Let’s start reading dogs!
When adult dogs reach the end of their tether with a younger dog (usually a pushy adolescent) this cheek grab is a way they say: Knock! It! Off!
This usually comes after the older dog has made several lower level “requests” for the younger pushy dog to be less pushy.
And, as luck would have it, we have one of those lower level requests captured in the photo below. The older dog (the gray in harness) is, I greatly expect, a saint.
You can see that the brown dog thinks this moment below is rather funny. Big eyes, ears back, mouth elongated, toes splayed – my guess is he’s been bouncing happily (but obnoxiously) into the gray dog’s space. He sees her restrained “stop it” coming but isn’t taking it the least bit seriously.
The gray is making the brown dog move with a “rrrawrr” to the side of his face/neck. This is probably still several requests into the request process but notice how low and relaxed the gray dog’s tail is, ears are up but teeth are not bared, face is not wrinkled. This is a polite statement of “I know we’re playing but don’t do that. You’re just about on my last nerve.”
Notice how the brown dog’s right front leg is in front of the gray dog’s body. He may have just come up and tried to swing that leg over the gray or bumped the gray’s shoulder – either way, both are as obnoxious as a human teen pushing an adult or trying to get them in a head lock. Doesn’t matter how “happy” the teen is doing it; those behaviors are generally rude.
Now we see the cheek grab. Notice again where that right front paw is. My guess? The brown dog did not take the gray’s hint displayed above and came back again. This time the gray says, “Okay, let me be clear.”
This is, believe it or not, a careful grab using just the incisors (the small front teeth). It is possible, even likely, that there will be no mark on the brown dog despite the dramatic look of it. The gray has simply grabbed and is holding for a second or two. The brown dog now looks like he may be getting the point.
If the gray were my dog, I would have stepped in on her behalf when her first “quit it” message was ignored. Some people say “Let the dogs work it out.” I’m not one of those people.
If you allow the younger dog to continue to harass the older dog, the older can be forced to escalate to the point where the younger dog responds and that point sometimes results in punctures. Especially with individuals (and breeds) that tend to get more active and silly in response to excitement/play.
Oh and PS, in this situation, if I saw this happening, I would deal with the brown dog as the fly in this ointment; not the gray. The gray is defending herself with restraint. Good dog.
Now you know.
If you enjoyed learning about reading dogs, click on: Reading Dogs: Two Dogs Greeting – Safe or Unsafe?