A smile is the most beautiful facial expression anyone on this planet can perform. As a smile’s commonly done when one’s happy, it’s also the most natural and most effortless expression to do.
Yet, for our canine pals, a smile doesn’t necessarily equate to being happy. More often than not, a doggo showing its pearly whites can mean only two things – sad or angry.
But is it possible to teach your pup to smile whenever you want it to?
Though it’ll take time and patience, you can make your dog perform the skill if you know the proper techniques for it. So, are you ready to discover them?
How to teach your dog to smile?
Training a dog to smile is no easy feat, especially for newbie fur parents. You can use three tactics for training your pup: 1) Click-to-smile strategy, 2) Show your teeth tactic, and 3) Whisker tickle. But, no matter what strategy you intend to use, always make sure that the dog’s calm and relaxed. If possible, play a game or two before starting the training session. Also, don’t forget to reward your mutt for showing the desired behavior. After all, an encouraged canine’s much easier to train than a stressed one.
1. Click and smile
This technique perhaps is the most commonly used as it’s the easiest. As dogs learn best through association, banking on this knowledge is our trump card.
Otherwise known as “charging” the clicker strategy, this method requires using a unique device called a clicker.
From the term itself, a clicker is a small mechanical apparatus that gives an audible “click” when you push the button.
You can break this tactic into three basic steps:
- Push the button on the clicker.
- Get the treat from the bag.
- Reward the pup with the treat.
Simply put, you’re trying to make the pup associate the clicking sound with the treat. Though the puppy won’t usually realize it at first, don’t despair and keep practicing.
As dogs learn best with repetition, make sure to do this several times a day. But, don’t overdo it as the activity can quickly become stressful for the mutt, and that’s the last thing you’d like to happen.
No matter how long it takes, keep repeating the three-step process for as long as your pup needs to. You’ll know you’re already hitting your target if the canine does these two things:
- Dog gazes at your face, or
- Pup looks at the treat bag after hearing the click.
If you don’t have a clicker, improvise the item you’ll use for this strategy. Just make sure to reward the pup the instant he performs the trick for better association.
But, if, for some unknown reason, your mutt’s having a more challenging time, combine this method with the whisker tickle strategy.
2. Show me your teeth, please
With this strategy, you’ll need to have a good idea of dog behavior. As mentioned earlier, smiling can mean either of two things for our furry pals.
For one, a dog baring its teeth with its ears pinned down while sitting isn’t a happy smile at all. The smile that the pup does is a common de-escalating strategy they use to appease their fur parents.
It’s almost like this is a mutt’s way of saying sorry to its fur parent for doing something wrong. It can even be a canine’s way of avoiding punishment.
But, if a pup bares its pearly whites while snarling and with its ears pointing forward, it means it’s angry. It’s like the mutt’s warning you not to get any closer with him.
Though the mutts look like they’re smiling, they’re actually feeling stressed. Thus, when you see them performing such gestures, stop the training and calm the pup first.
Once everyone’s calm and happy, then you can resume. Yet, mind you, there are many ways you can use to make this method work.
First off the list, you can use a toothbrush to encourage your canine to show its teeth. This tactic is best for mutts who don’t smile naturally and who are used to brushing their teeth.
For this strategy, you bring the toothbrush close to the mutt’s mouth. Once the pup lifts its lips, say the word “smile” to make the association.
Yet, if your furry pal’s not into toothbrushing, you can tweak this tactic and use a doggy treat instead.
Or, if your canine’s more of the affectionate type, then you can take advantage of its personality to make it smile. Tickle or caress the pup’s lips or face to prompt him to show his pearly whites.
But, if you find your mutt’s witty enough to put up with a plain verbal command, use this to your advantage.
Every time you see your canine pal exposing his teeth, say the word “smile” or ask him to show his teeth.
No matter what hack you use, the most important thing is consistency. The more you repeat, the higher the chances it’ll sear the skill in your canine’s mind.
Just don’t forget to reward the canine with a tasty treat after every successful attempt.
3. Whisker tickle
From the name itself, you’ll have a clue what this method urges you to do. Simply put, this whisker tickle method means you’ll need to tickle the pup’s whiskers.
But, for this strategy to work best, you’ll need to keep the training sessions short. Since smiling’s unnatural for dogs, they’ll quickly get bored or irritated if you force them to do the trick.
If, however, you already cheered up your beloved pal, start the process by gently tickling its whiskers. The sensation this gesture evokes will ultimately make the dog lift its upper lips.
But, mind you. A pup lifting its lips can also signify annoyance, so be observant of his behavior all the time.
If everything goes well, you can now introduce the “show me your teeth” or “say cheese” command. Once the pup successfully performs the task, reward him with a doggy biscuit.
Continue performing this strategy until the pup associates the command with the task. Even if it means continuing to tickle his whiskers on several occasions, just carry on.
What materials to use for training?
If you’ve been carefully paying attention, you’ll notice that you don’t need expensive materials to start training.
You’ll only need to prepare two things for training your adorable mutt. Please take a look at them below.
Reward items need to be the most enticing objects for your beloved canines. Why is this so?
Well, you can’t make your pup obey you if it isn’t even the tiniest bit interested in the activity you’re teaching it. Hence, you’ll need to find the item that works its magic best on your canine pal.
Regardless if you use a treat, clicker, or a prized toy, just make sure that it’ll hold your puppy’s attention and make it want to obey your every command.
A doggy toothbrush comes in as the handiest tool you can use if you’re eager to make your doggo smile on cue. This is especially true if your mutt’s used with the routine.
Since brushing entails the same gestures as smiling, it’s beneficial for those who don’t get the hang of the activity yet.
When should you stop the training?
Expert dog trainers agree that to make dog training successful, the pup should be calm and relaxed. In this way, the canine’s more receptive to whatever information you dole out to it.
But, what signs should you look for that’ll tell you when to stop with the training session?
Since you’re aiming to make this experience a positive one for your doggo, watch out for the following:
Unlike humans, a dog staring at you with squinty eyes is a tell-tale sign of stress. Combined with constant staring without batting an eyelid, it means the pup’s about to become aggressive.
As soon as you notice this behavior, stop the training. Wait for the mutt to calm down before you can safely proceed with the activity.
A dog firmly bringing its lips together tells you it’s tensed and stressed-out already. Such a gesture often comes with tongue flicking as well.
So, once you notice this behavior, stop the training at once.
Upright and forward-facing ears
Another tell-tale sign of an aggressive dog is raised and forward-pointing ears. But, when the mutt’s ears are completely flat against its head, then it’s frightened.
Whichever of these two ear signals you see, stop the training at once for your mutt to take a break.
When you’re scared of something, you’ll do your best to limit the body parts exposed, right? Similarly, dogs try to make themselves look small when they’re frightened.
Thus, when pups are in a scary situation, they’ll usually hunch over. At times, they may even tuck their tail between their legs.
So, if you notice these behaviors in your mutt, stop and reassess. For all we know, there’s a tactic you’re using that makes it want to run for the hills every time.
Now that you know these strategies, are you now ready to start training your dog to smile?
Simply follow the strategies mentioned above, and it’s not long before you’ll see your pup beaming on cue.