What Your Dog's Cute Behaviors Really Mean | VCA Animal Hospitals (2024)

Do dogs know how to act cute?What Your Dog's Cute Behaviors Really Mean | VCA Animal Hospitals (1)

Most dog owners will agree that our canine friends are doggone cute. Some of their expressions and actions simply amplify their “cuteness.” But are they born with the innate “cuteness” or do they learn how to be cute?

Some of the cutest canine attributes are:

The Dog Smile

There is nothing quite as disarming as a full blown doggie smile. You know the one: your dog pulls back the corners of his mouth and shows just enough teeth to be sweet and not enough to be scary. But are dogs really smiling at you or is there another explanation for this sweet facial expression?

Historically, in wild canids such as wolves, the facial expression we call a smile, actually communicates submission to member of the same species. To signal that he accepts the fact that he is not “top” dog, the submissive wolf retracts the corners of his lips which makes his face appear to be smiling. The dominant wolf interprets the smile as a submissive gesture and assumes his role as alpha wolf.

Domestic dogs are relatives of early wolves and interpret the “smile” the same way their ancestors did. So Your cute “smiling” dog may simply be indicating that he readily accepts his subordinate position in your family. With that in mind, dominant alpha dogs rarely smile. Pet owners who discount this evolutionary explanation, insist that their pets actually smile at them. And in a sense, they are right. If you respond to the smiling, submissive pup with a kind word, a pat on the head, or a treat, he quickly learns to smile a lot! Even alpha dogs will smile when they realize that positive reinforcement of this cute expression is in store.

The Adorable Head Tilt

Who can resist the cute head tilt? When dogs co*ck their heads to the side and look up at you, are they doing it to be cute, or is there another reason?

The answer is more physiological than romantic, and there are two reasons for this:

1. To see better. Dogs have eyes that are set on the sides of their heads which makes it difficult for them to focus on objects that are directly in front of them. If they angle their heads, dogs get a clearer view of things that are front and center.

2. To improve communication. Dogs co*ck their heads to see YOU better. Dogs assess Your facial expressions, eye movements, tone of voice, body language and inflection to improve their communication skills. To make an accurate assessment of your facial expressions, dogs must clearly see your face. Dogs can have difficulty seeing a person’s entire face because their long muzzles may get in the way. To see how a long snout interferes with vision, hold a fist to your nose and look around. You have to turn your head to see an object directly in front of you. Dogs do the same thing when they perform the adorable head tilt trick. That cute canine head tilt actually broadens the range of vision and allows a dog to more clearly see a person’s face and communicate better.

3. To hear better. A person with normal hearing is able to discern sound regardless of where it is coming from—front, back, left, or right. The human external ear canal is engineered to pick up sound so efficiently that you do not have to turn toward the sound to capture it. This is not so with dogs! Dogs have ear flaps (pinnae) that partially or completely cover the ear canal and block sound transmission. To compensate for the interference of ear flaps, dogs perk up their pinnae, and tilt their heads for optimum sound collection.

So even though you recognize that the cute canine head tilt as an endearing doggie feature, the reason behind it may be based on improving vision and hearing. Regardless, if you respond to this cute canine trait with positive reinforcement, you will reinforce the behavior.

Those Puppy Dog Eyes

It is impossible to resist sweet puppy dog eyes and even though they are called “puppy” dog eyes, they are ageless. Even a 10 year old dog can have precious puppy eyes. This wide-eyed expression makes dogs look sweet and vulnerable and melts our hearts. Why are puppy dog eyes so cute? Research demonstrates that dogs raise their inner brows to make their eyes appear larger. Research also indicates that humans have a definite preference for dogs with childlike faces that include big eyes. When choosing a pet, we opt for dogs that raise their inner brows to make their eyes appear larger and make their faces look more baby-like. It’s possible that human selection of this trait has influenced breed characteristics.

What Your Dog's Cute Behaviors Really Mean | VCA Animal Hospitals (2024)


What are 5 abnormal dog Behaviours? ›

The most common “developed abnormal behaviors” are aggression, fear reactions, inappropriate elimination, vocalization, altered facial expression, altered posture, restlessness, and hiding [4].

How do you respond when someone says you have a cute dog? ›

Thank you.” I also add: “He's sweet too!” I typically respond with a little chuckle or something and say thanks little macho man appreciates it. Or something along the lines of “Yeah he's a cutie”. You don't really need to say thanks because it's not towards you just acknowledge it and show gratitude.

