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Showing teeth while playing

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It has been awhile since I have posted. My 3 year old spayed BC is submissive when meeting other dogs, but does like to play after greeting a dog she knows, if the dog is not too rowdy for her. Last night after rally class she and her younger Aussie friend (about 1 year and same size as Star) were playing off leash with both owners present and supervising. Their play consisted mainly of running around after each other in a big space. While it looked like both were having fun, when Star, when running, started to show her teeth I leashed her up and we quit. They probably ran around for about 5 minutes before this started and Star was getting pretty excited. Her tail was up as when she plays and she was not growling. Was this play or aggression? She can snap at new dogs occasionally at class, so I am very careful on introducing her to new dogs, but do want her to have the opportunity to run and play with other dogs. She and this dog had already met several times on leash and both expressed the desire to play on leash. We do not go to dog parks. My previous BC was a more low key BC compared to Star, though still quite active, and did not show teeth, so this is new to me.

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Without actually seeing it it's very hard to know for sure, but it's possible that what she was doing was a submissive grin. If that's what it was, she was indicating to the other dog that she was no threat, and possibly even that she was a little nervous about the interaction.

 

It might be a good idea to search the internet for information about this body language. Videos would be especially helpful if you can find them. Submissive grinning can look intimidating to someone unfamiliar with it, but there can be subtle differences between it and a threatening show of teeth.

 

It's also possible that it was just play, especially if the other dog didn't seem to take it badly.

 

But if you weren't sure, you probably did the best thing in removing her from the situation so that things didn't escalate.

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As Gentlelake said, it's hard to say without seeing the behavior with our own eyes. But I also think you did the right thing. Even though they are playing, she may feel a bit nervous with the exuberance of their play, so giving her a time out is a good way to let her calm back down. I'd see it as kind of hitting the Reset button in her clever little brain and letting her know you're looking after her. :)

~ Gloria

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