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How to Tell if a Dog is Going to Attack

| Updated August 11, 2017

Whether you are working with your own dog or you encounter a stray dog on the street, a dog who is about to attack will give you plenty of warning signs. Dogs may attack out of aggression, fear or insecurity.

If you encounter a dog who you think is going to attack, avoid eye contact and remain still. When his focus is no longer on you, slowly move away.

Expressing Discomfort

Often a dog will express discomfort or fear of what you are doing before biting. Some signs that your dog is uncomfortable and may escalate to an attack include:

  • Crouching.
  • Tucking his tail between his legs.
  • Lowering his ears.
  • Averting his eyes. 

Signs of Aggression

An aggressive dog may:

  • Curl his lips to bare his teeth while snarling and growling.
  • Hold his body and tail tense with the hair on his neck and back raised. 
  • Narrow his eyes and fix you with an intense stare. 
  • Shift his weight to escape or start lunging.

Breed Considerations

While most breeds exhibit the same behaviors and warnings of aggression, it is important to consider the breed when observing body language. For example, some breeds traditionally have docked tails and cannot express fear by tucking their tail. Other breeds have long, floppy ears, which are not as expressive as smaller ears. It may be difficult to see eye movements in dogs with wrinkled skin.