dalmatian smile

Dalmatian smarl is smile-velous!

posted in: Dalmatian behaviour | 0

dalmatian smileThe first time we saw our Dalmatian smile, we were ecstatic.  We’d heard the breed had this trait, but never thought we’d be lucky enough to have our own little grinning girl.  Luckily for us, every Dally we’ve owned has smiled.  It’s one of the truly endearing features of Dalmatians as there is something truly magical about the Dalmatian smile.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have always had smiling Dalmatians, although we have always provided encouragement and shown our dogs that, if they smile, it pleases us enormously.  We always grin back at them whenever we see the slightest curl of their lip, the lovely little teeth and the usual accompanying ‘sneezy snort’.  A Dalmatian ‘smarl’ in full smiling mode is, without doubt a sight to behold.

Also, amazing is the fact that they have all smiled differently.  Each has had their own little quirks.  As our Dalmatian journey has progressed, so has our desire to enhance this feature and we feel we’ve learned the trick to get the most from this characteristic in our dogs.


Why do Dalmatians smile?

There are many reasons a Dalmatian will smile and in our case we’ve always found it a positive experience, primarily we believe it is the sheer joy of seeing us and probably because she knows we adore her smile.

It is a display of respect and excitement.  When our Dalmatians smile it is always accompanied by a “wibbly wobbly” body, a waggy tail and lots of excitable snorts.

Without doubt, it is the finest welcome to come in and be greeted with such a beautiful smile.  Lottie, our oldest is an old hand at smiling now and has honed her smile skills to perfection.  When we return home, she will sashay the length and breadth of the hallway snorting and smiling for what seems like an eternity.  We can never wait to get home to see her anyway, but knowing that this welcome awaits, makes coming home so very special.

Ruby, the latest addition to our family is still learning her smile skills.  We tend to get a better result if she’s away from Lottie and not vying for the main thrust of attention.  With her liver spotting and slightly pink snout, her smile isn’t so obvious as Lottie’s.  It is a work in progress, but with continued encouragement I’m sure it will develop into a fine display of ‘gnashers’.

We’re mid development at the moment; she’s at the stage where we encourage her to smile and she is smiling more frequently.  Somehow, we have somehow got to the stage that her exit policy from the smile is for her to shove her nose into your face, accompanied by a playful nip of your nose!  It doesn’t hurt and is not aggressive, but now it’s time to concentrate on the quality of the smile without the playful ending!

dalmatian smileIs a Dalmatian smile anything to worry about?

The first time we saw a Dalmatian smile we weren’t quite sure what to make of it.  We were initially concerned it may be seen as a sign of aggression by other dogs or their owners. We would watch very carefully as they greeted anyone, canine or human and wondered why they would sometimes curl up the side of their mouths and reveal their teeth to other dogs while showing no form of aggression.

It is in fact the opposite.  Dogs are used to being in a pack where there will always be a natural hierarchy.  Smiling is, in dog language, an act of submission to the Alpha pack leader and a sign of great respect.

When we return home and the dogs are smiling at us and giving us a fine display of canine enamel they are showing their respect and affirming we are in charge.  This is surprising as sometimes we wonder who is in charge!


Can you train a Dalmatian to smile?

I’m not sure the term “train a Dalmatian to smile” is correct.  I think it’s more a case of encouragement and positive reinforcement.  From an early stage, whenever we saw a hint of a smile, we would show our pleasure, by gently clapping and reinforcing the word ‘smile’.  It is possible to get your dog to smile more.  After all, your dog will naturally want to please you and the more you show your pleasure the more they will try to please you; like a snowball effect.

We’ve used the same process with all our dogs and estimate the improvement is about ten fold. By improvement I mean the quality and length of smile, “wibbly wobbly” reaction and ‘snortiness’ or vocalisation which usually accompanies a smile.


How do other dogs react to a smiling Dalmatian?

In our experience other dogs haven’t taken much notice of a smiling Dalmatian. It is important to spot the difference between a smile and baring of the teeth, which is covered shortly. Ours are more likely to smile for us than for another dog and are also more likely to smile at the owners of other dogs, rather then their dog itself.

Lottie, in particular knows our friends and family well and smiles for her favourite people, especially if they are known to have doggy treats on their person!  Oh yes, Dalmatians and food.  Or should I say food source.  They really are governed by their stomachs but that’s a subject for another day.

Not to be confused.

We’re constantly greeted by our smiling dogs.  Each has their individual smile and certain characteristics.  Generally, our dogs have shown their teeth in a good way, but there are other characteristics to consider when you can see a dogs teeth.

  • In what situation is your dog showing their teeth? Is it feeling threatened?
  • Are they snarling or growling?
  • What body language is your dog showing?
  • Is your dogs body rigid or relaxed?  If rigid, it may be a sign of aggression it is showing
  • Are your dogs ears forward or back?  Rigid ears pointing forward can be a warning sign.
  • Is your dogs tail wagging? If the tail is high and rapidly wagging it can be another danger sign.

By taking careful notice of the above signs could help alert you to potential problems.  There are many subtle differences in dog behaviour from which you can determine if your dog is feeling stressed or threatened.  Particularly as either or both of these scenarios can lead to unwanted behaviour.

We frequently meet other dog owners and when chatting and exchanging stories we learn more about their own breeds, like Labradors and Labrador Retrievers, who are also known to smile.  Dalmatians are well-known for smiling and all of ours have shown immense talent in this specialised field.

We’ve had hours and hours of pleasure from our smiling Dalmatians, indeed, they consistently make us smile!

In life, we think there is a lot to learn from our dogs.  Their love, companionship and loyalty comes without condition (other than food of course!).  In the case of smiling, or smarling as it is known, it is a simple pleasure which makes your heart sing and comes without cost, yet is so valuable to the well-being of our lives.


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