Why do we think our dogs are so cute? ›

With their big, round eyes, button noses and large heads, puppies share many of the same physical characteristics as human babies. And like babies, as well as kittens, teddies and many cartoon characters, puppies provoke in us an automatic 'cute response'.

What your dog's behaviour means? ›

If their behaviour changes or they show regular signs of stress or fear (such as excessive panting, licking lips, hiding, cowering or aggression), they could be distressed, bored, ill or injured. If you notice a change, ask your vet for advice.

What are the abnormal behaviors of dogs? ›

A behavior can be considered abnormal if it is something that your dog has never done before and continues to do, or something that is abnormal for dogs as a whole. However, these are some of the most common ones: Anxiety or fear behaviors (excessive panting, licking lips, hiding, cowering, aggression)

What are the three key signs that behavior is abnormal? ›

Abnormal behavior is any behavior that deviates from what is considered normal. There are four general criteria that psychologists use to identify abnormal behavior: violation of social norms, statistical rarity, personal distress, and maladaptive behavior.

How do you say I love you in a dog way? ›

Best Ways to Say 'I Love You' in Dog Language
  1. Talk and Sing. Dogs love the sound of their human's voice. ...
  2. Listen Up. ...
  3. Make Eye Contact. ...
  4. Pet and Rub. ...
  5. Cuddle and Nap. ...
  6. Play and Exercise. ...
  7. Groom and Pamper.
Feb 12, 2024

How can dogs say I love you? ›

Leaning into you

While leaning may cause some issues if your dog is larger, it's still a positive sign! Leaning against your leg (or whatever part is closest to them) is a big sign that they love you. If you find your dog leaning against you, take a moment to pet him and show him some extra affection.

How do dogs say I love you back? ›

By licking, snuggling, playing with you, wagging their tail when they're with you, pouncing you with kisses and tail wags when you get home, and basically always wanting to be by your side. Be sure to show your dogs you love them, too. Your dog's eyes do much of their talking.

Why are dogs so cute and innocent? ›

Additionally, dogs have a number of physical and behavioral characteristics that contribute to their perceived cuteness and innocence. For example, they have large eyes, rounded faces, and soft fur, which make them look more like infants and trigger an instinctive nurturing response in humans.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

What is the most cutest dog? ›

Top 15 Cutest Dog Breeds
  • Golden Retriever. This beautiful golden dog is at the top of many lists, and it is easy to see why after you get a look at their lustrous coat, big brown inquisitive eyes, floppy ears, and happy expression. ...
  • Bernese Mountain Dog. ...
  • Pomeranian. ...
  • Siberian Husky. ...
  • Pomsky. ...
  • Beagle. ...
  • Labradoodle. ...
  • Pug.

Why does my dog put his paw on me? ›

Mostly for attention. Your dog will mostly put their paw on you to be close to you, show some affection, and signal they would like some attention from you. Remember that dogs don't use words to communicate, so body language is how they often express themselves.

Why do dogs bow when they greet you? ›

The play bow is a great way for dogs to communicate with each other, and for you to encourage your dog to play. Typically her body language will be loose and wiggly with a wagging tail. The human version of a play bow is to quickly crouch into a squat, and if your dog does it back, it's time for a game.

Why do dogs like their belly rubbed? ›

It's a place they might not always be able to scratch so when someone they trust really goes to town on a good belly rub, they're usually quite happy about it. "A good belly rubbing session can release endorphins and oxytocin in dog and owner alike, strengthening the special bond between them," says Dr. Simon.

What is the most common behavioral disorder in dogs? ›

Aggression is the most common and most serious behavior problem in dogs. Different forms of aggression require different treatments.

What are the 4 abnormal behaviors? ›

Milder and somewhat accepted bizarre behaviors, for instance, may be called eccentric instead of abnormal. An artist who paints with his own saliva, for instance, may be considered eccentric instead of abnormal. In general, the four common features of an abnormality are: deviance, distress, dysfunction, and danger.

What are the 4 categories of abnormal behavior that must be met? ›

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), abnormal behavior may be characterized by one or more of the following four criteria: maladaptive behavior, personal distress, statistical rarity, and violation of social norms.

What are some examples of abnormal behaviors? ›

What are examples of abnormal behavior? Examples of abnormal behavior include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia nervosa, borderline personality disorder, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.


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