Smiling Dogs are the Best Dogs: How to Teach Them

Do you love teaching your dog new tricks? Then try this fun and silly tutorial for how to make your dog smile.

How to Teach a Dog to Smile With Teeth

1. Give Them a Reason

Just like humans, dogs need a reason to smile. The best way to do this is to give them lots of praise.

When they feel happy, they’ll smile at you. You’ll want to give them a treat as quickly as possible to reward their behavior.

You can also encourage a natural smile by petting them or playing with them.

2. Reward

As with most tricks, the way to make the learning stick is with treats. Whenever they smile at you, make sure you offer them praise and a treat.

You’ll also want to use a command before you give them a treat. In that way, they’ll associate the command with action, and then with a reward, which will make them more prone to following the command.

3. Repeat

You’ll need to continue this process over and over. It’s how dogs learn. If they don’t smile, you shouldn’t punish them.

Simply wait until they do smile, and then reward them.

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4. Get the Camera Ready

Once you feel that your dogs get the gist of what they need to do, you’ll need to break out the camera. Act quickly since dogs don’t know how to hold a smile as humans do.

Give the command, and as soon as they smile, take your photos. You’ll have cute pictures of very happy-looking dogs.

5. Keep Training Sessions Brief

Dogs do best with 10 – 15 minute training sessions spaced out throughout the week.

6. Don’t Turn Treats Into Bribes

After a few training sessions start to space out the treats. If you give a treat constantly after each successful command and smile then it turns into a bribe.

Your dog will learn to expect the treat. Instead, start giving treats randomly. This sets the behavior

7. Switch Up The Treats

Try using different treats over time. This advanced tactic adds even more randomness to help set the behavior further.

Your dog never knows what they’re going to get or when so they’ll be more likely to keep smiling on command!

8. Stop If Your Dog Gets Stressed or Aggressive

This builds on the 10-15 minute training sessions. If your dog can’t figure out what you’re trying to tell them and starts to look stressed or even aggressive stop the training session.

Break it down into a smaller habit. Sometimes your dog needs baby steps to get to the full behavior you want.

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Reward them for even a small step in the right direction (e.g. moving lips).

9. Watch Video and Keep Learning!

Watch the video to see this in action. If you want to be great at dog training then keep learning. The more you see others do this the more ideas you’ll have and the faster your dog will learn.

How to Use Clicker or Physical Cue

Instead of verbal command, you might want to use a clicker instead. Clickers are a great learning tool for dogs because they emit a loud, quick, sound that makes the dog alert.

Basically, instead of saying something, whenever your dog smiles, you’ll click, and then give them a treat. With enough repetition, they’ll start to associate smiling with the sound and treats.

Rewarding Your Dog for Smiling

The best way to teach any dog a new trick is with positive reinforcement. That means you’re going to give them a lot of praise and a lot of treats.

Just like humans, dogs love a good treat. By encouraging that behavior with treats, they’re more likely to repeat the behavior.

In terms of training for smiling, you’ll want to give them a treat each time they smile. You’ll need to be quick with the delivery of the treat or else they might confuse the reward for another behavior.

Keep Training Positive

Like all training regimes, it can be easy to become frustrated. Your dog can become frustrated, too.

That’s why it’s best to break the training up into several sessions. Not only does this keep your dog from becoming bored, but it also keeps you relaxed and positive, too.

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The last thing you should do is berate your dog for not smiling. They can become aggressive, and then you’ll likely never see a doggy smile again.

How to Switch from a Physical Cue to a Verbal Cue

If you started your dog off with a physical cue to get them to smile, you may want to switch to a verbal one, so you can easily handle your camera. The best way to do this is to slowly transition them from the physical to the verbal.

Begin by giving them the physical command. However, give the verbal command along with the physical command.

Over time, they’ll associate the sound along with the physical command.

The next step is to slowly do the physical command less but always do the verbal command. This will prompt them to pay more attention to the verbal command.

Finally, remove the physical command entirely and train them solely with the verbal command. With enough time and patience, they’ll respond to the verbal command instead of the physical one.

The Tickle Method

A fun way to get your dog to smile is to simply tickle them. Dogs love being pet and quite a few have a few extremely ticklish spots.

