign that he or she is feeling physically well.
  • Sneezing– Some dogs sneeze as a sign of playful behavior or while greeting you.  It is another way that some dogs express their happiness and the behavior tends to be more common in smaller breeds.


The Role of OxytocinNational Smile Day

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays a major role in emotion regulation and happiness.  Interacting with dogs has been shown to release Oxytocin in humans, whether you are playing, snuggling, or simply just making eye contact.  This is also the hormone that is involved with the trust, which is a major part of the human-animal bond.  Studies show that when you look into your dog’s eyes, the dog’s Oxytocin levels increase along with yours, and can deepen the bond between the two of you.  Additionally, when we smile at a dog, he or she can recognize the positive expression on our faces.  Dogs are drawn to and will respond better to a smiling face rather than an angry face as more Oxytocin is released in their bodies.


7 Ways Dogs Make Us Smile

Now that we have thrown some science at you, think about your own dog and the things that he or she does to make you smile!  Here are some ways that dogs make us grin:

  1. Dogs are sloppy eaters.  Whether its mealtime or treat-time, it is almost guaranteed that the bowls will be sliding all over the floor and the food will be flying!
  2. Dogs give the best cuddles.  Just thinking about crawling into bed with a snuggly dog warms our hearts.
  3. Our four-legged companions never let us feel lonely.  Dogs shower us with unconditional love and are always there when we need them the most.
  4. They get us out of the house.  Dogs give us an excuse to go for a walk or get out for a hike in nature.
  5. Dogs help us talk to other people.  Walking your pup in the community is a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and other dog-loving people.
  6. They make us laugh.  Whether it’s missing a toy or getting really excited to see you when you get home after a long day, dogs are goofy and always find a way to make us laugh.
  7. Dogs give us unconditional love.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, a dog will love you no matter what.  Period.


Dogs provide us with so many reasons to smile.  What is your favorite thing that your dog does to brighten your day?