Updated: Jul 27
When it comes to your dog expressing themselves, it’s clear that they have fewer ways of doing so than humans. Unable to speak, our dogs use body language, barking, and the display of tension in their mouths to communicate feelings to us. Teeth baring tends to come across as general aggression; however, this isn’t always the case. This behavior can mean several different things, depending on the situation. Here, we’ll help you better understand why your dog is baring their teeth and how to determine the cause in certain instances.
Aggression or Agitation
Has your dog ever pulled their lips back into what looks to be a snarl? This form of teeth-baring demonstrates your pet’s aggression towards you, a guest, or another dog. But it isn’t just exposing their teeth that points to this intent. You can also tell from their overall body language. In addition to the bared teeth, dogs showing aggression will also have tight facial tension, a rigid posture, and a highly positioned, wagging tail. So, don’t just look at your dog’s teeth when trying to figure out what they’re feeling because you could be sorely mistaken.
Demonstrating Their Submission
Shockingly, teeth-baring can also mean the exact opposite of aggression: submission. It’s common for dogs to create what mimics a smile when looking at their owner. Usually, this is a sign of respect and playfulness towards you. During this action, your dog’s lips pull up, exposing the teeth, but the skin won’t show tension. Instead, they’ll appear more relaxed and comfortable physically. They may even have their tongue out as they pant—another common indicator of ease.
Protection of Themselves or Another
Your dog may also be baring their teeth to protect you or something else they care about. Dogs are territorial animals by nature, which can often come into practice when they perceive a threat to you, the home, or even their favorite toy. When baring its teeth out of protection or fear, your dog will often appear hunched down with their tail tucked between its legs. This shows that it’s not submission, but not outright aggression either.
Understanding why your dog is baring their teeth can go a long way in helping you understand them. While general dog behavior can be confusing, we at Acadia Canine Academy can help. We offer in-depth dog behavior training that helps you weed out some of your pet’s bad habits and teaches you how to interpret their body language better. Contact us today to learn more about our expert training courses.