Recognizing Signs Of Aggression In Dogs: A Guide For Responsible Owners

aggressive dogs barking
(Last Updated On: December 28, 2023)

Dogs, known as ‘man’s best friend’, bring joy, companionship and comfort into our lives. Their playful demeanor, wagging tails and unconditional love often characterize them. However, dogs can also exhibit aggressive behavior towards their owners and other animals. 

In fact, aggressiveness in dogs is more common than people expect. In the US, there are over 4.5 million cases of canine bites each year. Besides human beings, dogs can also be aggressive towards other dogs and animals, or objects. The causes behind this type of behavior are often defensive, offensive, territorial, intermale, sibling rivalry and fear.  

So, how do you identify the signs of aggression in your dog early enough before they cause any harm? Read on as this guide outlines the top things to look for in your best friend!

Observing Your Dog’s Behavior

scary fierce dog

Monitoring the behavior of your canine is a good place to start when looking for any signs of aggression. These may include:

  • Lunging  

Lunging is where a dog jumps forward towards a person or another animal. This is a major sign that should not be ignored as it shows that the dog is ready to attack and can cause harm at any time. 

For example, you’ll notice a dog reactive to other dogs when taking it for a walk, it will try to jump forward to attack. This can be caused by fear, anxiety, frustration, and need for dominance.

  • Chasing  

This can be a very confusing sign for many homeowners as it’s normal behavior for many dogs. It’s an instinctual behavior, especially for herd dogs or those who love playing games such as catch. So, how do you know if a dog is chasing playfully or aggressively?  

Playful chasing is characterized by loose and friendly body language, such as wagging tails, playful barking, and lying down when close to the target. On the contrary, aggressive chasing features predatory body language such as firm stares, raised hackles, and even biting.  

  • Snapping 

Snapping is a natural communication tool that dogs use if they feel that their personal space is being threatened. It involves a quick and involuntary movement of the dog’s mouth that indicates it’s about to bite. This movement is accompanied by a clicking sound or a low growl and is common if they feel threatened, cornered, or are protecting their resources. 

Preventing snapping involves understanding your dog’s triggers and creating a positive environment. It also helps to teach your dog to socialize early enough, so they’ll be comfortable being around people and other animals.

  • Nipping  

Nipping is a subtle form of aggression but should not be tolerated since it can easily lead to biting, wherein the dog will use its teeth to pinch or bite something or someone. While it’s usually playful and harmless especially in puppies during teething, they can escalate to biting and cause serious injuries. 

This behavior could also be a sign that the dog is being territorial, showing dominance, or a sign of fear. This behavior could also be a sign that the dog is being territorial, showing dominance, or a sign of fear. To understand why they nip, observe how your dog is doing it. If it is mouthing objects, then it could be doing it playfully. However, if it’s snarling or growling before nipping, it could indicate that the dog feels threatened.

Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language

Besides observing your dog’s behavior, learning how to read their body language is equally essential to identifying signs of aggression:

  • Flattened Ears

This often manifests when a dog feels anxious. They will communicate their emotional state by flattening the ears against the head. When this happens, understanding the context, environment, and overall body language is important.

For example, a hard stare and flattened ears may indicate a high level of threat perception and fear. This means they will likely lunge, bite, or chase the threat. Meanwhile, flattened ears combined with whining may indicate discomfort and distress. If they’re not calmed down, it could escalate to aggression.

  • Lip Curling

Lip curling is another distinctive body language in canines. This is defined when they lift their upper lips to reveal their teeth. When you see them do this, it signifies aggression, indicating the dog is ready to attack. 

Additionally, lip curling can be accompanied by other signs that can tell you the physical and emotional state of your dog. Lip curling with dilated pupils may suggest a heightened arousal and potential to attack. Meanwhile, if your dog has raised hackles, it could indicate alertness.

In A Nutshell 

Part of your responsibility as a pet owner is understanding and recognizing signs of aggression in your dog. So, observe your furry pal’s body language cues and behavioral changes, such as the ones discussed in this post. From there, you can take the necessary steps, like taking them to a doggy daycare to promote socialization with other dogs and addressing any underlying triggers or anxiety disorders to help keep them calm and ensure the safety of humans, animals, and other dogs in their presence.

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