Do Dogs Have Lips? (Answered By Trainer)

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Despite appearances, dog and human facial anatomy is quite similar. We have broad foreheads above two eyes going down to a nose, framed by a jaw and chin. Some dogs even have eyebrows like humans.

On the lower half of our faces, below the nose, humans have lips. Lips come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, but they are usually a different shade than our skin tone and are noticeably plumper.

Look at your dog and see if they have plump lips. Probably not, so maybe our facial anatomy is not so similar after all.

This begs the question, do dogs have lips?

Though they look different than human lips, dogs do have lips. However, because of the different lengths of muzzles, dog lip appearance can vary between breeds. Lip and jowl appearance helps indicate a breed and makes a difference in drooling. No matter the breed though, lips play a part in body language.

“Lips are a visible body part at the mouth of many animals” including dogs. Dog lips have many functions similar to human lips, like holding in food or water while eating so it does not fall out, protecting the mouth from outside elements, and even communicating.

In this article, we will talk about dog lips, why not all canine lips look the same, and how they use them for body language.

The Anatomy Of Dog’s Lips And Jowls

The lips of any animal are the opening to the mouth, and that includes the dog’s mouth. However, the dog has some unique features that not all lipped animals share. Dogs have much longer lips than humans because of their long muzzle and jawline. Their lips are thinner and not usually as prominent.

Dogs’ upper lips are called flews and the lower lip is called often called the inferior lip, but we will continue to call it the lower lip in this article. There are saliva glands located on the corner of the lips as well as vessels that help create blood flow through the muscles that dogs use to control their lips.

One of the main purposes of a dog’s lips is to create a seal and keep food and water in the mouth so the dog can swallow properly. They also create a barrier protecting the dog’s inner mouth from outside elements. It does not protect their mouth from hard impact, but it can protect them from elements like dirt, dust, particles in the air, or bugs.

Dog’s lips, along with the teeth, help function to keep the tongue in, unless your dog is in a licking mood. Although as you can see in the video it does not always work.

Do Dogs Have Lips Or Jowls?

Continuing our anatomy lesson, we look at what is attached to dogs’ lips: the jowls. This means dogs have both lips and jowls! Jowls refer to dogs’ cheeks or the loose skin that hangs off their jaw.

Depending on the shape of a dog’s muzzle, you notice wildly different shaped jowls. Breeds like Olde English Bulldogs have much looser jowls than sighthounds like Greyhounds.

Consisting of muscle, glands, blood vessels, and mucus membranes, the jowls help aid dogs’ lips with keeping food and water inside the mouth. It is attached to the outer bones of the jaw, and because of how wide the mouth is, the cheek cavity is small.

Try puffing up your cheeks with air and you will be able to observe the larger size of your cheek cavity. Comparatively, dogs have larger mouths but smaller cheek cavities.

Are All Dog Lips The Same?

Breeding can affect a lot of different aspects of a dog’s personality. Certain breeds are going to have a high drive and be more athletic, whereas other breeds are content to get little exercise and nap most of the day.

Even more than its effect on exercise needs, people notice the effect breeding has on physical appearance. All you have to do is compare the Chihuahua and the Great Dane; they are the same species but are vastly different in appearance.

Breeding also matters when it comes to lip size, length, and appearance. Sometimes, depending on the breeding, it can be hard to find a dog’s lips because of their structure.

Let’s take a look at two large breeds that are similar in weight, the Greyhound and Great Dane.

The Greyhound has much shorter flews, resulting in more prominent lips and smaller looking muzzle. The Great Dane has longer flews, which means they have great big jowls and it is harder to find their lips. This can affect a dog’s ability to hold in food and water, or their saliva, resulting in drooling.


Drooling is caused when an excessive amount of saliva has pooled in a dog’s cheeks and mouth and starts leaking out. Usually, lips are meant to prevent this from happening, but some dogs cannot help drooling. Stimuli that can cause excess drooling include food, excitement, stress, or anxiety.

Flews vary in length from dog to dog, and the upper lip length difference can result in a small chihuahua muzzle or giant jowls as we see in the video below of the bloodhound drooling.

Dogs with extra big jowls like Cane Corsos or brachycephalic breeds such as pugs or bulldogs, can trap even more saliva and water, creating long streams of drool.

If you cannot stand drooling, we have made a list of 30 breeds known for not drooling. However, having shorter flew and less prominent jowls does not mean these dogs will not always drool. Just look at any dog panting on a hot day. When they have their mouth and tongue out that means they cannot hold in their saliva and are likely to be drooling.

Furthermore, excessive drooling could be a sign that your dog has separation anxiety. Other symptoms include pacing, howling, accidents in the house, or destruction when you are gone. A certified trainer or veterinarian can give you advice on how to navigate helping your anxious dog.

Lips And Body Language

One of the things that dog and human lips have in common is the ability to communicate. While dogs do not use their lips to help form words as we do, they do use them to help aid their body language.

Much like humans’ smiles, frowns, smirks, or gasps formed by lips communicating a variety of emotions, dogs can also use the muscles of their lips and jowls to help communicate how they are feeling.

Dogs do use vocals to communicate with each other, but they also have a complex system of body language including using their lips. Lip-licking can show appeasement or stress. A tense jaw and tight lips show stress or defensiveness.

A dog will also indicate defensiveness or uneasiness by lifting their lips into a snarl. Drooling might mean your dog is excited or anxious. Finally, a relaxed mouth with the tongue hanging out to the side indicates your dog is relaxed and happy. 

Some dogs can show happiness by smiling much like humans. It almost looks like a snarl, but with a relaxed body and wagging tail, it is obvious they are happy and maybe a little excited. Check out this happy smiling dog in the video below. 

Final Thoughts

While they do not look the same as ours, dogs do indeed have lips. Dogs’ lips do not even look the same from breed to breed, and depending on the length of their upper lip, it can be difficult to find their lips.

Despite that, dogs’ lips have several purposes. First, dogs use their lips to help convey emotions. Dog body language might seem complex, but once you start learning about it starts becoming easier to understand.

Secondly, dogs’ lips help them eat. They close around a dog’s mouth to create a seal and keep the food and water in so your dog can swallow.

Of course, dogs with extra big jowls sometimes leak. The large cheeks make pockets for water and extra saliva to sneak out in the form of drool.

Drooling does not only happen because of excitement over food. It can also be because of stressors like separation anxiety. Always seek help if your dog is so anxious that they seem to be producing too much extra saliva.

Remember, annual check-ups are not only for vaccines. Being a responsible dog owner means you making sure they are healthy mentally and physically. Part of that is oral and dental check-ups. Dogs can crack teeth and get infections in their mouths and teeth that can wreak havoc on their lips and jowls and make it hard for them to eat.

Brushing their teeth and annual check-ups will keep your dog’s lips healthy and have them cuddling and licking you for years to come.

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