Warning Signs of Aggression in Dogs

Many times, before a dog bites or snaps, he gives warning signs that something is upsetting him. Learning to read those cues before the dog actually becomes hostile can avoid a nasty incident and, in this litigious age, possibly a lawsuit.



If a dog stares at you with a hard look, especially if he's standing with an erect, keen body posture, be careful. His eyes might appear larger and darker than normal. In the canine mind, direct staring indicates a threat and subsequent aggressive behavior. Do not hold the gaze of a dog staring at you in that manner. You could unwittingly invite an attack.


When a dog bites or growls, you know that's aggressive behavior. Certain types of "mouthing" without using the teeth also falls into this category. That includes using his mouth to try to control someone, or giving hard "muzzle punches" with his nose. That dominant behavior can easily escalate into hostility.

Raised Hackles

If a dog raises his hackles, whereby the hair over his shoulder blades stands straight up, something is bothering him. Depending on the situation, it can denote anger, fear or protectiveness, but it is not a warning sign to ignore. When the hackles are raised, the tail is often tense and rigid.

By Jane Meggitt

About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.