In your face!!


Honored Member
Okay, this behavior was common in Mr. Buddy when we first got him, cuz he WAS a total gangsta. :dogmad:I thought it had disappeared. But it still shows up now and then. It is VERY scary :msneek:when it occurs, and it just happened again tonight.

Here it is:
Sometimes, NOT OFTEN, but it only takes once to freak me out....and quite unexpectedly, Buddy will suddenly jump up and show his teeth(jaws still shut, but lips pulled up enuff that you can see front teeth) RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR EYE. I mean, like 1 inch away. There is no contact, no noise. Scares the heck outa everybody.:ywow:

Sometimes, Buddy does this when he gets too excited in play, like some kinda nerd who doesn't know how to act. :dognowink: Sometimes, Buddy does this when he is leaping around when we first come home, and he is jumping around all excitedly, but that is very rare for him to do it then, but, once or twice, it occured then. Once, Buddy did this to me when we were doing figure 8s in between my legs, so that was end of that trick.:msniwonder: Kaput.

Tonight, on a walk, 2 gals stopped to pet him, :dogsmile:they were bending over him, petting him, which normally Buddy LIKES and seems to enjoy, but--OUTA NOWHERE, FOR SOME REASON--- he did that thing, he jumped up, showed his teeth right in front of this gal's eyeball, and scared her (and me) half to death. She totally lost her color.:msnsick: I worried she might be gonna faint, but she did not. ONce or twice, he has done this to me or Craig while we were petting him.:confused: At other times, Buddy is quite amenable to being bent over and petted. This "in your face" leap seems erratic and unpredictable to me.

My untrained eye cannot yet detect which times he will allow petting, and which times, he is gonna spaz out. MInd you, probably 80% of the time or more, he is joe-cool. Just has these lil "stability hiccups", if you will.

I can see how a stranger bending over a dog, may seem "dominant" to the dog, so maybe is a protest? But still, lotsa dogs allow petting by strangers, most humans do have to bend to pet a why this quirk in my otherwise fabulous dog?

I can also see, how figure 8s between my legs is being 'under' a person, so that mighta provoked the teeth-in-your-eye jump-thing.:dogmad:so we never ever did that trick again, darn shame, too, cuz he rocked at it...

I figure the jump during play... maybe is he never got socialized as a puppy...who knows?

BUT ANYWAY!! WHAT THE HECK IS THIS? AND WHAT SHOULD I DO AS HIS HUMAN TO HELP BUDDY FIGURE OUT THIS IS SOOOOOOOO NOT GONNA FLY WITH HUMANS? (besides making sure that no one can apparently ever bend over him ever again?)


Experienced Member
Could he be smiling? Some dogs do pull up their gums in an imitation of a human smile and only do it to humans, rarely other dogs. It looks scary, but if anything it's a submissive gesture.

I really think he's smiling! Especially if he's really excited and doesn't seem aggressive in any other way.


Experienced Member
Never allow people to bend over and extend a hand over the head to pet him. I generally discourage this with all dogs and I don't do it to mine or anyone else’s. The reason is very few dogs, if any, like it. This is very threatening doesn't have anything to do with dominance. My very very submissive girl really doesn't like it. Especially if Buddy were abused, where did the hands come from and to when they hit or grabbed his collar? They came from above and they went for his head or collar. The trigger could be a sound or smell so minute that you can never figure it out. What you can do is avoid the situations that include the trigger and/or train him to be less sensitive to it. He may never like it if someone was really cruel to him.

If someone broke my bones hugging me I might never get over that enough to like being hugged. People that insist they should be able to do anything to their dog that they want are either not dealing with an abused or traumatized dog and have a lack of empathy. I'm sure they wouldn't like being kissed on the mouth by a complete stranger no matter how nice this person was. Some things are just not socially acceptable to us and to dogs.

Instead ask all people to ignore him and allow him approach and sniff them if he wants to. I know you wish it were easy and uncomplicated but the fact is you adopted a dog with some baggage and you must live with it always. If someone wants a dog totally without baggage then they need to buy from a breeder that socializes very well and personality tests and breeds for temperament and health. These are animals and in some regard always somewhat unpredictable by their nature. To insist otherwise is not reasonable. You gave him a second chance which is great, but you also have to consider that he will always have some issues. Maybe with time you won't be able to tell but maybe not.

