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Why Do Golden Retrievers Smile and What Does It Mean?

Why Do Golden Retrievers Smile and What Does It Mean?

Golden Retrievers are some of the friendliest dogs around. They are famous for that goofy-looking smile. 

But what does it mean? 

We’ve got the low down on why Golden Retrievers smile and what it means. Plus, how you can tell if your pup is happy. 

So, cuddle up (bonus if it’s with your furry pal), and let the team at Barksinthepark take care of the rest.


The Different Types of Golden Retrievers Smiles

The Aggressive Smile

If you’ve ever seen an angry doggo, there is no doubt you know what this snarl is all about. 

It looks like a smile from the side, but from the front, you’re faced with a wild beast ready to chew your head off. 

Now, Goldens are generally super friendly. They love everyone and everything when given half a chance. 

But this doesn’t mean they can’t get annoyed and angry. That’s precisely where the aggressive smile comes from. 

An aggressive smile displays as lips pulled back and raised to reveal as many teeth as possible. If you haven’t seen your dog’s back teeth, you’re about to. 

In the animal kingdom, revealing fangs is one way to tell other animals to get lost. It’s a warning to say, “today is not the day!”

 Your dog is telling you the same thing. Because no matter how much we think our fluffy pal could never act aggressively, they are, at the end of the day, animals. 

They have no way of talking to us except through actions like this and their body language, which we’ll get to shortly. 

So, if you see an aggressive smile, it’s time for you to back away. Please DON’T get in your dog’s face to comfort them. 

The snarl is warning you that they are very close to reacting violently. But at least you get a warning. 

Have you ever gotten in the way of a coffee addict and their morning cup of Joe? No warnings in that situation. 

So, we can be lucky these soft doggos at least want to give us the heads up that they’re uncomfortable and not in control. 

If the snarl happens while you’re out, get your dog by the leash and escort them away. You don’t want another owner or pup getting hurt. 

If this smile presents itself at home, it’s time to give your dog some space. Let them be. They will eventually calm down and probably show some serious remorse with those big puppy dog eyes. 

The Submissive Smile

Now, if you’re already a tad confused, then we’re not going to make it any easier. The submissive smile looks very much like the aggressive smile but means the opposite. 

So, like aggressive smiles, the submissive smile presents with the front teeth showing. But the slight difference is that the lips may not pull all the way back. 

Additionally, an aggressive smile also displays different body language, which is a key indicator. We’re getting into body language shortly, which should help you distinguish between the two. 

A submissive Golden Retriever’s smile indicates that a dog feels friendly and playful. The submissive smile is goofy-looking that should have no aggressive behavior alongside it. 

The Panting Smile

This is the most famous of all the Golden Retrievers’ smiles that most people refer to when talking about the goofy smile that is just cuteness overload. 

A panting Golden Retriever smile is called this because literal panting accompanies it. Dogs do it to cool down. 

So, you’ll notice a Golden Retriever smiling with teeth showing along with panting. Most often, the panting smile occurs after a good play session. 

Your Golden Retriever is hot, worn out, and in total bliss. 


How to Read a Golden Retriever Smile

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. How does one tell the difference between the Golden Retrievers’ smiles? A dog’s body language can tell a lot about its feelings and state of mind. 

Since your Golden Retriever can’t tell you what’s happening, they use their bodies to communicate with you. So, you need to keep your eyes peeled to hear them out. 

Aggressive body language

A Golden Retriever can feel stressed, overwhelmed, and aggressive. If so, you will likely notice a smile with at least one of these body language indicators:

  • Tail: A tucked tail means your pup is feeling scared and nervous. A fast-wagging tail means a dog is alert and aroused. It doesn’t really tell you how aggressive they feel. But a high tail means your dog is feeling dominant and confident. This can indicate how they’re feeling about going into a fight. 

  • Raised hair: Hackles are the hairs located on the back and neck. If a dog raises these hairs, it signals stress, anxiety, and fear. Your doggo has no control over this, so look for it closely. 

  • Posture: A Golden Retriever that cowers away or hunches over close to the ground is nervous and scared. They try to make themselves as small as possible to avoid unwanted confrontations. On the other hand, leaning forward can mean your dog is feeling aggressive, particularly if they begin lunging forward quickly. 

