Do Dogs Really Smile At Us?

The idea of dogs smiling is something we hear a lot, especially from proud canine owners who obviously share a bond with their furry friend.

And it’s not without reason at all, since all of us at some point have seen the upturned mouths of our four-legged friends while their tongues are lolling out and their tails wagging from side to side. But sometimes communication is ruff. A tail wagging happily or a mouth hanging open can only tell so much when we don’t speak the same language.

So the question is: Are our dogs really grinning at us? Or, are we simply anthropomorphizing something that doesn’t mean what we think it is?

To answer this, science demands that we take a look back at our shared history with dogs, which started about 30,000 years ago. This history that spans many millennia is probably the reason why we humans have such a unique bond with dogs This is further proved by researchers, who found that dogs use eye contact with the human gaze that’s unique for a whole lot of animals. Another study also revealed that when locked in a gaze, both dogs and humans experience an increase in oxytocin.

“Studying dogs is a really unique opportunity to look at social communication between species,” Alex Benjamin, an associate lecture in psychology who is currently studying dog cognition at UK’s University of York, said.

But while it’s clear that eye contact is important for both dogs and humans, the subject of dogs “smiling” is something more complicated. That’s because in addition to not having enough object research to back it up, it’s also often paired with our tendency to anthropomorphize our pets, especially dogs.

There’s also some research that state that a dog’s “relaxed open mouth” position means that it is in a positive environment, while some argue that this means the dog is in a relaxed state. Whether this means the dog wants to communicate something still remains highly unknown.

Then again, our dogs excitedly wagging their tails as we arrive home from work already communicates so much.

dog-1558962_960_720 A smiling dog. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)