The internet loves photos of ‘smiling’ dogs. But is that dog really happy, and how can you tell? It’s important to know the difference between a stressed dog, an overstimulated dog, and a happy dog - both for your own safety and so that you’re not sharing incorrect information that could get someone else hurt. Before you scroll down, stop and think for a second - what do you think a happy dog’s face looks like?
If you answered soft eyes, slack mouth and lolling tongue, you’re right! Unfortunately, because we’re primates, humans are cued to see tension around the lips and exposed teeth as a ‘smile’ - and in dog language, that means something totally different. A quick google search for ‘smiling dog’ pulls up these:
None of these are happy dogs. All show signs of stress. The signs to look for are tension around the lips/edge of the mouth, nose wrinkles, bared teeth, hard or squinted eyes, ears held farther back on the head, and overall tension. The last photo is probably an appeasement behavior, and the second is definitely fear with a potential for aggression.
Let’s look at some dogs showing happy smiles! Here’s the first google image for happy dog that I got:
Much better. Doesn’t that look like a happy animal? The skin around the mouth is relaxed, the mouth is open, the eyes are soft and there’s no tension in the face.
Now let’s look at some slightly more complicated examples, starring angerinyourbones‘s Spike and zookeeping‘s Ace. It’s important to know the animal you’re viewing when you try to figure out if it’s happy, because each animal uses different body language.
Here’s a great photo of Ace being super happy and smiling:
Erect ears, soft eyes, soft edges of the mouth (even though it’s open because he’s panting, they’re not pulled back tightly), loose face, hanging tongue without tension. In contrast, here’s Ace when he’s very overheated, but still smiley and happy. You can see that his face is still pretty soft even though it’s stretched because he’s panting hard.
Contrast that with this last photo of Ace below - this face isn’t a smile. Note how much tension there is in his face, especially around the eyes and the corners of the mouth. The tongue is pretty tense, too. Zookeeping describes this photo as him being overstimulated and very intense, fixated on her hand.
So that’s a good examples of how different dogs show stress/intensity/smiles differently. Lots of people would say that the third photo of Ace is a smile and the 2nd might be stressed, but it’s actually flipped. Remember - the more tense the muscle of the face, the less likely it is to be a smile.
Let’s contrast this with Spike! Here’s a great photo of him being fucking adorable and smiley.
Notice the soft eyes and face and lolling tongue.
Now compare that to the photo below. In the second photo, his tongue is lolling more but there’s also a little more tension around his eyes and pulling back the corners of his mouth. This isn’t a doggy smile, it’s a combination of overheating and stress. My big giveaway on calling that is looking how far back the corners of his mouth are pulled, because it’s more tension than would be necessary with his mouth open to pant that way.
Here’s a photo of Spike when he’s just plain overheated and not stressed - you can see how his face is a lot softer than the photo above, and there’s not as much tension in his lips.
This concludes dog smiles 101! Basically, look for soft features and a loose tongue. Check to see if the amount of tension around the lips is about the amount needed for how open the mouth is (and it’s not a smile if the mouth is closed). Eyes should be soft, ears should be wherever they normally sit on the dog’s head when it’s active and alert.
I’ll leave you with a photo of my surrogate baby, Avalanche, and his killer smile.
How would the Germanics react to coming home, opening the door, and seeing an avalanche of dogs come out of their house?
Ludwig | Germany: His eyes would nearly bulge out of his head as soon as all the dogs came flooding out of his home. Shock would be overcome by pure joy, because he loves dogs, and would try to keep them all.
Gilbert | Prussia: He’d let out a yelp of surprise and would whip his head around to look at all of the canines that now surrounded him. He’d have no idea how they all got into his home, but he wouldn’t mind.
Vash | Switzerland: He’d scream, fall backwards, and be suffocated in doggy kisses and noses. If it were any other animal, he’d get pretty pissed off, but since they’re cute dogs, he’d let it slide. He may even smile a little.
Lili | Liechtenstein: She’d break down in a fit of giggles, excited and happy that all of these adorable little puppies are now in her home. She’d spend the rest of the day playing with each and every dog and giving them love.
Roderich | Austria: He isn’t much of a dog person- he’s a cat person, so he’d kinda freak out upon being bombarded with dogs. He’d shoo them out of his house, though he’d feel bad for making them all leave.
Torvald | Germania: Standing there awkwardly, he would be unsure of what to do. Should he make them leave? Should he keep them? He would think this is a prank and would try to find someone to take the dogs off his hands. Leopold | Kugelmugel: He’d be more worried if the dogs destroyed his house, if anything. He’d hesitantly send the dogs on their way and would be a little salty while he cleans the huge mess they made out of his belongings.
It’s starting to get colder outside, so don’t we all want a big-hearted and fluffy Stoutland to keep us warm this winter? Stoutland, like its pre-evolutions, is loyal and brave – it rescues people stranded by blizzards in the mountains, and keeps them warm. So let’s talk about this!
Stoutland has a few real-world counterparts, including the Yorkshire Terrier (left), the Shih Tzu (center), or perhaps the Scottish Terrier (Right). You can see how the colors, ears, face shape, long flowing fur, and facial hair of stoutland were likely inspired by these breeds.
A Shih Tzu is technically a toy dog, but the other two are terriers. Different dog breeds were bred for different reasons, such as herding sheep, hunting birds, etc., but terriers were bred to catch and control tunneling animals like rats, rabbits, foxes, and even badgers in the highlands of Scotland, Ireland, or Great Britain. Because of this, many terriers have good claws for digging, and like most dogs they have a keen sense of smell (see Growlithe or Slurpuff) to sniff out their underground prey. The name terrier comes from the latin word terra-, meaning earth.
Stoutland’s digging skills would no doubt come in handy when rescuing people stranded on cold winter mountains. Search and Rescue dogs have been used for over a century, saving people from natural disasters and the like using their superior sense of smell and tracking. This is a picture of a Red Cross Collie from 1909 Italy:
Search & Rescue dogs typically go through a rigorous training process before they’re ready to rescue people. Training typically begins when the dog is only 8 weeks old, and lasts until they’re 12 months. These dogs train in obedience, agility, scent training, and socialization.
Obedience training ensures the safety of the dog on the often dangerous search-fields. By listening to its trainer, the dogs can safely and most efficiently search for victims. Agility Training ensures the dog is in top physical shape, to run fast and leap or climb rocks and snow piles. Scent training hones the dogs sense of smell, such that it can track or locate human scent as best as possible.
These dogs do all of this based on simple reward-based training. They are motivated by their favorite toy, a treat, or simply a hug from their owners. With this inspiration, rescuing people is simply a game for these dogs; and one they love to play.
Typically, larger dogs like St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers are the best for rescue teams. However, Stoutland is 1.4 meters long, which is larger than all of those breeds, and with his terrier digging skills and his warm fur, makes Stoutland an excellent rescue dog.
For mountain rescues, speed is really the key. Around 90% of avalanche victims will survive if they are rescued within 15 minutes of being buried. But, after a half hour, the rate drops to 30%. One avalanche rescue dog can search 2.5 acres of area in a half-hour, which would take a team of 20 humans over 4 hours. This is why rescue dogs like Stoutland are so important.
Stoutland appears to be a large terrier, dogs which were bred to hunt out underground animals like rabbits or foxes. This makes Stoutland an excellent digger, and a good search & rescue dog for people lost in the cold mountains.