Your dog’s teeth can be the most terrifying thing to a stranger. But given the circumstance, it may be threatening or a friendly gesture.
Aside from being a means of communication, a dog can show their teeth when they are happy or excited. But of course, we all know a dog’s smile rarely happens, but it is the most adorable thing.
The circumstances make it easy to decipher the reason behind this form of bared teeth. But what other reasons explain why dogs show their teeth?
It happens in threatening and non-threatening situations. Your dog may bare their teeth to indicate they recognize and accept you as pack leader. This is a submissive gesture.
Dogs are also social creatures and will display their pleasure or satisfaction while playing with other dogs or friendly humans.
This same massive pack instinct may cause your dog to growl at an unknown entity, man or animal, who approaches you or your property. Baring teeth is also common while resource guarding or when there is more than one dog in the home, and the oldest or strongest dog must enforce hierarchy. This form of communication is often accompanied by snarling.
Check out this interesting article: Why is My Dog Jealous of the Other Dog?
Other Reasons Your Dog May Show Their Teeth
Pain or Discomfort
A dog may display their teeth in response to internal or external pain, such as an injury or a too-tight leash. There are many ways you show you have experienced a flash of pain or discomfort. You may wince, exclaim, or cuss.
But a dog will show their teeth and accompany it with a wince or cry. If the source of pain is a human or another animal, voluntarily showing teeth is a warning. And they may attack afterward.
They Have Been Trained That Way
It is possible to train your dog to display untamed aggression towards other people who are not you or your family. Dogs are descendants of wild wolves and are thus fierce protectors.
Dog Showing Teeth Without Growling
If your dog shows teeth without growling, it likely means no harm.
On the other hand, showing teeth while growling may not bode well, especially if something threatening is within eyeshot or earshot. The threat may be someone competing for your attention, such as another dog or human.
Pay attention to the body language that accompanies a dog’s bared teeth. Fear and possessiveness are two major feelings that invoke a dog’s instincts.
But a dog showing teeth and growling should automatically be presumed aggressive, especially if you are a stranger. Do not approach, especially if the owner is not in sight.
Dog Showing Teeth to Other Dogs
Dogs are pack animals who enjoy play sessions with you or other pets.
Exaggerated movements characterize dog play. Picture your pet laying on their back and exposing their belly, an act that is only done when dogs feel safe and relaxed around their playmate.
You will notice that they are not on edge or defensive and will include brief pauses to allow their playmate to catch their breath. Have you ever seen a dog bow?
It is a comical act that communicates to the other dogs that they want to play. And while playing, dogs use the bow to remind each other that things are still in a light mood.
It may not depict aggression if you notice a flash of dog teeth in these moments. Even when the dogs bite at each other, you still have nothing to worry about.
Relax! Dogs do it a lot, and unless there is a change in vocalization, which every responsible dog owner should be familiar with, you are still in the clear. Dog play is fun for them and a great way to help your pet expend its massive well of energy.
A loud, long, and exaggerated growl may also erupt occasionally. But again, the dogs are mostly playing around.
You can interrupt the play session when there is a change in your dog’s body language, such as when they look scared and submissive. For instance, wrestling matches are common among dogs, but the dog at the bottom may begin to feel overwhelmed, and a fight may erupt.
Dog Showing Teeth While Playing
How familiar are you with the signs that your dog is only playing, even when showing their teeth? It is characterized by aggression or would be seen that way by someone who does not understand dogs.
But even when your dog is showing teeth while playing, it does not always signify an attempt to attack. Again, pay attention to the body language. If their body is not taut or stiff, their tail is not tucked, and short growls are not accompanied, your dog is playing.
Dogs smile, too, in their unique way. And as a responsible dog owner, it is your duty to differentiate between what appears to be a smile and when it may precede a violent attack.