7 Signs that a Dog is Nervous to the Point of Aggression

Aggressive Dog

Is your dog acting nervous to the point of becoming aggressive or is he just being playful? It’s never easy to interpret what dogs are trying to communicate. Here are seven signs that could indicate that your dog is reaching the point of aggression.

Types of Dog Aggression

Before we reveal these signs, it’s important to understand the different types of dog aggression and the root cause for each. Here are the most common types of aggression that dog owners may encounter.

  • Fear Aggression – the most common type of dog aggression. This could occur when the dog is confronted by a scary object (could be humans, other dogs, or even inanimate objects). The dog may take an offensive posture when they are confronting fear.
  • Territorial Aggression – this could occur when a stranger or intruder enters the dog’s territory (e.g. owner’s home or the area surrounding the property). The dog may attack the stranger.
  • Possessive Aggression – this could occur when someone, including the dog owner, tries to take away the dog’s prized possession (e.g. dog toy, snacks).
  • Pain-induced Aggression – this could occur when the dog is in physical pain. For example, one study suggests that hip dysplasia is a factor in the risk of large-sized dogs becoming aggressive.

Signs of Dogs Becoming Aggressive

Here are some signs to watch out for when it comes to dog aggression. Knowing these signs will help you better handle a situation when a dog becomes aggressive against other humans or dogs.

1. Dog suddenly becomes still or rigid.

2. Dog curls his lips to reveal his teeth at the “threat”. Dog may also wrinkle his nose.

3. Dog’s ears are pointed backwards – this may, however, also be a sign of a dog showing his friendliness or showing submissiveness to other dogs and humans.

4. Dog lowers his body with all of his feet firmly planted on the ground. This could be a sign that a dog is ready to lunge forward at his threat.

5. Dog’s tail moves from a neutral position to a stiff, vertical position. The higher the tail, the greater the potential threat.

6. Dog raises his back or has raised hackles (hair along the dog’s back).

7. Dog’s eyes are large, dilated and stares directly at the threat.

Stop a Nervous Dog from Becoming Aggressive

So how should you act when your affectionate dog suddenly becomes aggressive to other dogs and humans (including yourself)? Here are some quick tips.

  • Stay Firm but Relaxed – take a deep breath. Your dog feeds off your energy so you may make your dog feel more nervous if you start to stress out over the situation.
  • Show You Aren’t a Threat – if the dog is starting to show aggression to you or to another human then show him that you aren’t a threat. Reduce the tension by lowering your gaze, turning your head slightly, backing off etc. Do not make direct eye contact.
  • Create a Distraction – if you feel an aggressive behavior is imminent then try and distract your dog with his favorite treat or toy. This could work well for dogs that are fearful aggressive.
  • Don’t Raise Your Voice – stick to a low, calm voice. A sudden change in tone or movement may stress out your dog even more.

If your dog continues to remain aggressive then we highly recommend that you see a professional dog trainer or dog behaviorist to help figure out your dog’s aggression.

Disclaimer: The content on MyPetChild.com is for informational purpose only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian when in doubt.

1 Comment

  1. Sammye Guenther Ph. D. October 19, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    We are a close knit family with each household having a fairly large dog. My dog (boxer/greyhound mix) normally goes wherever I go. However when I first rescued her, we went visiting to see my son and daughter and at each of their respective homes, my dog attacked their dogs without provocation. At my son’s house, they have a Shephard mix and my dog attacked her. At my daughter’s house, they have a yellow lab and my dog attacked her. My dog is well treated and I cannot figure this out. Please help.

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