  • Licking lips: A dog snarl usually comes along with lip licking. This is your dog’s way of saying, “I am on edge, and I can hurt you.” A pup generally has little control at this stage, so if you see it, back away. 

  • Eyes: Eyes are the window to the soul. This is very true for the Golden Retriever. When your dog is happy and playful, its eyes should be soft and sweet. When they are angry, their eyes appear hard and unapproachable. 

  • Vocalizations: This is one of the leading indicators that something is up. If your Golden Retriever is growling or barking along with a snarl, it’s time to get yourself and your dog out of the situation. Vocalizations are unlikely to accompany a submissive smile. 

  • Panting: If your dog is nervous, it may begin panting. But it also happens when your pup is tired after a good play session to cool down. Always look at the correlation between a dog’s panting and activity. 

Positive body language

On the other side of the spectrum, if your Golden Retriever is happy and relaxed, you may notice the following along with their gleaming smile:

  • Tail: A Golden Retriever usually has a neutral tail position. When they’re so glad and excited, the tail may quickly wag back and forth. When they are more relaxed, the tail can sway slowly, indicating their peaceful disposition. 

  • Posture: The Golden Retriever has a soft stance that shows they’re ready for a good play session or cuddle. If your Golden Retriever looks like they are bowing (head lowered near the front paws and back end up), they are ready to play!

  • Eyes: Golden Retrievers have soft eyes. It’s one of the many reasons they are so approachable. Those big doe eyes scream, “give me a cuddle,” and you totally can if they aren’t exhibiting any of the aggressive indicators above. 

  • Sneezing: While a little weird, if your doggo is having a good time playing and being a derp, hearing a surprise sneeze attack is not uncommon. It could be irritant, but it is also a dog’s way of telling you they’re having fun and aren’t serious. 

  • Vocalizations: Each dog develops its own vocal cues to let you know what’s going on. You will get used to it and soon be able to tell the difference between what the sounds mean. For example, one pup might growl when they want to play. Another might whimper and whine. 


Do Golden Retrievers Understand Smiles?

Golden Retrievers are some of the most intelligent dogs in the world. They are easily trained and can pick up on our body language, feelings, and routines. 

So, it is no surprise that the Golden Retriever knows what a human smile is because they’ve seen their owners do it hundreds of times. 

They sense the happiness that goes along with the smile and knows that a smile is a positive thing. 

However, it’s unlikely that Golden Retrievers understand a dog smile and its meaning. They won’t know when they are smiling. 

Ultimately your dog knows when you’re smiling and why. But they don’t know if they are smiling. Countless studies reveal that Golden Retrievers are highly perceptive and know what’s going on with you. 

Sometimes even better than you do. 



Why do Golden Retrievers show their teeth? 

There are multiple reasons, and not all of them are positive. A Golden Retriever’s smile may reveal that they feel agitated, scared, or nervous. Dog smiles can indicate that the dog is aggravated to the point that it may attack. It’s a warning signal to say, “leave me alone.”

Do Golden Retrievers smile when they are happy? 

Golden Retrievers smile when they are happy; this is what’s called a panting smile. It happens after a Golden Retriever has had a good run or play session. They feel content and calm. Even though the panting might make you think your doggo is feeling anxious. 

Are Golden Retrievers truly smiling? 

Not really. A Golden Retriever smile isn’t what we might think. It’s more likely the Golden Retrievers smile is a precursor to aggressive behavior. But a panting smile can happen after a Golden Retriever has played nicely and feels super content.

What does a Golden Retrievers smile mean?

A Golden Retrievers smile has three meanings. Aggression, passiveness, and submission. Either way, a Golden Retrievers smile often looks positive. But it’s not always the case. That’s why understanding the Golden retriever smile is so important.


Wrap Up

Golden Retrievers are some of the most popular dogs in the world. Owners fall madly in love with these Golden beauties, and it’s clear why. 

They are easy to train, love a good cuddle, and connect easily with their owners. This might make you think your dog smiles, but it’s unfortunately not the case. 

A Golden Retriever smile comes in three forms, and knowing the difference is essential. So, scroll up if you want to learn why your dogs smile and what it means.

If you’re a Goldie smile expert and you want to know how to feed your furry friend, check out our Golden Retriever feeding chart!