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Yawning

Yawning
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Yes, a yawn could indicate tiredness, Bernal says. But it can also be associated with moments of stress, so look for context clues to figure out what your dog’s facial expressions really mean.

Lip-licking

Lip-licking

A dog that’s licking its lips can be communicating a desire to submit to its human, Bernal tells us. Or it could indicate anxiety or dehydration, depending on the context. If nothing anxiety-provoking is happening at the moment, consider it a positive form of doggie communication – and make sure your pal’s water bowl is full!

Smiling or grinning

Smiling or grinning
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Yes, dogs smile, although it doesn’t necessarily signify happiness, contentment or agreement. When a dog lifts its lips to show its canine teeth and incisors, it’s a sign of excitement, says Bernal. This makes sense when you consider that pups tend to smile while out on walks or romping with pals at the dog park. A grinning dog face could also be a sign of submissiveness, but that’s usually when a dog is signalling to other dogs, not humans.

Nose wrinkling

Nose wrinkling
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You don’t need a dog expressions’ chart or canine behavioural specialist to recognise when your dog’s smile is more of a snarl, says Bernal. When your dog pulls its lips up vertically to display its front teeth while also wrinkling its muzzle, it’s angry – especially when it raises its ears up and stares steadily. There’s a good chance a growl is coming, and you’ll need to de-escalate the situation.

Grimacing

Grimacing
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In humans, we understand the difference between a smile and a grimace. The same applies to dogs. When your dog draws its lips back horizontally so that you can see all its teeth, it indicates discomfort or fear, Bernal explains. This becomes even more obvious when it’s accompanied by ear-flattening.

When in doubt, consider Fido’s body language

When in doubt, consider Fido’s body language
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Doggy facial expressions should be read in context, says Russell Hartstein, a certified dog and cat behaviourist and trainer. For example, a smile might indicate fear or aggression if the dog’s ears are flat or it’s growling or whimpering. But a smile on a relaxed and wiggly dog signals that all is good.

This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest.

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