Do Labradors Smile? 4 Smiles with Images Explained!

Do you notice how your labrador’s lips curl upwards and their eyes squint a little when you praise him? 

Do you recall him appearing to grin after you gave him that treat he had his hopes up for? We’ve all seen that upturned mouth on our four-pawed children and were immersed with joy, but what does it actually mean?

So, Do Labradors Smile? Labradors smile when they are excited and they have distinct smiles; panting, aggressive, submissive, and learned smiles. Dog Smiles are different from humans as they don’t always convey happiness, but dogs still copy our smiles to make us happy, which is known as laughing contagion.

To learn more about each smile type, what it means, how to recognize, and how to understand your dog more, keep reading…

Do Labradors Smile? 

I know you’ve seen the upward turn of lips and thought your lab is smiling at you, well, somehow they are, but here is the truth behind the “labrador smiles”.

Happy dogs are able to translate their wide, panting lips into grins when they are engaged in activities they like, such as playing or running. 

A bouncy body, a loose tail wag, and a facial expression with soft eyes and a relaxed mouth and ears are the labrador’s equivalents of a smile

Labradors typically show enjoyment in a variety of ways, but a smile similar to our human smile isn’t usually one of them. 

Dogs typically grin when they are calm and seem pleased, which is why dog owners mistake it for a smile.

A phenomenon known as laughing contagion occurs when this “dog smile” emerges in reaction to a human smile.

Dogs are excellent at observation and social learning, and in some cases, deep attachment to their owners can result in copying their actions. So to put it out simply, because we grin at them, dogs may appear to be smiling.

Why Do Labradors Smile? 

Dogs are experts at observing and manipulating human behavior; it’s their specialty. When we humans react, laugh, offer rewards, pat, and clap, they see the positivity of the action (smile). 

Dogs soon learn that this is a good response to their actions and will grin as a result, this happens when they open their mouths and pull back their lips, letting their tongues lap over their teeth.

Many dogs can grin, but Labradors appear to smile more pronouncedly, making them easier to spot. 

Labradors will convey happiness with their entire body, wagging their tails energetically, and standing straight, perky, and even. Their mouth will be wide open, yet their tongue will be twitching somewhat even if it is not lolling out. Their ears will definitely perk up, and they’ll probably flex their noses a little.

Their brows will furrow and their gaze will be locked on you. Their pupils will be dilated as well, as you can see. Every sensory organ will be actively engaged and responsive, much like how people do.

What we call “smiling” can help us strengthen our bonds with our labs. Dogs tend to use adaptive smiling behaviors as a social skill and a display of emotion in their natural state.

The 4 Types of Labrador Smiles 

The panting smile (the smirking grin)

This is the smile you’d see with lips drew back, Tongue outstretched, Wide Mouth and taking rapid breaths. 

Your lab’s body language would be relaxed and he/she panting; Because it is frequently accompanied by panting, this grin is known as the panting smile. It’s easy to notice after a good workout or while you’re having fun.

This smile indicates that your dog is satisfied and pleased. The panting aids in the cooling process. It usually happens right after playtime and you’ll notice that your dog is having a good time with you.

Smile of Aggression

This is the smile you’d see your lab use when he/she is feeling nervous and aggressive to the point of being hostile. It is a result of the struggle to determine whether to fight or flee.

Something is very wrong if you see this grin, and you should take the matter very seriously.

This smile appears with Teeth noticeable and visible, Squinted eyes, Pulling back the lips and ears, and accompanied by Growling and tight facial expressions.

This indicates that the dog detects danger and is unsure of what is going on. They’re issuing a “Stay Away or Else” warning to whoever or whatever they are gazing at with piercing eyes, and it’s one that should be taken seriously. You can learn why labradors can become suddenly aggressive here.

The Submissive smile

Labs frequently employ this grin to send the message, “I’m not a threat.” The submissive grin resembles the aggressive smile in appearance, but the connotation varies depending on the dog’s overall body language as well as the sounds he or she makes.

Their teeth are usually bared, albeit in a humorous fashion, their eyes are squinted and raised, and their body posture is dropped, with an overall subservient stance.

Learned smile

Did you know that you can teach your lab to smile, just like “sit” and “stay” commands? 

With Teeth noticeable and visible, Squinted eyes and lips and eyers pulled back; this one comes after a command; It appears to be forced.

