Can Dogs Fake Joy?

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Introduction

Dogs are very intelligent creatures. They are in tune with their surroundings, their environment, and the humans that they interact with. It may be easy to look at a pup with their teeth showing and a wagging tail and assume that it's feeling joy and smiling. 

However, how we humans interpret our dog's emotions may not be how they are really feeling while dogs are actually very good at interpreting human behavior. We know that dogs are capable of feeling sadness, grief, and a range of other emotions that may lead to zoomies, wagging tails, and "smiles". But are dogs capable of fake joy? Read on to find out!

Signs a Dog is Faking Joy

Unfortunately, our pups are not capable of just telling us how they feel. Because of their lack of language skills, dogs have to communicate with us using their bodies. There are five common groups of canine communication signals, all of which can be determined by observing the entire dog's body language, in addition to the entire current situation. Gathering a whole picture can be critical for determining what emotions are actually being felt. These five groups of communication signals include fearful communication, arousal communication, anxious communication, aggressive communication, and relaxed communication.

Problems arise because we are pretty horrible at being observant of our doggo's behaviors and understanding subtle signs. However, it is so important that we observe our dogs and their surroundings in their entirety to fully understand situational awareness and what is going on. 

For instance, when a dog is wagging its tail, that does not necessarily mean the dog is feeling happy or friendly. While a moving tail is easily identifiable, if the dog’s body is also stiff, the ears are back, and the dog is crouching, these other features indicate an unhappy, even aggressive dog. Or what humans may see as a smile, may actually indicate fear or aggression, and the dog really just wants you to back off. 

The best think you can do is to analyze the dog's behavior in light of the bigger picture. Situational awareness is key, so be sure to analyze the tail tail, the position of the ears, and even the position of the head. 

Body Language

Keep in mind that body language is key. Before you assume anything, be aware of certain indications that your pup may be faking it, like:
  • Head tilting
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Wag tail
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

Some other signs that your dog may be faking an emotion can include:
  • Rolling over
  • Zoomies
  • Licking lips
  • Drawing back the lips
  • Crouching

The History Behind Dogs Faking Joy

Dogs are very intelligent creatures. They connect strongly with their humans, are capable of learning and copying human behavior, and can even be wonderful manipulators when they know it will get them attention, a treat, or extra lovin'. 

However, we don't return the favor, and dogs have been deeply misunderstood until more recently. What you may interpret as love, joy, or excited behavior, may actually be an indication of fear, uncomfortableness, or even aggression. 

Unfortunately, a human interpretation tends to be a simplified one. Your pup may not fully understand what he or she is doing, but a good pet owner will work on being aware of the situation and how their pup reacts. That way, any miscommunications can be avoided.

The Science Behind Dogs Faking Joy

Unfortunately, joy is not simply a smile or a wagging tail. The tail is just one means of canine communication and one that can be easily misconstrued. It's only in recent years that behavioral scientists have begun to appreciate just how important the angle and speed of wag are in reading a dog's mood.  

To make matters even more complicated, some dogs will show behavioral signs of appeasement, such as drawing back the lips in a grin or barring their teeth. However, interpreting dog behavior through the lens of human body language is unhelpful, and these signs can indicate a pup that is far from being joyful. 

For example, drawn back lips can be a form of apology (remember when your caught your pup tearing up that pillow?) or fully barred teeth can be a sign of aggression or fear, ahead of a bite. Simply, putting a human spin on animal behaviors doesn't get the most accurate results. We shouldn't assume our pups are 'faking it' simply because it doesn't fit the box of human behavior. Here are some common signs you may witness depending on how your pup is feeling:

  • A fearful pup may yawn or lick its lips, keeping its mouth tightly closed. The pooch may also lower their body, cower, or tuck their tail between its legs.
  • An aroused pup may be jumping or wagging its tail. However, an aroused pup may also bark, lunge, pace, or spin.
  • An anxious pup may have a lowered stance with ears slightly back. A pooch that is feeling anxious may also slowly wag it's tail or move away from people, heavily drooling.
  • An aggressive pup may use vocalizations as warning signs, stiffen, or show its teeth. Eyes wide, a tense mouth, and a wrinkled nose are also indicators of aggression.
  • A relaxed pup may have ears in a neutral position, soft eyes, and a tail wagging in a circular motion.

Training Your Dog to Fake Joy

What's more important than teaching your dog to fake emotions, is to learn how to interpret how your pooch is feeling so that you can bond and fully grow your relationship.

Learning to read your dog's body language is key, and allows you to respond appropriately, whether it be with some lovin' or some space. However, it is important to remember that fully understanding one another takes lots of time, observation, and practice.  Even further, depending on the dog's personality, some dogs may display more than one type of signal in the same situation. 

By working on reading the body language of the whole dog, the entire situation, and the context of the behaviors, we get a better idea of what our dog is trying to communicate, how they are feeling, what may happen next, and how we can respond!

 Keep practicing. Before long, you and your canine companion will be the best of buds!

How to React to Your Dog Faking Joy:

  • If your dog is aggressive, do not challenge your pup.
  • Reassure your pup with love and affection.
  • If you are unsure what emotion a dog is exhibiting, be cautious.
  • Don't assume all attention is for selfish reasons.