Dear Labby – Teeth Baring
When our two dogs play, Tally dances all around Taj trying to engage her. Taj being the older dog stands and looks at her, taunting her energetically, and every now and then she’ll give her a bit of a chase, which is exactly what Tally is trying to get her to do. This morning, Tally bared her teeth at her – not aggressive at all, she was totally happy the entire time, wagging her tail etc. but she did it a number of times – is it a dog smile or grin ? What is that ???
I wonder because Tally loves other dogs – but she didn’t pass her temperament test at the kennel because of baring teeth to other dogs – but now seeing her do it to Taj, I’m wondering if its not just a human like greeting or invitation?
I’d appreciate any thoughts your readers might have on this.
Baring of the teeth by a dog can mean a variety of things depending on the situation. In this playful situation, it most likely means just that, it’s playful fighting and isn’t an indication that Tally is about to bite, it’s just her way of playing.
Your keen personnel most likely sees the baring of the teeth as a precursor to a bite as it frequently is – a growl, then the lips come back and then the dogs strikes – but it is not always the case. A dog may also pull their lips back into a submissive grin when they are afraid or when being submissive.
The best way to determine which of these behaviors Tally is exhibiting is to observe her other body language. If its an aggressive posture, you will see her body become rigid, her tail stiff and straight and it will most likely be accompanied by some vocalizations, a growl or even a bark.
If it’s submissive, the dog will display other signs of submission, such as averted gaze, lip licking, moving away.
I’ve never had a dog that has exhibited this behavior, although Tino use to like to bit & nip at the heels of his friend Lucy when they were playing. I will open it up to our readers for their thoughts and experiences. Anyone else have thoughts or advice for Teethy?