Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs: Analyzing a dog’s mouth

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Dogs do a lot more with their mouths than bark. The way they position their lips, jaws and teeth can tell you if they are happy or sad.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger,

Relaxed and happy

When a dog is relaxed and happy, he’s likely to have his mouth closed or slightly opened. You may notice him panting or even giving a quick bark.

Frightened or submissive

A dog who’s unsure or feeling submissive will probably have his mouth closed. He may chatter his teeth or have his lips pulled back slightly at the corners.  You may also notice this dog flicking his tongue in and out, or licking his lips. He might even yawn in an exaggerated fashion.  This is to relieve stress.

Some dogs who are extremely submissive will pull their lips up and display their front teeth (canines and incisors). This gesture is usually accompanied by a lowered head, yelping or whining, and squinting eyes.

Aggressive or threatened

A dog who’s signalling his intention to act aggressively will often retract his lips to expose his teeth. He may pull his lips up vertically to display his front teeth while also wrinkling the top of his muzzle. You may also notice as you get closer to this dog, he will close his mouth. This is typical of a dog who’s warning you not to come any closer.

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