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I wonder what dogs think when we smile at them.

I use facial *** in training. If I'm waiting for a dog to perform a behavior, I keep my face blank. Then I smile, along with a verbal "yes!" and a treat, when he performs the behavior. But I purposely don't show my teeth when I smile. I'm not sure whether or not it would make a difference, but I don't want him to misread me.
If I see the dog getting *** (he's not quite sure what to do), I'll smile while I'm waiting for him to perform the behavior. Most of the time, this seems to rela* the dog - oh okay, I'm not in trouble, the trainer still likes me - and he's able to think better. I love it when I see the lights come on in his eyes, and he performs the behavior.
In any case, the dogs seem to understand human smiles.

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I wonder what dogs think when we smile at them.

I use facial *** in training. If I'm waiting for a dog to perform a behavior, I keep my face ... smile. I'm not sure whether or not it would make a difference, but I don't want him to misread me.

John Rogerson used this technique to teach control around food. He exaggerated the smile, and showed lots of teeth when the dog was allowed to take the food from his fingers. He would then quietly say "leave" and change his facial expression to a serious frown. Was pretty remarkable - after a couple of reps dog would lie down when he said leave and wait for the smile.
I think most dogs learn what a smile is - just as we learn what a wagging tail means. I know that its very important for me to keep a straight face when Toklat is doing something bad. The time I barked out a laugh when I saw him on the kitchen table his reaction was that of great glee - he spun around on there nose to tail, knocking over my amaryllis. Had I managed not to laugh and look stern, he would have gotten down.
And there is no doubt in my mind that Kavik is motivated by getting laughs. This summer at the agility trial when he stole the cone and it got a huge laugh from the spectators, he repeated it because he likes to make people laugh - its rewarding somehow.
But that makes me wonder - do dogs laugh? I think Kavik might - he chuffs when I do something silly.

BethF, Anchorage, AK
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Hi I'm wondering what a dog really is signalling when it bares it's front teeth? Usually the ears are back and outwards at the time, but not totally flat.

are the corners of his mouth pulled back like a smile? or are they pushed forward, like a snarl. lips back is usually submissive or even fearful, though some dogs "grin" when they're just hanging out (pit bulls come to mind). of the corners of the mouth are pushed forward, it usually means aggression or possession, and means, "stay back!".

-kelly
Hi I'm wondering what a dog really is signalling when ... are back and outwards at the time, but not totallyflat.

are the corners of his mouth pulled back like a smile? or are they pushed forward, like a snarl. lips ... of the corners of the mouth are pushed forward, it usually means aggression or possession, and means, "stay back!". -kelly

I have to check, but i think that nothing special happens to the corners of his mouth. The kind of expression i'm talking about is when the jaws are shut and only the front teeth are bared, wrinkling the nose a bit. The lips on the side of the jaw aren't affected either.
The thing i usually call a grin or a smile looks nothing like this, it is more of a silly grin with mouth open and corner of the lips drawn backwards. I've never even thought about what that means because it seems so obvious, the dog is usually very happy. =)
But when the dog only shows it's front teeth i'm not so sure what it really wants and why it does it, i can't read the rest of the body language as clearly. Hobbe sometimes does it when he is excited and i tell him not to pull, his mother does it every now and then and it seems like she isn't excited at all but wants to be scratched (she might have learned that it's a good way of getting attention tho). They all seem to do it if i blow in their face. It doesn't seem like an aggressive thing, i can't say if it's a submissive thing, but i don't think so.
Rosa