Of Course Dogs Smile
I hang out on parts of the Internet where people often post pictures of happy animals. All too often, someone will share a photo of their smiling pooch, and a viewer who wants to sound smart will feel obligated to add a comment like "dogs can't smile." Their arguments reduce to one of several claims:
Statement: They're not smiling. They're using the muscles in their face to pull the corners of their lips up.
Rebuttal: Yes, that's how smiling works. You've just described the physical act of smiling.
Statement: Dogs do that to show fear or nervousness.
Rebuttal: Perhaps it can also mean that, but when my dog snuggles up against me and I gently pat her head, she's not exactly terrified.
Statement: That's an automatic response to scratching or patting them in specific places.
Rebuttal: When I scratch those spots, it feels good and they smile. Got it.
To most dog owners, the notion that a dog can't smile is as laughable as telling a cat owner that their fuzzy pets can't purr. They can. Lots of happy dogs do this all the time. And while cats can be notoriously finicky, dogs can be thrilled when you say their name or look at them. We've bred them for thousands of years to be friendly and sociable. The smile-doubters have somehow never managed to make a dog — a dog! — happy to have them around.
I pity those people but also distrust them. What does every dog in their life know about them that we don't?