If you want a natural smile, then the best way to get it is by tickling your dog. With one hand, you can tickle them while your other hand quickly takes a photo.

You’ll have a big smile and a happy-looking dog in every photo that you take.

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Teaching Your Dog to Smile VS Showing Teeth

A dog smile and showing teeth are two different things. While showing their teeth may be construed as a smile, it’s actually more aggressive in nature.

Dogs show their teeth when they want to impart aggressive behavior. It may be a display of dominance or a warning.

A doggy smile is an opening of the mouth that exposes some of the teeth but looks more like a grin than anything threatening. However, some owners may like their dog showing their teeth because it looks similar to a human smile.

How to Teach Your Dog to Show Teeth

According to this video, the steps you should take to get your dog to show its teeth in a non-aggressive way is to perform the following steps.

1. Demonstrate the Reward System

The first task is to show them that they’re working for something. This makes them interested in the exercise and also demonstrates that the atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant.

You can do this by feeding them a treat at the start, petting them, or showing them a lot of praise.

2. Establish Command Word

The next step is to establish a command word. You can use any word that you like, but it should be short and easy for the dog to understand.

This word should be accompanied by the physical movement of spreading their lips apart. Since your dog won’t know to do that from the start, you’ll need to do it for them.

Essentially, give the command, move their lips apart, and then give them a treat.

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3. Spread the Smile

The idea is to make your dog comfortable by showing its teeth. Slowly open their lips from the front and each side over time.

You’ll need to give the command each time and reward them, so they know that they’re doing a great job.

4. Repetition

Finally, you’ll need to repeat these steps until your dog is comfortable in opening its lips on its own at your command. Because this isn’t a natural movement for them–at least when not initiated through instinctive behavior–it will take some time.

However, with enough patience and rewarding, you should be able to get your dog to show their teeth on command.

Tips and Warnings

As with all dogs, training them can be a frustrating process. Some dogs are more stubborn than others.

It may take you a day to teach your dog how to smile or to show its teeth. For others, it may take several weeks.

The important thing is to know when to end the training session. Dogs who become frustrated may not want to learn because of the simple reason because they didn’t enjoy the training session.


What If My Dog Growls When She Shows Her Teeth?

Because showing their teeth is considered aggressive behavior for your dog, it’s not uncommon for them to growl, too. This doesn’t always mean they’re aggressive.

It is important to understand the rest of your dog’s body language to determine whether or not they’re being aggressive. If they’re stiff, then you may want to back off for a time.

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If they’re relaxed, then they’re just growling because they’re used to growling when they show their teeth.

You can try to work out the growling by teaching them how to be quiet first. However, because the behavior is so instinctively linked to aggression, this may be one trick that you might want to just pass on.

Dog Body Language Lesson: What Do The Different Smiles Mean?

When a dog’s smiling with an open mouth and their tongue is hanging out, it means that they are happy. They’re relaxed and showing you that you’re relaxed.

When your dog’s teeth are showing and are either growling or stiff, then it means that they’re unhappy. They may be territorial or feeling aggressive.

The latter is usually spurred on by protective behavior or a need to express their dominance.

Is A Smiling Dog A Happy Dog?

Dogs that give you a relaxed smile are usually quite happy. It may indicate that they want to play with you.

Dogs that have an open mouth and are panting may be expressing their excitement to see you or a desire to play.

Can You Teach A Dog To Smile?

Based on the Youtube video above, it is possible to teach your dog how to smile. It just requires a lot of patience, time, and treats.

You may prefer the more naturally-induced smile by using the tickle method. This basically makes the dog smile while you’re giving them a lot of pets and rubs.

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While they may not be as posable, the tickle method can offer you great photos of an extremely happy dog.

Is My Dog Really Smiling?

Humans consider smiling a way to show happiness or affection. Dogs open their mouths and offer their version of a smile to express their relaxed nature.

The two are similar enough to consider the behavior a version of smiling.

Top Books On How To Make Your Dog Smile

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97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile
  • Langbehn, Jenny (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 04/07/2015 (Publication Date) - Workman Publishing Company (Publisher)

Do You Speak Dog?: How To Easily Train Your Dog By Communicating With Him On HIS Level
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Dobbins, Lee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 182 Pages - 02/17/2010 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)