When you have a pooch in your life, you have no option but to rely on body language clues to get a handle on his moods and feelings. Whether a dog is giddy or apprehensive, visual cues often say it all. If your puppy has a habit of exposing his teeth when he greets people, it could indicate a couple of different things.
Identifying Teeth Baring
If your puppy puts his pearly whites on display by pushing his lips up, then he is indeed baring his teeth. Don't ignore your dog's habit, as the reflex often communicates something important.
Aggression From Apprehension
Teeth baring often is a sign of aggression based in apprehension. If your pup is in the presence of a stranger, it could send him into immediate panic mode. By baring his teeth, your little one could be communicating to the newbie something like "I don't know you and I'm frightened of you. Go away." If your pooch feels "trapped" by the person being around, his actions could seem especially intense. Look out for other clues of this, such as barking, growling, raised fur and pushed-up ears. Dogs who are in this mode sometimes get physically aggressive, so it's important to be extremely careful. Leave your puppy alone immediately if he shows signs of fierce behavior. Never allow children or other animals to be close to scared or aggressive canines, either. If your puppy behaves in this manner, get the assistance of a professional canine trainer, as training him on your own could be dangerous.
If your dog bares his teeth when he greets you, or perhaps when he encounters someone else he knows and trusts, it could actually be an indication of subordination. This is called a "submissive grin" and is far from being a sign of aggression. He feels humble around you and sees you as his wise pack leader. Be on the lookout for other body language hints of this, including the flipping of the tongue, hunched body, whimpering, narrowed eyes, yawning and avoidance of eye contact.
Puppies and Territorial Behavior
Never assume that puppies can't be territorial. Many puppies start exhibiting signs of territorial patterns as they get to reproductive maturity age, which usually is around 6 months old, indicates the website for the Cleary Lake Veterinary Hospital. If your puppy is around this age and shows his teeth during greetings, he could be telling the person -- or persons -- to get off his turf, immediately.