Smiling dogs conjures up a whole slew of interpretations and is quite confusing to most people.
For the most part, dogs who smile are using it as a calming signal in appeasement. You’ll see the upper lip come up very far and the rest of the body language and context will tell you if the dog is fearful, timid or aggressive. You’ll need to pay attention to the eyes, ears, body orientation, tail and posture.
The fun part of a dog who smiles is that you can actually help the dog through whatever stressful emotion she is feeling by turning smiling into a game, even giving it a command/cue.
This image is showing DIAMOND, the star of Dog Decoder smiling in appeasement because he was on the couch and got caught in the act. You can tell by his guardian that she’s not happy with him up on the couch and all his body language is appeasing.
Dog Decoder has 60 more images about dog body language and it’s colorfully and lovingly illustrated by the famed Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings. The app is available in iTunes and Google play and is a great teaching tool for vets, trainers, educators, parents and everyone who loves or works with dogs.
Smiling dogs are cute, yes however it could mean shyness or fear which could be a preliminary gesture before a bite. Know your body language and keep you and yours safe.