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Facial Expressions

We can tell a lot about one another from facial expressions. We can see immediately if someone is happy, angry, sad or worried just from looking at their face.
Even as babies we learn to convey the way we feel through our expressions, it is our only form of communication when we are so young.

Believe it or not dogs also use their facial expressions to ‘talk’ to each other and also to their human families.

We cannot always notice these expressions because of their fur but they are there, you have to look at the whole dog to figure out exactly what they are trying to say.

– The Game Face… when athletes are preparing to face a competition they put on what they term their ‘game face.’ Despite its light name, to the athlete it is a serious face. Dogs have a more literal ‘game face,’ theirs is a lot sillier. Their ‘game face’ goes on when they are searching for someone to join in their play; they look like they are grinning. Their lips are pulled back, the ears move back and forth and generally their eyes will shift between long stares to deliberately looking away when noticed!
Dogs, especially puppies, usually show their ‘game face’ straight after they have adopted the play bow position. Their front legs will be out straight, their front half will be lowered and their backsides will stick proudly in the air accompanied by a madly, wagging tail.

– The Aggressive Face… this is the one to be careful of. Dogs rarely need to couple this with any physical behaviour as their facial expression generally says enough to warn either other dogs or people off. The ‘aggressive face’ involves the ears moving up and being positioned forwards, the eyes will be direct and in a completely fixed stare. If a dog really means business it will raise its upper lip, just to show the world that those teeth truly are big and sharp and they will be used if needed.
A dog with this expression will normally be stood upright and ready to attack should it be deemed necessary.

– The Defensive Face… sometimes in life the best defence is a good offence and it is just better to run and hide! When it comes to facing the bullies of the canine world some dogs prefer to literally go ‘belly up’ and pray! Their ‘defensive face’ simply says, ‘just leave me alone, I will not cause any trouble.’ The ears will be flat against their head and their eyes will be lowered.

Basically the dog is attempting to make itself appear as small as it possibly can to display that it is no threat. The dog may even let out the odd whimper; it is a very submissive posture. The ‘defensive face’ is very puppy like and this is what the adult dog wishes the more dominant dog to think in the hope that it will be treated like a pup and will not be hurt.

– The Confused Face… the most important being in your dog’s world is ‘you,’ so when you talk your dog desperately wishes to understand you so that he/she can please you. The ‘confused face’ is an amusing one, dogs will generally just sit there with their eyes wide open and their ears pricked upright and their mouths shut tight.
The facial expression is normally accompanied by the dog’s head cocking from one side to the other and sometimes the dog will ‘mutter’ to you almost as though he/she is genuinely trying to ‘talk’ to you.

– The Sad Face… this is the pulling at your heart strings face, the one that pleads with your emotions. The ‘sad face’ usually involves the dog’s eyes looking at you wide and imploringly, the ears flat and the head lowered.

The dog is in a submissive pose and trying to make itself appear as small and as helpless as possible; your dog is looking for the sympathy vote from you.

– The Happy Face… we have left the best facial expression until the end. The ‘happy face’ is the one that all dog owners love to see. Dogs that are genuinely happy, relaxed and contented seem to just radiate total bliss.

The ‘happy face’ shows the dog’s ears up slightly but not erect or forward, the eyes will be calm showing no stress and the dog’s posture will be relaxed.

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