Because dogs communicate differently than humans, one of the things that you should master or at least know more about is their body language. The way a dog acts or behaves would say so much about their current mood, often tipping-off his next possible action.

One of the many body languages that you might have noticed is their bared teeth; this is when they curl their lips back, revealing their teeth.

You must be wondering, when a dog bares his teeth, does he mean “stay away” or is he smiling? Is this a form of aggression or affection?

Aggressive bared teeth
Bared teeth is a dog’s reflexive action as a way of reacting to a specific situation. If your dog bares his teeth, more often than not, he is telling you to back off. Otherwise, he’ll use his teeth. Dogs typically do this as a precursor to more violent behavior.

As your dog bares his teeth, notice that he’s also growling. Other than that, you’ll also see that his ears are erect, his body posture is rigid, his tail is held high, and he’s rapidly moving back and forth. All these are signs that he’s becoming more aggressive. If you ignore these warnings, he’d possibly snap or bite.

There are many reasons why dogs show aggression. They could just be being territorial, they could be guarding their resources, or it may be out of fear or stress.

Regardless of the reason, displaying aggression means that your dog is already past his comfort zone. If a dog exhibits this body language, don’t look him in the eye and just carefully leave.

Non-aggressive bared teeth
There are also times when dogs bare their teeth because they’re smiling, this is also known as a submissive grin. You will notice the difference when a dog isn’t into aggressive tendencies because his body language is non-threatening, your dog may be licking his lips, his gaze may be averted, his body posture is more relaxed, and his ears are just sitting flat on his head. If you observe a combination of these gestures, most likely your dog will not get aggressive.

What you should do when your dog bares his teeth
If you observe that your dog is baring his teeth at you due to aggressive tendencies, step away carefully. If he’s doing this because of other people or a particular situation, take your dog somewhere else.

If this becomes a recurring problem, it would be best to ask for a dog trainer’s help so you could manage your dog’s behavior before he bites someone. Consulting a professional dog trainer will also help a lot if you’re unsure if your dog is displaying submissive grin or if he’s showing aggression.

Smiling dog
Some dogs are trained to smile on cue. If you’d like to teach your dog to do it, you need to capture the behavior and immediately reward him. Make sure that he remembers the cue word that you’re using like “smile.”

Be careful in training your dog though. If you’re not 100% sure that your dog is genuinely smiling, don’t teach your pup to smile on cue. Otherwise, you’re just inadvertently reinforcing your dog’s fear and bad behavior.

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