Dogs have a strong desire to please and a great capacity for learning, so a submissive grin that is reinforced with goodies and praise may rapidly become a new “trick.”

You can also learn about the 3 distinct smiles of golden retrievers here.

How to train your labrador to smile

After a lot of research, trails and errors, here’s the method I found to be most effective, the clicker method.

Introduce the Clicker

Demonstrate to your lab that a  “click” signals a treat. Click, then give your dog a treat in a simple two-step process. This will help your dog associate the clicker with a reward.

Begin in a calm area without asking your dog to perform anything. Simply repeat these instructions again and again.

When you click, your dog’s focus will travel straight to your face or your reward bag, indicating that it’s working. That indicates he’s aware that the click signals the arrival of a treat, and he’s looking forward to it.

You can train your dog to perform almost anything with a clicker, so have fun with it! Keep in mind that the “click” is a promise to reward the dog for his efforts.

You can get this simple and excellent Clicker from Amazon here.

Capture the behavior

Capturing a behavior entails clicking and treating the dog when he does the activity on his own. 

Dogs, on the other hand, do not usually grin. 

This makes things more difficult. Instead, you should do anything that encourages your dog to expose his or her teeth without frightening, threatening, or enraging him or her.

Scratching, belly massages, tickles, or anything else that makes your lab grin will work; click and treat when you see your dog lift her lips. he’ll eventually start raising her lips in exchange for goodies.

  1. Substitute a verbal cue for the physical cue.

Begin by introducing a verbal cue while gradually fading away the physical one.

In other words, instead of manually eliciting a smile from your dog, give a command that your dog must learn to respond to.

Begin by selecting a cue. For this trick, you might say “say cheese,” “smile,” or any other verbal signal you choose. Just before the manual incentive, say the command. As a result, the sequence will now be as follows: 

  1. “Say cheese!”
  2. a manual incentive ex: belly rub
  3. Your dog smiles
  4. click. 
  5. Give a reward.

Begin by using the verbal cue (say cheese/ grin) as a predictor for the manual action that evokes a smile, and then cease the action without it.

Begin to make the activity that causes the grin less noticeable and shorter in duration.

If you used to have to scratch behind your lab’s ears for 2-3 seconds before getting a smile, try scratching for only 1-2 seconds now. 

Continue to attempt till he or she raises their lips when you merely touch them. move from a light touch to a near-light touch If you want, you can go from there to no physical cue. However, keep in mind that the verbal cue remains the same.

As you make it harder for your dog, try to just compensate for the finest job while making sure he doesn’t grow upset. However, after you’re satisfied with your outcome, you may focus on strengthening the behavior in more difficult scenarios.

Do dogs understand our smiles? 

Dogs have a remarkable ability to read our body language, especially our grins. Not only that, but our moods affect dogs, and our moods may influence their moods. Dogs have various reactions to human expressions that were favorable, negative, or neutral.

Our facial expressions are recognized by dogs. When a puppy frowns, he knows something is wrong, and when he smiles, his tail wags.

They can also detect emotions based on speech tone, posture, and facial expressions.

Dogs will most likely respond to harsh looks by backing up and seeming ashamed and smiles by copying them and really smiling.

Dogs have learned to detect and respond to changes in our facial expressions.

Related Questions

Do Dogs really smile? 

No, dogs cannot “smile” like humans, they may give the impression of smiling by opening their mouths and pulling back their lips, allowing their tongues to lick over their teeth. This “dog smile” is most common when they are imitating human grins, calm, panting, or, in rare circumstances, furious.

How to know if my labrador is happy? 

You would know that your labrador is happy if he/she is wiggling their tail, He’ll stand on all four legs, tail and ears naturally held, facial muscles relaxed, and mouth closed or slightly open if panting to cool off.

How do I get my Labrador to smile?

You can get your labrador to smile by teaching him/her the command “smile” and associating it with treats or rewards; try to capture your lab in action and give him/her the reward in the exact time with the verbal cue.


Helpful Resources 

Labrador Retrievers for Dummies by Joel Walton, Eve Adamson (which you can also check on Amazon here)

The Complete Labrador Handbook: The Essential Guide for New & Prospective Labrador Retriever Owners

Are Dogs Really Smiling at Us?

Do Dogs Smile? The Science Behind the Looks We Get From a Happy Dog

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

If you liked the article, you can share it using the share and pin buttons at the end of the post. I’ll really appreciate it ♥️♥️


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

Recent Posts