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Aggressive Dog Posture: Warning Signs a Dog is About to Attack

That “nice” dog down the block may not be so nice if you walk up to him and don’t heed his warning. Any dog will attack if they are agitated, fearful, or just plain don’t like you for whatever reason in their doggy brains. Learning what aggressive dog posture looks like can help prevent a dog attack and dog bites.

Check out these known behaviors and warning signs.

Aggressive Dog Posture: Warning Signs a Dog is About to Attack

What is an aggressive dog posture or body language?

An agitated dog will be up on all fours, legs straight and head uplifted and erect.

Another attack stance is one crouched down as if the dog is about to lunge at your throat.

Dogs will also often raise the hackles on their backs when moving into attack mode.

A dog’s posture will also change prior to an attack.

The dog will become rigid and its legs and body will appear stiff. Its ears will be pinned back close to its head.

The dog might lower its head and curl its lips back to reveal its teeth. This is an obvious sign of aggression.

Its eyes are either narrow or fixed intently on the object of aggression. Alternatively, they can be wide and rounded with the eye whites showing.

An aggressive dog often raises the hair, or hackles, along its back and over its shoulders.

Its tail is straight up rather than relaxed.

Check out his tail

If a dog is agitated or he’s in hunt mode, his tail will be straight out. It will be either up in the air or out behind him a bit.

A fearful dog will have his tail tucked between his legs, or at least hide it behind his hindquarters.

Either is an aggressive dog posture and indicates a dog to watch out for.

Angry German Shepherd dog showing his teeth

Monitor his mouth

Dogs will bear their teeth when they are about to attack.

Look at his upper lip to see if he is curling it upward, however slightly, to give you an indication of his discomfort.

Avoid direct eye contact by glancing subtly at his eyes

Take a sneak peek at his eyes (avoidance of eye contact is extremely important) from a sideways angle, just to see where he’s looking.

If he’s centered on you, you may be in for it.

Never give prolonged or direct eye contact of more than a second, because that could be the last sign he needs to jump at you full force.

Don’t look a strange dog in the eye head-on.

If his eyes are not looking at you but at something else, he still may be ready to attack, but it will most likely be whatever he’s looking at.

Rottweiler showing aggression


Growling noises, low guttural angry stirrings, and other graveling sounds coming from the dog’s throat are an extreme giveaway he may be about to pounce.

A dog makes certain warning sounds before an attack. These include growling and snarling.

This is the dog’s way of saying “back off” or “stay away.”

Do not ignore these warning signs and assume that the dog is overreacting to something.

Back away slowly rather than running, since running can cause the dog to chase and attack you.

Most dogs are capable of aggression if hurt or afraid.

The likelihood of a dog attacking or an impending bite increases when the dog owner trains the dog to be aggressive.

An owner might train his dog as an attack dog if he lives alone in a bad neighborhood or in a large, expensive house.


Unless you have specifically taught your dog to act aggressively, some pre-aggression signs can warn you of your dog’s potential aggression before it occurs.

A dog has the potential for aggression if it lunges toward passersby or other dogs on walks.

Unsocialized dogs often develop fear-based aggression because of their “fight or flight” survival instinct.

If the dog is tethered and comes across someone or something unfamiliar, “flight” is not an option, but “fight” is.

Proper socialization and providing plenty of social interactions as early as possible can help in giving them confident social skills to prevent this scenario.

Brown dog showing his teeth

In conclusion

It is important to understand that all dogs, regardless of breed, have the potential to be aggressive.

To prevent aggression and dog bites, owners should take steps to ensure their pets are properly socialized. The dog should also learn basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and leave it.

It is also important to monitor a dog’s behavior around other people and animals. This is especially true if they show signs of fear or aggression.

If a dog does display signs of aggression, it is important to seek out professional help from a trainer or veterinarian.

By learning and heeding an aggressive dog posture, you can prevent a dog bite and a bad situation from happening.

Anne Perry

Sunday 8th of October 2023

I have two frenchies that won't/can't get along.


Friday 15th of September 2023

This is very good to know. Thanks for sharing


Sunday 10th of September 2023

My dearly departed, Rile, was fear aggressive. I got him when he was 8 years old and it was clear he'd been abused. Poor boy's spirit was broken but at least his years with me, he was never told he was a "bad dog" and was told daily how much he was loved

Bea LaRocca

Wednesday 16th of August 2023

An interesting and extremely helpful post, thank you for sharing this information. I have been bitten by a dog twice, once as a child when my neighbor's Chihuahua clomped onto my ankle quite ferociously actually and the second time I was nipped in the butt by a dog as I was walking on the sidewalk. The second time didn't even break the skin but it was still scary


Friday 11th of August 2023

I’m worried about some neighborhood dogs, so thank you for this!

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