Five Facial Expressions From Your Dog and What They Mean

Dogs can make the cutest faces. They are very expressive creatures and owners love to try to decipher what these little expressions mean. Animals obviously cannot talk, so they use their body language, facial expressions and voices, to try to communicate with us. When you look into your dog’s eyes, you may feel like you can read their little minds. But do you really know what your dog’s facial expressions mean? There are animal and dog behaviorists who have spent years studying canines, and learning what their facial expressions mean.

1. Happy

Dogs have a funny way of smiling, but yes, many breeds of dogs can actually get their facial muscles into a smile formation that they display when they are happy. When a dog is happy, his face and facial muscles become soft and relaxed. His eyes become content looking – ‘winky’ and ‘blinky’ are terms often used to describe them. The eyes may even appear to be squinty looking, and his mouth will be relaxed, maybe hanging open, or lips turned upward in the appearance of a smile, when he’s happy. This facial expression shows that your dog is in a good mood. He’s happy. He’s relaxed. He’s content.

2. On the offensive, or fearful

Dogs often use their lips as a way to communicate how they are feeling, or what they are thinking. A dog’s lips are very readable because they express a lot of emotion through them. What does this mean? It means that you can read your dog’s lips if you know what to look for. One way that a dog expresses himself with his lips is when he is feeling fearful or about to go on the offense. When a dog pushes the corners of his lips, also referred to as the commissures, forward, this means that he is ready to play the offensive role. When the corners of his lips are pushed back, this indicates fearfulness. He is feeling scared, nervous, and fearful of something. Neither of these facial expressions means that he is going to get aggressive, but it all depends on the situation, as well as how the dog handles these types of emotions – how socialized they are, among other things. It’s always best to be aware of the signs of both positions of the commissures so you can be on the alert.

3. Depressed

Yes, animals do experience depression at times, and it can be brought on by any number of reasons. When your dog feels depressed, it is one of the emotions that is fairly easy to read in his facial expressions. A depressed dog will often times have a mopey face. Your dog’s eyelids may stay at half-mast and his face and facial muscles may always stay so relaxed, they look sad, or droopy. Your dog may lose all spark to his eyes and let his ears droop, or keep them in a downward, sad position.

4. Alert and highly aware

Dogs use their ears for everything. They are not only the tool for hearing sounds, but they are communicative tools for letting you know what they are thinking and they use their ears to send the signal. When a dog is aroused, it will prick its ears. This means, they put them on high alert, but not tall dog breeds have the types of ears that are quite as readable, however, the signal is still there. When a dog is aroused, this can be due to excitement, or concern (aggressiveness). When a dog pricks his ears and keeps his eyes soft and his body is wriggly, this is an indication that it’s an excitable prickness. If your dog pricks his ears and his eyes (or stare), becomes hard and glazed, he is more than likely on an alert due to an aggressive nature. That is an expression you want to pay attention to and be aware of.

5. Anger grin, or submissive grin

Dogs can have similar looks of submission and anger, on their faces. It depends on the breed of dog, but there are dogs who will show their teeth and give a type of grin when they are being submissive – they are showing you that they know you are the dominant personality and pack leader. They are in your control, and they know it. That being said, not all breeds will show their submissiveness in this manor, but they will, however, give this type of grin with their teeth showing, in an angry snarl face when they are angry. If they are angry with another animal or a human, they will bare they teeth, showing the majority, if not all, with their grin. If you hear a growl and see cold, hard staring eyes, along with drool coming from their mouth, you should be warned that they could bite or act in an aggressive nature.

Dogs do communicate to those around them, whether it be other animals or humans, and they use their facial expressions, along with their body expressions, to communicate. The more you pay attention to your dog’s individual expressions, the better you will get at reading what he is trying to tell you.


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