With my shy girl when people ask if they can pet her I tell them she's a shy dog and to ignore her. If she wants a pet she'll ask and they can scratch her chin. If she's acting skittish about someone I just say no. There is usually a reason for her distrust. When I started doing that she started approaching more people, knowing somehow that if she didn't want to be touched I wouldn't allow it. Now instead of slinking away she usually trots over with a cute little submissive smile and a low wagging tail.

Just say maybe if he wants a pet, don't reach over his head and bend over him. Put your side to him now and just ignore him. Explain that he was abused and this is a non-threatening way to train him that not all humans are bad. Most people are very willing to help and love to help. They can at least toss him a treat from a distance. Let him take you to them instead of them approaching or you taking him. If he clearly wants to interact they stay side on, not head on, and allow him to sniff the back of their hand while you click/treat or just treat treat treat good boy. If he's still happy they might squat and ignore and hold out a treat on a flat palm. If he clearly expresses a desire for petting like nosing or bumping them then they could scratch his chest or under his neck never up on top.

I greeted a fearful dog in class this week this way and he ended up coming around to my face and licking my face. His owner was so surprised -- I very softly said without eye contact, what a goood boy, and gave him a treat and scratched under his chin. Then he was poking me softly with his nose and his butt for more pets. Usually he growls or shies away from people with bristly hair. He'd never approached anyone like that before but then nobody had approached him that way either. He was a very delightful little guy after that and would target my hand for a treat.

I would not force Buddy to allow people to pet him or let them pet him without his express consent. He's giving a clear non-violent warning though it is scary it's controlled and he's not escalating to violence or vocalizing. Listen to his warning and don't push him past what he's comfortable with. If all that happens is the people throw treats from a safe distance then he has one more positive experience under his belt. Give it time and go slow.

As for this reaction to you is there any common thing that causes it or any way you’re touching or acting or making noise? There may be a trigger there that you need to avoid or desensitize to but you have to know what it is. Maybe he's never amenable to this overhead petting but tolerating it when he can for you b/c he trusts you. Every now and then his composure or excitement may cause a break in his control.

I was just talking to my trainer this week and we both puzzled at how many people reach over a dogs head and how threatening that is to all dogs---AND that many dogs allow it though few like it. My opinion is that if a dog expresses a clear dislike by ducking or shying away or with a warning at any time then don't allow people to do what he doesn't like. It may be different for you to train around it but risking him biting a stranger is not worth a lawsuit or losing him over. They don't know him like you do and it's a lot scarier when someone else's dog does this than when your own does.

If he's doing this to you I would probably get up and calmly stand, turn my back, and ignore. Then I would ask for a heel or something non-threatening that I could tell him good boy for. Don't fixate on this event and scold, you want to preserve this warning because warnings are good and much better than a bite without warning.

Maybe you can desensitize by moving slow and treating rapidly when he's calm and sleepy, maybe not. Consulting a certified behaviorist about it would help understand why most likely and you'll get a plan on what to do.

Hope this helps..he's not really being bad, he's telling you. Since he doesn't speak English he's also conveying a sense of urgency in the only way he knows right now.

He could be smiling but the rest of his body will be communicating too...what is it doing? Is his tail up or down or tucked? wagging or still? what are his ears doing? is he stiff and hard eyed or floppy and soft eyed? is the posture curved and submissive or is the head way up or way down or neutral? what are the commisures of his mouth doing? are they puckered forward or lax and loose? does he freeze or continue moving? is he there any sign of anxiety like a lifted paw, licking lips, yawning. He'll be communicating with other parts of his body when he does this.

A smiling dog will do like mine and have a few or all of the following have a low wagging tail, maybe slightly lowered head, soft eyes, relaxed neutral to backward folded ear or soft forward to outward facing ear (usually not rigid and perked forward or tightly pinned back), relaxed back posture, lax floppy lips with no puckering at the corners whether teeth are showing in a smile or not. She does smile submissively a lot and she'll get impatient with the puppy playing too rough and show her teeth with no real threat...but there is a distinct difference in the eyes, ears, mouth and neck.


