On our recent trip to San Francisco; the first stop was a beautiful Marina where we walked the misty coastline. We ran into our first dogs there as well; the above pictures are of them. Two beautiful brown labrador boys; with their Dad, were out enjoying the damp early evening air. As soon as I sat down they came running over to me; both with big grins on their faces seeming to know that I was drawn to them, I was already missing my guys badly. We chatted a while as I photographed their smiling faces. They were definitely two very happy boys. As I watched them interact with their Dad; their shared admiration for one another was obvious.
Lots of dogs smile; there are a couple of different type of smiles. The smiles on the boys above are not actually smiles; not like our smiles. Their whole body exudes relaxation and contentment. Body posture low; ears back in a relaxed position, eyes lightly closed and mouth relaxed with slightly pulled back lips causing the appearance of a smile. It is the whole picture rather than simply the mouth position that creates such a joyous air about them. Even without their mouth being held in what looks to be a smile; they would be smiling with their eyes, ears and body.
When a dog is subordinate or has a submissive temperament they may smile more often. This is because a submissive dog will signal their acceptance as a lower member by pulling back their lips. There are times when they are pulled back to display the front teeth in what may appear to be a smile. Tilley is a smiling dog; I love when she smiles and many of the Dobermans that I have known over the years were smiling dogs. A dog that is smiling usually also has a lower body posture as well. For Tilley; a return home was usually the cause for big smiles, especially if it was her Dad or her boy (my son.)
Many dogs who are extremely submissive will go through the whole process of signaling their status; body so low that they can barely walk, eyes squinting to tiny slits and low wagging tail. The smile is usually the final signal; one which is often missed by humans as the dog is so low with their head slung down that we cannot see it. One of Luke's poodles pals is quite submissive; although she typically reserves the smiles for him as a dominant male. Once they have their greeting; she will start to come back to normal position. But she will still stay lower than normal in his presence.
I loved watching these boys and their big smiles. When you see a smiling dog; you can't help but smile back.