"I wouldn't call it icy. The truth of the matter is that when we are in meetings there are a lot of exchanges, there's a surprising amount of humor, and a lot of give and take," Obama said in an interview with NBC television.
The US president said Putin understands the importance of working with Washington on areas of mutual concern and has always treated him with the utmost respect.
Obama said in August that bilateral relations cooled after Putin returned to the presidency in May and began ratcheting up anti-American rhetoric that has played into old Cold War stereotypes.
"My sense is that's part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy," Obama said. He said that Putin, who often looks bored in their joint appearances, has a public style aimed at boosting his domestic image.
Obama said US politicians have a different style, adding: "We tend to smile once in a while."
Speaking ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Obama said that Russia had an enormous amount at stake to prevent terrorist attacks during the Games. US and Russian law enforcement, military and intelligence officials had been in "constant communications" to ensure safety.