A dog will use her mouth for nearly everything, from eating to grooming to showing affection, and the position of the mouth is great to notice when attempting to read a dog’s body language. The ASPCA states that an open mouth with slightly upturned lips usually indicates a relaxed dog, while a closed mouth with lips pulled back is truly the sign of fear, stress, or nervousness.
If a dog is showing you her teeth it can mean dramatically different things — aggression, or submission. How you can decipher the two is to consider your whole dog’s body language. An aggressive snarl is hard to mistake, but can sometimes be subtle, especially if a dog is guarding resources like food or territory.
Plus a raised lip and visible teeth, aggression in this instance is usually signified by a stern or overall rigid look, and the existence of whale eye, in some cases. A submissive grin, as it’s known, is just that, an indication of appeasement, often done in response to being scolded, or when begging for food or attention. A submissive grin is often accompanied by low ears, a wagging tail, and an overall crouched appearance.
Dogs’ears can tell quite a tale them selves as well, especially if they lay flat and close to the back of the neck, which American Veterinarian says can indicate uncertainty or worry. This usually isn’t cause for alarm, as this move is done as more of a gesture of appeasement than one of warning, and sometimes appears expressed by more submissive dogs during play times with more assertive canines. Ears that stick up, or, in the case of floppy ear dogs, are lifted above the head, is usually seen on dogs who are alert and very aware of their surroundings.