Dogs communicate with each other through body language, just like people do. In the case of dogs, the most obvious visual cue is their teeth. If a dog has its mouth open and its teeth bared, this is an aggressive signal that it may attack if you don’t back off. The dog may be growling, snarling, or barking with the teeth exposed. However, if one or more of the teeth are covered by a lip or a facial expression that looks like you’re smiling, this usually means that the dog is happy and playful.
In general, dogs will use their mouths to grab onto and contain things such as toys and other dogs. They also use their mouths to bite and chew on things they want to eat. When dogs face each other, they often use their mouths to communicate play. If a dog uncovers its teeth while smiling, this usually means they are happy to see you. It also shows that they understand your request for them to play nicely with you. If the teeth are covered by a lip like a smile, there is no threat of the dog attacking you, so you can pet or scruff-scratch it without worry. When a dog is happy and playful, they often open their mouths wide and reveal their teeth.
On the other hand, when a dog is showing aggressive signals such as bare teeth, this usually means that the dog will attack if you don’t back off. If the dog has its mouth bared and its teeth exposed, this usually means that it will bite if you don’t show them some respect. In many cases, a dog has its mouth bared while barking at you. It may even have its mouth bared and teeth exposed with its lips pulled back. The signs that a dog has its mouth bared and teeth exposed (and maybe growling or snarling) can be challenging to interpret, which is why some people get scared and yell at the dogs – often causing an aggressive response from the dog.
If a dog has a closed mouth that is bare, or just slightly opened but the teeth are exposed, it usually means that the dog is angry. If you come across a dog like this, you need to prepare to back off or defend yourself. Depending upon the situation and your relationship with the dog, you may have time to get away from it before it attacks. If so, run – don’t walk – in the opposite direction as quickly as possible.
Why do dogs bare their teeth?
Dogs bare their teeth when they have aggressive intentions, or when they are feeling playful. While the dog’s teeth are usually covered underneath its lips, it doesn’t mean that a dog is not serious about biting you. Most times, the reason a dog bares its teeth is to show aggression.
Predators such as wolves and big cats bare their teeth and claws to scare off other predatory animals, while dogs use this to intimidate other dogs or play with bigger dogs. A dog will also bare its teeth when it is in pain, or when it wants to show dominance.
How to interpret a dog’s body language when he bares his teeth
If you have any doubts as to whether the dog is friendly or not, always err on the side of caution and be prepared to act accordingly. If it looks like an aggressive dog is approaching you, try not to back away from it. Backing away from a dog only serves to make you appear weak, and this will encourage it to attack. Instead, try to show the dog that you are bigger and stronger than it is by standing your ground. Barking at the dog may also help in deterring it from attacking you.
How to Respond
The best way to respond when a dog bares its teeth is to back away slowly. You might want to first make sure that the dog’s intentions are friendly by using calming techniques and positive reinforcement while backing away as far as possible from the dog (try not to turn your back on it). If the dog does not follow you or looks aggressive, don’t try to interact with it physically. Instead, continue with your original intention by walking away until you reach a safe distance.
If you have a dog and are scared that it might attack another dog, there are several things that you can do to prevent an attack. To begin with, ensure that your dog is well trained. This will show other dogs that you have a strong bond with your dog, and he will be more likely to listen to your commands. Start by keeping him on a leash at all times, even inside the house so that he doesn’t wander off and into the arms of another dog. If you are not around, make sure that your dog is confined inside a well-insulated, safe enclosure. This will give him the space to feel comfortable so that he will also feel less inclined to attack another dog.
If your dog is running around free and unfettered when other dogs are nearby, it is likely that he feels the need to perform some sort of territorial display for his own safety. It is not a good idea to walk up and reprimand your dog if he is displaying aggression towards another dog. Even though this might stop the behaviour, it does not address the root of the problem; that your dog feels like he must defend himself when predatory dogs are around. Instead, focus on working with your dog to help him deal with his fears and feelings of anxiety. This way, you will also be able to help him feel more confident about being around other dogs.
The key to helping your dog deal with his feelings of anxiety is getting him to move away from the problem instead of running towards it. If you are able to help your dog feel more comfortable about being around other dogs, then you will also be able to decrease the chances of an attack.
The best way to help your dog feel more confident with other dogs is to begin by keeping him on a leash when you are near a park or any place where other dogs are present. If you decide to take him off the leash, use it as only an option for walking, not that he can run free and unfettered. This way, you will be able to show any other dogs around that he is not so much of a threat and that you trust him with your dog as his guardian.
Training Dogs to Smile
A number of dog trainers teach their dogs to smile. The goal is to encourage positive body language in the presence of other dogs. This technique is intended as a replacement for the outdated, and sometimes dangerous, practice of having a dog “speak” on leash. The thought behind this practice is that the dog will be able to communicate with other dogs in a more human way. The truth is that most dogs do not understand, and therefore are unable to interpret, what their owners are trying to communicate.
In general, it is better to let your dog come to you when he is being threatened. This also sends the message that you are in charge of him and that he should not be trying to attack other dogs without your permission. If you do see your dog running towards another one, try calling him back or moving away from the area. Don’t get into an argument with him or reprimand him because this will only make the situation worse.