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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. This is important because 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 better understand the cues a dog shows you to express its mental state. When a dog lunges and attacks/bites, it will have given many individual signs that it is 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 would quickly transition from fear to aggression.

 Signs Of Dogs Aggression Include: 

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

Compared to making itself smaller when displaying signs of fearfulness, a dog that has switched to an aggressive response aims to make itself appear bigger and more threatening to prevent the individual from continuing to approach them. 

Remember that an aggressive dog is just a fearful dog. They are not innately “bad” or incapable 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, and 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


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