Watch Your Mouth Out – What your dog’s smile is actually telling you

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A dog’s mouth is more expressive than you might imagine. Clearly they use their mouth for more than just eating and drinking.

The position of a dogs lips, jaw and teeth are all methods of communication that are possible to understand.

For example, when your dog is relaxed and happy his mouth will either be closed or only marginally open. If he is panting he is likely trying to cool his body because he is hot.

Their teeth may be slightly visible, but it is in a non-threatening manner. Essentially your dog is in a good way.

A Fearful and Submissive Dog

An alternative message that can be understood from a closed mouth is fear or submission.

This state of mind will be reinforced by the fact that your dog’s lips will be pulled back at the corners. His tongue may also flick in and out nervously.

If acting submissively the tongue may lick at the person or animal that is in the position of power.

The Submissive Grin

submissive dog grin

There is also a ‘submissive grin’ that some dogs will use when in a state of extreme submission.

You will recognise this if your dog pulls their lips up vertically to display their front teeth (both the canines and incisors). You will want this signal to be accompanied by other signs such as submissive body posture, lowered head and even wimping or whining.

An Aggressive Dog

On the other end of the emotional spectrum is an aggressive dog. Here the position of the mouth speaks volumes.

A dog that is signalling that they are about to act aggressively will also have their lips pulled back, their teeth revealed (often both front and back teeth) and their nuzzle wrinkled. This will also be accompanied by a growl. A dog doing this is warning you not to proceed.

dog aggressive

We’ve all seen the Cujo look at one time or another. Here the mouth will display what is called an ‘aggressive pucker’.

The dog achieves this by moving their lips forward over their teeth, while exhaling air to make thir lips look puffy and large.

This will also reveal most of their teeth, a warning like no other.

You will also hear the dog breathing heavily, the whole look accompanied by a wrinkled forehead and a body posture that is ready to leap into action.

If you are faced with this, it is time to get out of the way. That dog is less than pleased you are there…