Experienced Member
Great videos to suggest. Most people never realize this either. They are two of my favorites. :dogbiggrin:


Experienced Member
Just for fun, since I spend a lot of time studying it-maybe it will help

:dogph34r:Just some interesting takes on your subject here and how to tell the difference.

#1 The first two are not my dog but the rest are. This is a friendly smile. Sometimes you must know the dog. Weight is forward implying willingness to interact. Ears are soft facing out, eyes soft, the pose is playful. Tail wagging would be a giveaway. Wagging tails can be good or bad.

#2 A friendly smile from the same dog. I know he initiated & placed a paw in someone's hand that has treats. With most dogs with this lopsided sneer are smiling. Warnings are usually not lopsided.

#2b This is a smile. I just asked her if she was a good girl. She is lying down, mouth corners are back & relaxed.

#2c Big smile and lots of growls are his personality. He's comfortable on his back getting rubs and doesn't move, so relaxed his lips flop open.

#2d I know she growly smiles when she's happy. Ears out & ears/eyes are soft; tail wagging.

#3 Approach series with foster Nicki and my 4yo Chizzy. I know already play well so far but I'm watching. Note they do not approach head on nose to nose.
Shot 1: Chizzy approaches in an arc tail wagging (combined other signs I read as excitement not aggression) head low, ears soft and out & she has a stick/toy in her mouth. Nicki is not looking at her and avoiding a little to show she has peaceful intent. Tail is neutral & wagging.

shot 2 Chizzy arcs approach with lips relaxed & non puckered mouth. The arc is a polite non-threatening approach. Nicki's ears are back and relaxed; she makes eye contact.

shot 3 Both read this as play, Chizzy bows; Nicki shifts weight forward to approach, neutral wagging tail and soft ears/eyes.

#4 Shot 1 Nicki when I got her. She was not a biter but I didn't know that yet. This is an example of what postures I would not approach b/c the dog is stressed and could bite. It took 6 weeks or so for her to stop this and she was the sweetest girl after. There's no way she would bite after detoxing from all that stress. She might have when she looked like this. I would give time & let this dog come to me. If I want her trust & friendship I won't push. I see whites of eyes, ears are back, she won't stand so I know she's scared, eyes are a little hard, mouth is puckered, her whiskers are flared. Tail is tucked & body posture is curled.

Shot 2 Still no soft eyes, ears perked forward, commisures of mouth puckered, still no forced pet.

Shot 3 This is calming appeasing behavior from a nervous dog. She may look relaxed but she's not. Look at her mouth and eyes.

Shot 4 Ears out to side and relaxed, eyes soft, mouth lax; corners back, eye contact. She is more relaxed dog I would approach side on and offer her the back of my hand and pets if she didn't run.

#5 Strange dogs meeting.
Shot 1 Chizzy is uncertain even though I offer treats, weight shifted back, head down, tail down, posture slightly curved, ears slightly back. She's not ready to greet other dogs yet and might get herself bitten by acting aggressive. She's not a biter though she could easily provoke a dog into biting her.

Shot 2 She goes for the other dog in a fear aggressive burst, tail up, mouth puckered, weight shifted back(anxiety, uncertainty), ears back, hard eyes. This looks and sounds aggressive but it is extreme fear. I don't want this so I distract and calm.

Shot 3 After calming with treats and some fun obedience. Ears are side and neutral, mouth is not puckered, weight not shifted back, eyes are soft, and she's paying attention to ME.

Shot 4 They greet approaching in an arc, the other dog is uncertain and ready to react if Chizzy does. His tail is up dominant/uncertain, and he has lifted paws (anxiety) & weight shifted back. He sends mixed signals and is ready to react if attacked. If I had not observed greetings with other dogs in the park I would have walked away. That tail is an anxious warning, don't get mean I'm worried, paws up hunched back. The up tail alone is not a dominance signal and if I didn't know he and my dog were quick to play I would have left this anxious alert dog be. Chizzy is more certain, submissive, & relaxed (head down, tail relaxed, back straight, loose joints) both heads are turned toward one another in willing engagement. Chizzy's head is down/relaxed sniffing, ears side and soft, no curved posture so she won't provoke an attack.

#6 Rough play fun or not??
Shot 1 My older dog self handicaps and lies down to lower herself.

