Home » Dog Breeds » Australian Shepherds » 5 Surprising Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Smile

5 Surprising Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Smile

Pawscessories is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

When it comes to australian shepherds smiling, context matters. While a smile or grin from your aussie can be a harmless gesture, it can also be a warning sign from them. 

It’s important to know which is which.

Why Do Australian Shepherds Smile:

When your australian shepherd is in a calm, non-intimidating environment they will smile to show they’re no threat or to demonstrate submissiveness. Australian shepherds that are more social can pick up smiling from observing their owners smiling and repeating the behavior back to them.

In this post you’ll discover:

  • Whether australian shepherds smile for the same reasons as people do
  • 5 real reasons why australian shepherds smile
  • When your aussie’s smile is something to be concerned about
  • How to train your australian shepherd to smile on command

Let’s jump right in.

Do Australian Shepherds Smile For The Same Reasons As People?

Because when your australian shepherd smiles they’re likely feeling happy, it’s easy to think that dogs smile for the same reasons as people.

However, this isn’t the case.

When your aussie raises their top lip and shows their teeth it’s not used as a pleasant way to greet someone or because they’re laughing.

For the most part, when your aussie is truly happy they’ll wag their bum and won’t be able to settle.

So if australian shepherds don’t smile to show that they’re happy, why on earth do they smile?

5 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Smile

Below are 5 of the most common reasons why australian shepherds will smile. Understanding the different reasons can help give you a better idea of why this peculiar behavior is happening.

1) Unintentionally Trained

If every time your australian shepherd formed their mouth into a smile, you gave them lots of love and affection because you thought it was adorable, they’ll want to do it more often.

Whether it’s a big grin with their tongue hanging out, or a more traditional smile where they raise their upper lip and show their teeth.

Your aussie wants to please you as well as get as much attention, love and affection from you as possible.

So if in the past you’ve been generous with your hugs and kisses every time they’ve smiled, you’re likely to see them smile pretty often.

2) Appeasement

Sometimes when a new guest comes over you might notice your aussie grinning at them.

Are they intimidated by your visitor which is making them ‘smile’?

The biggest give away is the rest of their body language.

If their ears are pushed forward, their tail is at a medium height and still, staring directly at the person, this is an aggressive grin.

However, if their body language is more submissive where they aren’t making direct eye contact and smiling, this is likely them simply showing appeasement.

Which is their way of demonstrating that they’re no threat to whoever is visiting your home.

3) Ate Something They Don’t Like

This usually happens if your aussie ate or licked something sour.

While it’s not encouraged to get your australian shepherd to smile by using a sour fruit like a lemon because it’s very acidic..

It’s safe to say that many people have seen the hilarious reaction to a dog licking a lemon online somewhere.

They usually freak out and aren’t sure why the heck their mouth feels and tastes like it does after licking the lemon.

Some dogs will jump around barking while others will grin as they make it through the next 10-15 seconds and wait for the sour taste to go away.

4) Imitating You

You might have a very smart, socially aware aussie on your hands.

If your pup notices that everytime you’re happy and feeling good, you smile at them, they may start to mimic this behavior.

Almost in a way that laughs can become contagious.

When someone is laughing at something, even if you’re not sure exactly what it is they’re laughing about, you might start laughing simply because you’re watching them laugh.

So in this situation your australian shepherd might see you happy with a big smile on your face and it triggers them to repeat this gesture with their own mouth.

*Sidenote: I’ve only really seen this with dogs that are considerably social. Dogs that aren’t don’t typically pay as close attention in my experience.

5) When They Know They Did Something Bad

Sometimes your australian shepherd will smile as a way to show their submission.

For example, if your aussie chewed something up that they shouldn’t have and you’re giving them the business, they’re likely showing many different submissive behaviors.

They could roll on their back, or sit with slouched posture, avoid eye contact, pin their ears back, have a slow wagging tail, and even a smile.

All of this to show you they know you’re upset.

Some may know exactly what it is you’re upset about and other times they might have forgotten what they did but simply know you’re upset by your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.

A smile when your australian shepherd has done something they shouldn’t is a submissive grin.

Related Reading: 11 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Are Good Dogs + Tips

Bonus: Angry Smile = Being Defensive 

In this situation, of course you wouldn’t actually consider this a smile, and more of a snarl.

But when your australian shepherd is angry, intimidated or wanting to defend themselves or someone they care about, they’ll lift their top lip and show their teeth.

This is not the kind of grin you want to see very often and your pup should be removed from the situation that’s making them feel so defensive.

How To Train An Australian Shepherd To Smile On Command

Training your australian shepherd to smile on command can be a fun, cute trick that you can impress your friends and family with.

This is however, one of the more challenging tricks given that smiling isn’t a natural facial expression for dogs.

Unless of course they’re scared, feel intimidated or are being bothered.

But that’s not the type of smile you want to see very often!

So let’s jump into the steps that can help you train your aussie to present their cute smile on command.

Step 0

Decide what you’d like your command word to be. That could simply be “Smile!, or “Say cheese!” or whatever you’d like.

Step 1

Make sure your pup is in a happy, calm mood. You want them to feel totally relaxed and engaged with you, not thinking about something else. Consider playing fetch with them for a little before starting your training to tire them out a bit.

Step 2

Now you have to figure out a way to get your pup to raise their upper lip. 

My friend’s dog would lift their top lip anytime she tickled their whiskers. My dog didn’t have a physical cue like this which meant I just had to use my fingers to raise their top lip.

Both work, but my friend was able to train her pup quicker to smile because of her dog’s sensitive whiskers which made them naturally raise her top lip after being tickled.

Step 3

Say your command word, get your pup to raise their upper lip (either through a tickle or physically pushing up their lip), then give them a treat with praise.

Step 4

After doing step 3 several times, start reducing how much you need to physically influence their smile. Which means if it took 3-4 seconds of whisker tickling, go down to 1-2 seconds.

If you needed to push their lip up in step 3, only do one side or just poke their lip and start the lifting process for them.

Step 5

Now you only want to reward your aussie when you say the command word and they smile on their own.

Steps 3-5 will vary in the amount of repetitions it takes for your australian shepherd to understand what you’re trying to teach them.

If they’re having trouble understanding on any given day, give them some time and come back to it.

If either of you get frustrated the training will be much more difficult.

Other posts you might find interesting:

8 Best Dog Beds for Australian Shepherds | Beds That Last

9 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Sit On You + 4 Tips

9 Reasons Australian Shepherds Howl + 4 Tips To Reduce It

Top 6 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Sploot + Dangers


Do Dogs Smile? If So, Why?