What It Means: “I’m imitating my people”
In the not-too-distant past, the scientific consensus was that pets, specifically dogs and cats, either lacked any emotional capacity, or their emotions were fundamentally dissimilar from human emotions. This perspective, however, sharply contrasted with the personal experiences and observations of pet owners, who intuitively knew that their beloved animals felt and expressed a diverse range of emotions.
Today, the tide of understanding has shifted dramatically. Many animal behavior experts now acknowledge and affirm that the emotional lives of our pets are not less vibrant or intricate than our own. In fact, they argue that the emotional experiences of pets may be equally engaging and dynamic, filled with moments of joy, anxiety, contentment, and sadness, much like human emotions.
Particularly intriguing is the relationship between humans and dogs, a connection that has been cultivated over thousands of years through mutual interaction and domestication. Dogs have been bred to work in close collaboration with humans, assisting us in various tasks ranging from herding livestock to providing companionship. This intimate, symbiotic relationship has led dogs to develop behaviors and expressions that mirror our own.
One of these mirrored behaviors is the act of smiling. This human-like expression in dogs is fascinating and endearing. Dogs, in their journey of coexistence with us, seem to have adopted this joyful human mannerism. Just as we smile to express happiness or contentment, dogs too appear to ‘smile’ in their unique ways, further reinforcing the deep emotional bonds they share with us. This intriguing development offers a profound insight into the emotional world of our canine companions and serves as a testament to our shared history.
Historically, dogs have not smiled at one another because it’s not a canine mannerism. They may have given submissive grins to each other, but that’s more of a tense, worried look than a friendly one.
In today’s world, however, dogs spend their entire lives with people, and their facial expressions possibly have evolved to reflect that. The beguiling smile with the pulled-back lips and the subtle “Hey, look at this!” body language is something they may have learned from hanging out with people all of these years. It’s an expression they reserve just for people, and sometimes only very special people.