Shot 2 Seconds later still play, both curve toward one another, ears back not pinned, puppy is sending an appeasing lip lick with a non dominant down tail. Chizzy is still playing but her weight is shifted back; she would like more room, but is still self-handicapping, tail wagging, this is still fun.

Shot 3 This is enough; time to break up. Chizzy turns away and handicaps but holds puppy off. Puppy is puckering & getting too wound up which is why she got disciplined. She's not reading signs well yet so instead of backing off she's escalating.


Experienced Member
#7 Trouble waiting to happen.
Shot 1 These are my two girls that fought. The ACD has forward pricked ears pricked, hard locked eyes, stiff neck & is in the GSD's space. The next step is a fang lock on the ACD's neck or ears, and a very serious fight. Though seemingly a relaxing dog grooming interaction it's very highly charged and about to explode.
The GSD offers avoidance licking & looks to me for intervention. She's being very good b/c she knows I don't want her to fight but it's too much. Whites of eyes the GSD is stressed and if this involved a human-get out now.

Shot 2 I stopped it here b/c the ACD is still pressuring look at her leaning further in, she's provoking. Ears forward/pricked, hard eyes, puckered mouth. The GSD engages ears are alert tense back she's very serious about biting.

shot 3 Aftermath of fight. I scolded the ACD for eating rotted fish off the beach and the GSD jumped her. Redirected aggression, which can also target humans. The result: stitching the ACD's ear. After this I separated them.

#8 Gone too far I'm not happy
Shot 1 The GSD disciplines puppy, she never hurt him but had a tolerance and would lay down the law. The tail up, mouth puckered, eyes hard, ears pinned back, weight shift back (so not an aggressive attack eveb though she looks mad she's not, just serious), philoerection on shoulders.

Shot 2 This is a fight precursor. GSD had ears pinned back, weight shifted way back, hard eyes, philoerection, puckered mouth, she's growling, she only has half a tail but it is up. The ACD provokes, ears forward pricked, philoerection, no tail wag. She shifted weight back she dropped her tail as herding dogs do when they stalk. She has a puckered mouth.
Shot 3 The black dog is not happy with puppy and is ready to discipline, weight was shifted more back and is moving forward, tail up, and ears pinned back.
shot 4 Chizzy has had enough, she's standing, mouth puckered, ears back, hard eyes time to stop and take a break.

#9 This is play and good interaction.
Shot 1 This is a hard call from pictures alone. But this is a prelude to a playful romp. Weight is shifted forward, the Golden's tail is wagging, the GSD's tail is still she is doing herding dog play about to stalk and pounce him. Ears are all up; forward; not perked hard, no hair raised, eyes soft.
shot 2 GSD has tail up; ears are out and neutral, tail is up & wagging, paw is up; she's ready to pounce, she brought her toy to tease a chase. He's wagging his tail, and bowing, both curve toward the other, he's ready to chase.
shot 3 Chizzy teases with a bone, turning toward puppy, both tails wagging/neutral, ears & eyes soft
shot 4 This is a hard one from visual only. I know these dogs never fight, he likes to ambush and she likes to be chased. She brought him a toy just previous. Though teeth are bared neither has head down or stiff, no hair up, the Golden wags a neutral tail, & GSD is about to run and invite a chase.

Clear radiating body signals that should be noted.
Shot 1 GSD says KEEP AWAY, wide eyes, ears forward, stiff posture, Golden appeasing/avoiding
shot 2
Fear and anxiety. Curved posture, tail tuck, leg lifted, panting, avoiding eye contact. She's not totally petrified but she's not a dog I would play with or hug yet.
shot 3
Compare my dog right, to foster left. My dog is making eye contact, ears back and soft, mouth commisures slack, relaxed, panting lightly. Nicki is behind me avoiding, trying to get back inside, tail tucked, posture curved, not looking at us/avoiding, not interested in the chicken I have, panting heavier. She's in shut down right now after being abused. I don't press her but let her come to me.

So is there much difference between these pictures in attitude??? The answer is not really. All are playful but VERY easy to misread in that instant and without surrounding context. These dogs are all having fun playing.
If there is any doubt don't assume and walk away. My point is very benign postures may precede a bite (or fierce ones) and understanding the distinctions makes a huge difference. These dogs I would be more concerned about biting.


Honored Member
Staff member
Excellent pics Snooks.

