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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 17939
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I have a golden Labrador 9 months old. Since she was

Customer Question

I have a golden Labrador 9 months old.

Since she was about 4 months old every now and then (no apparent reason obvious to myself) she shows her teeth and curls her nose as if she is going to snarl but that isn't the case she does this while wagging her tail tongue slightly out and no noise at all. It is as if she is smiling, but it is very strange. She is a lovely friendly dog and has never shown any signs of being aggressive.

I am 65 years of age and always had dogs. I have never seen this behaviour before and it is now becoming a concern incase it is a sign of some sort of distress.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 4 years ago.
Hello, my name is Dr. Kara and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I understand that you are concerned about Bella's behavior as it is unusual.
There are a couple possible reasons behind her behavior and neither one is bad or dangerous.

Dogs do "smile". It isn't common but it happens when they are happy and want to convey that they are submissive to another pack member. It's a social behavior that isn't seen often, but it does happen. It can be directed to other dogs, but more commonly it is directed toward people.

The other possibility is a behavioral response called a flehmen response. This is more commonly seen in horses and cats, but dogs can display this behavior too. Animals can not only smell things but because of a specialized organ called a vomeronasal organ, located in the roof of the dog’s mouth just behind the incisors with an opening into the mouth, they can almost "taste" some smells as well. The organ is lined with cells that are similar to those found in the nose and is especially sensitive to pheromones. By lifting their lips and sticking out their tongue they push the "scent" into their vomeronasal organ. Dogs are more likely to display this behavior in response to urine or stool, or secretions from an intact female dog in heat.

In short I think that Bella is probably displaying a normal, though unusual behavior. Please let me know if you have any further questions.