A happy dog is a healthy one and my shiba inu, Faith, never seemed to stop smiling. But I never understood why she always had a big grin while other family pets I’ve been around didn’t.
Shiba inus smile due to their uncommonly wide cheek bones. When a shiba goes to breath or pant their lips are pulled up and to the sides, leaving a natural smile on their face. Most people assume shiba inus are generally happy dogs, but a shiba’s smile can be caused by a number of different things.
The first thing I wanted to understand was how she smiled so perfectly every time something happened, then what the meaning was behind it.
How Shiba Inus Smile
The main reason shiba inus have large “happy” smiles is due to their facial structure.
Shiba inus have wider cheek bones than other dog breeds. So when they open their mouths to breath or pant their lips pull back and to the side, resting in a way that looks like a natural smile.
Most dogs that have a longer nose or snout have a narrow shoe like head. So almost every other breed has normal, narrower, cheek bones.
Leading shiba inus to be the old one out, with their fantastic grins.
But just because a shiba inu is smiling doesn’t mean they are happy. Dogs show happiness in other ways, and it doesn’t always involve a smile.
What Your Shiba’s Smile Means
A Happy dog is a healthy dog, and shiba’s love to smile. But does that mean they are always happy?
While yes, dogs will smile when they are happy because it gets a positive reaction out of us. Rewarding the behavior, leading to them repeating it.
Since shiba’s smile basically anytime they open their mouths they come across as smiling for, again, basically anything. What will really tell you what they are thinking or feeling is their overall body language.
Ears, eyes, teeth, sound, paws and tail all play a role in understanding what they are thinking or feeling.
Teeth, growling, grumbling, or any other low noises are a sign of aggression. Between the noises or displays of teeth it’s not uncommon for shiba’s to pant, which to us looks like a smile, meaning they’re happy. But that’s the wrong impression they are trying to giving you.
Anxiety, fear, and general discomfort for the situation generally shows in two ways. Low flat ears that are pinned to their head along with a shrunken posture. As in they are trying to make themselves smaller to be avoided.
Comfortable / Relaxed
Their head is held high with their ears sticking straight up. Sometimes they’re tails will be wagging or wiggling, some shiba inus have a hard time moving their tails.
Happy / Playful
Very similar to “Comfortable / Relaxed” but they are a bit more on edge. You’ll notice their ready to move at a moments notice and their eyes, pupils, are larger, dilated. Usually their front half is lower to the ground than their back half.
Taking a step back and paying attention to other aspects of your dog’s body language can help you better understand what they are trying to say, preventing potential problems and misunderstandings.