Tigerlily, you can compare the shy dog Nicki with a child who's just been caught red-handed doing something naughty. The typical kid in trouble might stand with their shoulders to the adult, or sometimes facing them, but the eyes are averted, the posture crumples, they're not sure what to do with their hands(Dogs---raised paw). Just to simplify. However, the bullied kid is likely to have the same body language but ready and willing to strike.

A bit off topic, but Nicki looks like a total sweetheart. :dogblush:


Experienced Member
She was and is a cuddly lump of sweetness. I would have kept her but we were moving and it would have been tooooo much for her. She got a great forever home and that was exactly what she needed...not being dragged across country to a new house with boxes and moving men tromping around. :doglaugh:


Honored Member
Staff member
Her eyes and face just seem like the typical lap-dweller. Lol. The kind you just want to snuggle.

I have to say, Goldens are really growing on me. :dogwub:


Honored Member
Wow, thank you all so much for this great advice and education!!! What would i do without you guys here? THANK YOU! Great photos!! Sweet dogs!!
I sure appreciate all the effort, i really do!!! I will try harder to study Buddy before, I will watch him closer after to determine if he is aggressive or just a spaz... I think when he jumped his eye up into a neighbor's face, that i had been talking and looking at the other person, not at Buddy by that point...i missed it. I was as shocked as she was!

I do watch him closely when he first greets/approaches someone, but, if it seems okay, i maybe stop watching him all that closely after a while.... Guess i will have to KEEP my eye on him and not look away from him. Poor ol Buddy!! He is a sweetiepie, just needs some help.

Weirdly, sometimes, Buddy is very outgoing, he initiates contact with people, acts all happy and excited like he is "I love everyone, pet me!" kinda thing, and then does the jump/teeth 1inch from your eye thing...??...HE was the one who wanted to go greet those two gals, they were just going along with it. Hmm.
Other times, Buddy is more reserved, dignified, and displays a "i am not that interested in you, take it or leave it" kinda attitude towards strangers...Poor lil thing is still finding his way.

Once or twice, like when doing figure 8s in my legs, i could tell, he was maybe annoyed to be 'under' me, and i'd learned from this site, that this trick might be threatening to some dogs, so i knew what the jump in your face thing meant that time. Felt like that, that one did. so i have never done that trick ever again.

Once or twice, i think he was just over-excited/nerd-with-poor-social-skills or something, (like when we came home, and he was all excited to see us, squealing and then he accidentally spazzed out) and i think those times, he just goofed up and meant no harm, but it is still really frightening!!!!

This happens so rarely nowadays...I'll hafta watch more closely, to see how he is right before and after...I know once, i CAN recall, Buddy looked all happy, like "good trick huh?" or something...:msniwonder: Maybe he has different meanings each time...?

So i correct by: (dang, i can't see the post to repeat it) turning away from him, then give him something positive to do, and reward the positive thing? I want to be ready next time and have it all memorized.
MOst of the time, guess Buddy has been tolerating having his head petted, it is rare he rears up in this jump thing..but it is frightening. If he miscalulates, or if the human moves, eyes are pretty vulnerable areas.
but i guess i will have to tell people to not bend over him and don't pet his head, right?


Honored Member
OH, thanks for these videos! I've watched the ones you recommended, and several others, and that one on 'arousal' kinda fits Buddy some of the time, too...poor ol buddy!


Experienced Member
Yes I think if this were my dog I would immediately turn and ignore him, no eye contact, no words no nothing. The only reason I wouldn't suggest just walking off is that, not seeing this, I wouldn't want him to think he was successful with any aggression in making you go away. So standing and ignoring seems to be most benign, yet send a message. He may circle and try to catch your eye which I would take as a good sign of wanting to re-engage so that could be a reward to return your attention. After waiting for everything to settle down 10 or more seconds you might cue a sit or something where you could toss a treat for him to catch and sort of gauge his demeanor from a safe, non bending to hand treats, position.

I would give at least enough time that the two events (the snark and the cued behavior) are separated in the dog's mind. So his behavior and demeanor need to change before he's rewarded. If he's walking around trying to get your attention he's past that moment. If he's still tense and unsure you could cue a "let's go" to sort of break into a behavior that would have a reward after doing something to change his demeanor and what he's concentrating on.

