5 Tips For Recognizing Aggression in Dogs

Our furry companions rely heavily on nonverbal communication. While their playful barks and happy tail wags are easily understood, deciphering more subtle signs can be crucial. Recognizing the early signs of aggression in dogs is essential to preventing bites and ensuring safety for yourself, your pet, and others around them. This article explores five key elements of canine communication that can signal potential aggression, and in the event that you have suffered a dog bite, make sure to reach out to a dog bite injury attorney in Las Vegas, NV.

1. Body Language: A Silent Conversation

Dogs speak volumes through their posture, facial expressions, and even tail positions. Watch for signs of tension that can indicate an impending aggressive outburst. These signs include a stiff posture with planted legs, raised hackles along the back, a lowered head with flattened ears, curled lips accompanied by a snarl, a tucked tail, and the whites of their eyes being visible (known as whale eye). Each of these signals a dog feeling threatened, anxious, or stressed, states that could easily escalate into aggression.

2. Beyond Barking: Decoding Vocalizations

Growling and barking are two common ways dogs communicate discomfort or a perceived threat. However, the nuances of these vocalizations matter. A low, guttural growl is a clear warning that the dog feels uncomfortable and wants the situation to stop. On the other hand, barking can be playful or a greeting, but a continuous, deep bark with a rigid body and fixed stare is a strong indication of aggression.

3. Reading the Face: Expressions Tell a Story

A dog’s face is quite expressive, revealing their emotional state. Pay attention to specific signs like a wrinkled nose, flattened ears, and narrowed eyes. These can all indicate that the dog is feeling stressed, anxious, or challenged, emotions that could potentially lead to aggression.

4. Physical Signs of Tension: When the Body Speaks

A dog preparing for a fight will often exhibit physical signs of tension. Notice if their muscles are rigid, especially around the shoulders and neck. This indicates a state of high arousal and readiness to act aggressively. Shivering, while sometimes caused by cold, can also be a sign of fear or anxiety in dogs. A shivering dog feeling stressed could become aggressive if the situation doesn’t improve.

5. Respecting Boundaries: Food, Possessions, and Personal Space

Some dogs exhibit “possessive aggression” around food, toys, or even their owners. This means they feel threatened when someone approaches them while they’re eating, playing with a toy, or even being petted. Signs of possessive aggression include growling while eating, snapping or growling when you try to take away a toy, and guarding behavior towards people they don’t know well.

Remember, not all vocalizations or physical signs automatically indicate aggression. Understanding your dog’s unique communication style is key. If you’re ever unsure about your dog’s behavior, consult with a certified professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. They can help you decipher your dog’s specific cues and develop a training plan to address any underlying anxieties or potential aggression issues. By recognizing the signs of aggression and taking proactive steps, you can create a safe and harmonious environment for you and your canine companion.


Rylie Holt