Can dogs laugh and smile? Why yes they can, if a Sheltie smile is any indication! This super sweet trait is not entirely unique to Shetland Sheepdogs, but because of their human-pleasing personalities, they are one of the dog breeds that show it particularly well.

What The Experts Say

Shetland Sheepdog SmilingSocial animals need to be able to read others’ emotions, and the cues they rely upon vary by species. Among humans, facial expressions are vital. Dogs (and wolves) also use facial expressions, such as bared teeth to show aggression, as well as posturing to communicate intent. When a dog smiles, the lips horizontally retract into what’s called a ‘submissive smile’. This is a sign that a dog is non-threatening. It’s an expression that disarms possible aggression, much like the human smile. This ability to learn to recognize smiling faces may have been important part of the success of dogs living with humans.

Although historically, modern science has generally underestimated the emotional range of animals. But today it is widely understood by scientists that mammals (dogs included) do experience primary emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and happiness and even some secondary emotions like jealously and embarrassment.

As any Shetland Sheepdog owner can attest to, dogs even have a sense of humor! Dogs laugh by vocalizing a kind of huffing sound. A study that examined how playing recordings of this sound confirmed that it had a calming effect on shelter dogs. If you listen and look for a smile, you might just hear the huffing from your own Sheltie too!

You Smilin’ At Me?

Smirking SheltieYour dog might not understand the exact details if you have had a hard day, but you can sense it is empathetic enough to sit next to you, listen and smile. Since Shelties are usually gentle, highly intuitive and submissive dogs, you’re more likely to see them smile spontaneously. But if you want to reinforce the Sheltie smile, all you need to do is repeatedly acknowledge and reward the behavior. (I.e., a belly rub, a yummy treat, or a kind word and a pat.)

Scientific research, for the most part, eventually confirms what dog lovers already intuitively know and observe every day. Dogs DO smile!

Back to: Sheltie Temperament

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