The interesting aspect of this dog’s very positive ‘artificial’ smile is that it more or less exactly copies that of her owner who is smiling at her as she hovers near him while he cares for the baby. It appears that she wants to be in on the scene and feels left out. She seems to be copying the facial expression of the man as a form of appeasement and friendship, to please him with the aim of getting her way.
It is not the normal sort of dog ‘smile’ which is not really a smile in the human sense at all but a happy face.
The female half of the couple said this to explain her dog’s behavior:
“Our dog, Hazel, is an absolute sweetheart with overwhelming love for her daddy. When things are happening that doesn’t make Hazel too happy, she gets very anxious and smiles as a result. Her actions in this video are a great example of how she gets into those situations. She really wanted her daddy’s attention, but he was preoccupied with the baby.”
Making owner happy
Dog behaviourists seem to agree that over the millennia of dog domestication they’ve learned to achieve their objectives in their relationship with humans. They know that if they make humans happy, they are more likely to get what they want such as food treats.
They say that this form of canine behaviour comes from neoteny. What this means is that, as is the case with felines actually, humans tend to keep their companion dogs in a state of puppyhood even while they are adults. This colours their behaviour as puppy behaviour includes emotional greetings, tail wagging, licking and jumping et cetera together with of course the canine “smile”.
The more typical canine smile can be seen below shown juxtaposed with Hazel’s fixed grin.
Smile is non-hostile
Human smile towards people as an act of friendliness to tell people that we are not hostile. It seems to me that this dog is doing exactly the same thing towards her human male owner. And achieving that she has copied in a detailed way the man’s smile which is a little bit fixed and more a grin. That is why the dog’s smile is a grin as well.
Despite what I’ve said, the PetMD website says that “dogs don’t really mimic our smiles”. That may be the norm but it certainly isn’t the case in this instance. This is pretty clearly a straight mimicking.
Dogs like to please their owner. I guess it is the objectives of a pack member wishing to please the leader of the pack to gain favour.
Submissiveness can accompany a grin
There may be an element of submissiveness in this grin-like smile. There also may be a form of appeasement as mentioned. Sometimes when dogs feel that they been naughty as judged by their owner, they grin a bit like this, lower their heads and squint their eyes while flattened their ears and wag their tails. This submissive form of behaviour is designed to remove the possibility of aggression against them by their pack leader.
Another interesting aspect of this is that the dog’s fixed grin begins to look like a hostile face (a growl) which would achieve the opposite to that which is desired. The dog is unaware of this.