Let's Talk Dog: Understanding your dog's stress signals

Signs of Aggression


If your dog shows signs of aggression then you should get help from a behavior consultant right away. Signs directed toward you or another person that indicate the need for professional help include the following:

  • growl
  • guarding (dog's own possessions or resting area; favorite human's possessions) against family members or guests - this is a very dangerous situation - children are in immediate danger since they could inadvertently come between a dog and a guarded area or object (dog may be continually expanding his guarded area or repertoire of guarded objects unbeknownst to you)
  • snap and miss (the miss was intentional and the dog may not miss the next time)
  • snarl
  • aggressive barking which is not stopped by your request for quiet
  • lunging on or off the leash, with barking or growling
  • bite (other than playful puppy nipping by a puppy, or accident during rough play)
  • dog raises tail when you or child approach (may not apply to breeds with naturally
    raised or curled tails - e.g. pug, husky, spitz-type breeds etc.)
  • dog urinates intentionally in the house or on your possessions in your presence or in
    the presence of children or guests and shows other signs of pushy or aggressive behavior

Resource Guarding

This is very dangerous. If you have a puppy you can take steps to prevent this, or stop it if is already starting. Teach your puppy that it is a good thing when people approach his food bowl or his possessions. If you have an adult dog that is guarding people, possessions or territory then you need to hire professional help. This is a dangerous situation that can rapidly escalate.

If your dog has ever shown the signs listed above, or you have that feeling in the back of your mind that your dog is likely to bite someone, then you should get help from a professional.You may think it is expensive to pay a consultant, but it will be even more expensive (in more than just financial ways) if the dog bites someone.