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Thursday, 3 November 2011

DO DOGS SMILE?

My German Shepherd x Malamute 'Jordie'...yes, he is smiling!
FOR MANY YEARS I HAVE WATCHED MY DOGS EXPRESS MANY STATES OF BEING IN THE EXPRESSIONS ON THEIR FACE… happiness, concern, concentration, pain, tension, consternation…yep! And much more.

My German Shepherd x Husky 'Sarah' - definitely a smile on that face!
So does that make me a little crazy, a little too warm hearted, indulgent or perhaps I anthropomorphize? Or is it possible that what I ‘think’ I see is reality. Forgive my certainty but, I have always with complete and absolute conviction believed that dogs could, and in fact, do smile.

Apparently, there is now some consensus among those of the scientific community that dogs can and do smile! Maybe I am not so crazy.

We will get to that in a moment, but before we do…did you know that dogs and humans have similar facial expressions controlled by a very similar set of facial muscles?

My Beautiful boy Robbie my Boxer x Pit Bull...a badly abused dog that learned to be extremely aggressive from the humans that abused him - he just needed to be shown another way, with respect and love. Given the chance to return to who he was always meant to be, Robbie embraced that opportunity. This is who Robbie is today and his smile comes from his heart and soul.
The topic 'do animals smile' came up in one of the discussion groups I belong to - people from around the globe participate on topics related to dogs and dog training.

This topic runs very deep in my heart as teaching people to read their dog's face and body other body language - in order to facilitate an understanding of what their dog is really communicating is a very important and an integral part of training people to understand just how amazing and intelligent dogs truly are.

The discussion started with a post from ‘Green Picks Blog’ - the two writers Sarah B. Weir & Trystan L. Bass talk about the subject 'Do animals Smile'. Below, is an excerpt from their article - the portion relevant to dogs smiling  [to quote]…Professor Nicholas Dodman, head of animal behavior at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine and a regular on Animal Planet’s Dogs 101 and Cats 101, until recently, scientists have generally underestimated the emotional range of animals. He says that today it is widely understood by scientists that mammals do experience primary emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and happiness and even some secondary emotions like jealously and embarrassment—and they communicate them. Dodman says that dogs even have a sense of humor and laugh with a kind of huffing sound. He describes a study that examines how playing recordings of this laughing sound actually calms shelter dogs”. “As for dogs’ smiles… “Note that the lips horizontally retract into what’s called a ‘submissive smile’ – a sign that a dog is non-threatening. It’s an expression that disarms possible aggression, much like the human smile.” 

As far as I know, scientists still do not know everything about how non-human animals use their senses and what other senses animals may use that we humans are still unaware of. New discoveries are made all of the time, even so, I believe that we will never know everything. I do not believe that any scientist knows the full range or depth of a dogs primary or secondary emotions. Scientists may perform studies upon studies - but all is done from a human point of view. How can we, as humans ever really judge the entirety of what we know about another species abilities? We are limited by our own abilities, our own senses and most importantly - our own intelligence which becomes limited and narrowly focused by our own emotions, base instinct and ultimately our selfishness.

You know what about me?
Sorry scientists but we humans who, with our eyes and minds wide open, have shared our lives with, loved, observed and learned from our animal companions - we have known for a long time that dogs have distinct facial expressions - including smiles!
Our means of study and subsequent conclusions were derived from common sense, intuition and our first hand experience with our animals. It is our animals who have taught us that the human species is not exclusively special as many may think. For us, the cost was being brave enough to challenge and go beyond what society has taught us - that only humans smile and laugh. We knew this was wrong.

For those who ventured to carry out such studies to prove what they already knew in their hearts and minds - great work guys. Thank you for finally confirming what our hearts, our minds our eyes have seen! Professor Nicholas Dodman - you are a good human being and worthy of our respect.

My dear Boxer x Pit Bull Robbie is smiling
For all those who needed a scientific study to allow a glimmer of this truth to invade their minds, to open their eyes from their adamant and steadfast denial that animals could ever posses such abilities...now you have your proof. When all the time the truth was staring you in the face - you just could not, would not see. Now I wonder what else you have missed...but not to worry, just let your dog teach you.

Yeap, that's right - we are all smiling!




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1 comment:

  1. I love this post! My large mix breed girl has picked up on human behaviours (she's a border collie mix and very intelligent)...she greets people at the top of my entry stairs with a huge grin, oh it is so funny! My niece (who didn't know that Madi could "smile" bellowed "Auntie your dog is going to eat me", I said, "No honey she's just smiling at you" and that made for a great cuddle session between the two of them. Not only does she smile but she also greets me with a strange sound that mimics my "Hello Madi" and her's sounds like "Heellllloooo", she stretches her neck out and contorts herself to make the noise and it is so sweet. A few times others have heard her say it and been amazed that she can "talk". She's just a good little mimic!

    Thank you for this blog!!!!!

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