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If you plan on working with dogs or you’ve just started working with them, one of the most important things to learn is Canine Body Language. The reason this is so important is that it can prevent distress in the dogs you work with, but it can also be a helpful tool to avoid being injured or bitten by a dog. 

With time and experience, you will gain a greater understanding of the cues a dog shows you to express its mental state. When a dog lunges and attacks/bites, it will have given a lot of signs to the individual that it was feeling uncomfortable/fearful. Aggression always begins with fear.

Signs of fear that a dog may show you include: 

  • Crouched body 
  • Tail tucked 
  • Ears back 
  • Darting gaze 
  • Low growling 

A fearful dog tends to make itself appear smaller. It may hide under something or put itself in a corner. If a person were to approach a dog in a corner showing signs of fear, the dog will quickly transition from fear to aggression.

 Signs of aggression include: 

  • Raise hackles (piloerection) 
  • Bared teeth 
  • Wrinkled muzzle 
  • Staring gaze 
  • Tense body 
  • Standing up, lunging forward 
  • Barking and growling 

In comparison to making itself smaller when displaying signs of fearfulness, a dog that has switched into an aggressive response aim to make itself appear bigger and more threatening in an effort to prevent the individual continue to approach them. 

Remember that an aggressive dog is just a fearful dog. They are not innately “bad”, they are not capable of feelings of malice. A dog will only act with aggression when an individual has not read its body language correctly. 

While you’re still learning I recommend going to dog parks or watching as many dog documentaries as possible, studying a short online Dog PSYCHOLOGY course OR simply observing. Watch the dogs and how they interact, observe how they use their body to communicate with other dogs and humans. This will be good practice for you so that you can safely work with dogs in the future. 

Olivia Basham


Online Courses Australia is a short course, CPD Accredited training provided that covers more than 20 different professional areas, give us a call today on 1300 611 404 or email our friendly team at and we’ll be happy to talk you through some of your Animal Health course options.

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