I would also stop all strangers petting him for a little while until u figure out what exactly is happening. When you get it down with you then bring other people in, preferably that you know and can instruct at a safe distance. I generally preempt any conversation with me when I have my shy dog with a wait don't pet her...she's shy. See if she'll come to you if you ignore her. I find people very eager to help and do what I ask most of the time. Mostly they are dog lovers dying to pet the poofy Golden so they're willing to do anything I ask. If she ducks them I just say oh well not a good day for petting etc. I don't try to convince her.


Honored Member
Staff member
Another thing to remember is that you don't know anything about Buddy's history. He may not have had any socialization at all whatsoever, so he's not sure what to expect from different people.

I wouldn't be concerned with him sometimes being uber friendly and sometimes being standoffish. Even if someone seems like a perfectly nice person, there may be something about them that sets of the dog. Rusty for instance is really picky about who he likes. If he doesn't like you, he's not going to pay you any mind at all. He could care less if you were even there. If he likes you, he really likes you, and he just wants to love you to bits. Zeke likes people but is incredibly shy. He will rarely ever approach anyone outside his home, but likes being petted by just about anyone. He's just not brave enough to come to them, and if my shy boy is just really uncomfortable then I'll just tell them he's really shy and doesn't like much attention from strangers. So they'll usually just leave him be and tell me how pretty he is. ^^ But then there's other dogs, like butterflies. She'd probably be more than happy to rush up to the dogcatcher and give him a big ol' sloppy kiss. Got carried away, point is don't think that Buddy has a lot of work ahead of him just because he doesn't "love" everyone he meets. He's entitled to not like some people. :) Long as he's not aggressive you don't have a problem.

If the jumping isn't aggressive at all it could just be an annoying habit and he doesn't know any better because he's never been taught(no fault of yours). If you've ever watched herding breeds working on ranches, out of trials, one of the things they will snap at to move a sheep/horse/cow is their nose. SOO, on one hand it could be a herding behavior and he's doing this because he feels his space is invaded and he's doing the same thing he would do to any animal that invaded his space. On the other hand, he could just be being silly and impolite like the heeler friend I described earlier.

Zeke is very forceful with livestock. If they don't move where he wants them by him invading their space and giving them the eye, he immediately moves in and snaps. I once had a very unruly ram(unruly with dogs, not people) who decided he was not going to put up with any dog trying to herd him around. He went charging up to Z and I wasn't sure what was going happen. Zeke kinda got in "stalk position" and held his ground, then rushed forward and snapped the ram's nose. Not in an attacking way, but just a herding behavior. All it meant was, "Hey look, I tried to push you by getting in your way, and I tried to eyeball you, and you didn't listen. Now you're trying to run over me and I'm not gonna take it! Now turn around and go where I want you to!"

Mudflap is much more laid back but also doesn't tolerate animals running her over. My friend has a sheep who is very mean to dogs, and has often run over and butted her shy Lab boy. Mudflap wasn't going to take this either, and her reaction was the same as Zeke's. Simba never once ever ran over or butted another dog, and Mudflap didn't cause him any harm. Just a nip and that was that. Sheep are not strong-willed by any means, and the slightest reprimand from a dog or any other animal is all it takes for them to give up.

People however are much more stubborn--if this is why Buddy is doing this, then that's the reason why the behavior has continued. His space hasn't been respected so he thinks he still has to tell people to give him room.


Honored Member
Just an update. Buddy has quit with the "Teeth in front of your eye" thing. I think it was he was a nerd, unused to people, and got too excited. I'm not exactly sure how exactly i did convey to him that was so not cool..but i did. He doesn't do it anymore.
It's also been interesting, Buddy, when he first realized us humans were okay, and quit growling around and offering nips...then he began greeting each and every one with much enthusiasm, too much, really. I used to laff and say, "Buddy, you ALREADY got adopted, you got a family !!! so relax already!!"

Now, 6 months off the street, he must finally be at least partially satiated, cuz he now only uses normal amount of enthusiasm, and no longer appears to be trying to "cop a fam". He no longer needs to meet every single person he sees. He no longer needs to display his "I'm so thrilled i'm almost gonna have a seizure" kinda thing for each person who pets him now, seems more normal now.