Before a dog barks or growls towards another dog or person, their body language gave a clear cue it was going to happen. Many pet parents believe that their dog’s aggressive behavior came out of nowhere, when there was a warning sign. Learning your dog’s body language can help mitigate this reactivity before it happens. 

Here’s a checklist approach to reading your dog’s body language.

A Dog Showing Watchful Body Language

A dog has alert body language when something catches their attention, and they are figuring out whether or not it’s a threat or how they should behave moving forward. This should signal a pet parent that they have the opportunity to not let this body language fold into a reactive response such as barking towards a person or dog, so it’s essential to get your dog’s attention back to you.

The body language of an alert and a watchful dog is the following: 

  • Posture and ears leaning forward
  • Eyes wide opened and lingering stare
  • Mouth closed 
  • Horizontal tail with sometimes a deliberate, slow wag

A Dog Showing Dominant Aggressive Body Language

As mentioned before, a dog’s watchful body language can turn into a reactive response such as barking, growling, or snapping. Overall demeanor is best described as threatening along with a tense body language that presents the following signs: 

  • An upright tail and raised hackles
  • Body and ears leaning forward in a rigid manner 
  • Wrinkled and furrowed nose and forehead
  • Mouth opened and teeth clearly visible 

A Dog Showing Fear Aggressive Body Language

The body language of a dog experiencing fear aggression is quite different than one that is dominant. However, if dogs feel provoked, they may bite. Here are the body language signs of a dog experiencing fear reactivity:

  • Ears folded back 
  • Rigid tucked tail
  • Raised hackles, but the front portion of body lowered toward the  ground 
  • Yawning 
  • Retreating and stepping backward 
  • Partially closed mouth, revealing teeth

Need More Help?

Performance K9 Training has helped numerous pet parents with dog aggression cases through a comprehensive behavioral modification program. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help.