Why Do Staffies Look Like They Are Smiling?

Staffies are famous for what looks like an enormous smile. They practically shut their eyes tight and pull their cheeks back, with a big pink tongue hanging out (as beautifully demonstrated in the picture below by Toffee and Runa).

But are Staffies smiling like a human would? 

We’ve all seen hundreds of pictures and videos on social media of Staffies smiling, but are Staffies really smiling, or are we inadvertently manifesting our emotions onto our Staffy, so we believe they are actually smiling?

Because of all the pleasure it gives us to believe they can smile, the reality is that Staffies cannot smile the same way as we humans.

I know some Staffy owners reading this believe 100% their Staffies smile. To them, It genuinely looks like a smile. 

Toffee and Runa with big Staffy smiles

Why Do Staffies Smile?

Some dog experts believe dogs have learned how to smile because they are copying their human family, and of course, when they are given treats when we see them smile, dogs, especially Staffies, are only too happy to oblige.

Staffies often display a “submissive grin” or “smile.”

In the dog world, smiling is a form of appeasement or submission. Staffies and all dogs, when they are nervous, can smile or grimace. In doggy language, they are saying, “I’m not a threat.” Of course, Staffies have a whole range of body language to ensure their submissiveness is understood. I’m sure your Staffy has exhibited some if not all of these body signals, especially when they know they’ve been naughty and got caught: stooping down, a lowered tail, licking lips, and not looking you in the eye.

Staffies might pull this kind of face at their humans as a respectful greeting, and we see this as a smile.

Do Staffy Dogs Actually Smile?

Kim Brophy is a certified canine behavior consultant and the author of the book “Meet Your Dog.” She believes when dogs smile, it’s an adaptive facial expression. Dogs are world-class experts at human manipulation. You can see this at work every day with your Staffy. 

Staffies do something that pleases their owner and are rewarded with a treat and praise. Staffies precisely understand what’s happening here and realise that they’ll get another reward if they repeat this behavior. 

If they inadvertently smiled at you, but you saw it as humorous, or you were so pleased to see it, you gave a reward; well, your Staffy has learned something valuable.

Why Do Staffies Look Like They Are Smiling?

However, some Staffies can make their faces appear as though they are smiling; but this is a unique “doggy smile.”

When you see your Staffie “smile,” what they’re doing is opening their mouths and pulling back the top lip, allowing the tongue to slip sideways over their teeth. Staffies do this when they are happy and calm, so most Staffy owners think their dog is smiling.

Another reason why Staffies may “smile” is when they are hot or out of breath. This is an important thing to note as it can indicate if they dog is uncomfortably warm. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans, but instead release heat almost exclusively through their mouth and tongue.

What Makes a Staffy Happy? 

Other than the Staffy’s craving for human companionship, they need plenty of opportunities to burn off their excess energy and enjoy doing different and exciting things. You need to exercise your Staffy regularly, but you should interact with them during your exercise sessions.


Do Staffies smile? Perhaps they do; if so, they have gained the ability from humans, and undoubtedly it serves them well because Staffies instinctively know it unlocks human hearts.

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Brad Davenport

Brad has spent his entire life surrounded by dogs and has owned all sorts of breeds, including Dachshunds, Great Danes, French Bulldogs and he currently has a little Hasanese called Biscuit. Brad is an experienced dog writer who is obsessed by canine health, care and psychology and has completed several courses on dog care and training.

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