Subtle Signs of Dog Aggression: More on Dog Body Language

The more I hang out on the Internet, the more horrified I am.

Just Google “Dog bites baby” and you will find horrifying videos of diverse breeds of dogs being videotaped, biting children.

And, although it is horrifying, in some respects, it is important that the average person watch these videos so that they can understand more about dog behavior.

I just wrote an article about two of these videos.

In the first video, the dog doesn’t show any blatant warning. I can see the signs the moment the video starts, but I suppose the average person doesn’t always notice the subtle signs.

If you want to see the video, here it is:

In the second video, a very blatantly aggressive small dog is held still while he barks, snarls, growls and snaps and a tiny hand is encouraged to pet this dog… until the dog reaches his limit and he lashes out and bites the hand.

This is totally the fault of the adult humans who are videotaping and holding the dog still. I am saddened that charges were not brought in this case, as the dog is clearly protesting and telling everyone that he is about to bite.

Both situations are horrifyingly sad, because neither had to happen.

Both dogs are giving information that they are uncomfortable.

But, I can assure you that I couldn’t continue to live with a dog that bit my child.

Signs of Dog Aggression

In the first video, I hope that the mother is just too uneducated about dog language to notice the subtle signs, so let’s discuss and share the signs of dog aggression so these sad videos can cease.

It is crucial to respect what the dog is saying during both the blatant and subtle signs of aggression.

Do NOT ignore these signs like in the second video. There will always be a “first” bite and it could be devastating!

Blatant Signs






Subtle Signs

Stiffening (freezing of the body)

Looking away (note that dogs in both videos looked away prior to biting)

Hard dark pupils

Whale eye (flashing of the whites of the eyes just prior to the bite)

Trying to get away

Wagging (yes, a fast stiff wag is often seen prior to a bite)

Lips drawn back (this may look like a submissive grin but can also be a sign of stress – seen in the first video)

Lips forward (this often happens just prior to a growl with the lips tightening)

Body Posture and Dog Body Language

Both a fearful dog and an blatantly dominantly aggressive dog should be judged as a threat.

Fearful Posture

Ears tucked

dog aggression, dog body language

Tail tucked (may wag)

Body stiff but tucked back, as if ready to run

Lunging forward and then running backward

Lips drawn up

Eyes hard and darting

Dominant Aggressive Posture


Tail HIGH, most likely will be wagging

Body stiff but leaning forward as if ready to pounce

Pulling forward

Lips drawn tight

Eyes hard and staring straight at you

These are all very serious signs of aggression that should be respected!

It is crucial to keep yourself, but even more crucial to keep your children, from being bitten.

Not all dogs like children.

Some dogs even see children as prey.

You must be vigilant to educate your children and ensure that they are not bitten!

If I had children of my own, I would almost rather they be scared of dogs than running toward all dogs. I would also rarely let them pet dogs, unless I was 100% sure that they were safe.

Please like and share with your friends to keep this epidemic from spreading.

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  1. Clare Watts says:

    I brought my children up to respect my dog/s and to leave them alone when they were sleeping, not to pull tails or ears or try and climb on them. I never left the children alone with my dogs when they were small. I was very careful when I brought a new born home that I made more fuss of the dog to avoid jealousy. My first dog and I were really close and had a super strong bond. When I brought my first baby home she wouldn’t come near me and wouldn’t take food from me for three weeks. However I made sure she came first with me and after the three weeks our bond was as strong as ever. She ignored the children for the most part. She really was a one woman dog. My second dog came along after the second child. The two dogs got on very well. So all in all I never had any problems mixing children and dogs. I think a lot of the problem is jealousy when the dog has been in the family and then a baby is introduced. Everyone is cooing over the baby and the poor dog who was probably the centre of attention pre baby is ignored. Recipe for disaster.


  2. Kitty says:

    Holy smokes. I can’t believe they allowed that baby to stick is fingers in that snarling dogs mouth.

    Also the first dog was so afraid .. I hope that baby wasn’t severely injured.


  3. Linda says:

    Why people “FORCE” a dog to be pet is beyond comprehension. That should not be dog owners


  4. Mickey says:

    that first video was horrifying..and you can tell by that babys’ cry, it was not just a was a painful bite. SHAME ON THESE PARENTS for allowing that baby to even APPROACH a lying down dog in this manner. The dog is clearly showing signs of not being comfortable. The sad part besides the baby being that I can almost bet they got rid of that dog as a bitter. POOR DOG. Poor baby of course…but POOR DOG.


  5. Ellen Young says:

    Thankyou for this! I have first grandchild, the beautiful Shelby born 27/09/2017. She has yet to meet Charlie. My big soppy affectionate lump! I’m not going to be complacent when they meet! Will do it gently. I know he will be fine but will make sure my so is here, not holding baba, neither will I be holding Shelby. He is gentle with his girlfriend Tallulah, the chuahua but that’s different. When I brought my newborn son 30years ago, home from hospital, I sat on sofa holding him and within a minute Lucy our Cav King Charles Spaniel was next to us , licking his feet!! Best buddies for the rest of her life! But Charlie is a big boy! Hoping all will be well. He needs a child in his life, and I believe every dog deserves at least one child in theirs. Any advice?? Ellxx


    Minette Reply:

    Dogs and babies don’t go together in a close up type meeting. Just rewarding the dog when the baby is around is enough to give the dog a positive experience and acclimate them.

    Then monitoring a toddler at all times is crucial.


  6. Barbara Austin says:

    I don’t know what to do about my 10 weeks old 3 lb maltese puppy. Her mom whom we still have has played roughly with her since birth, and every time I pick up the pup, the pup nips me. I enjoy dog kisses, but even little teeth hurt my nose and ears. She goes for them anytime they are within reach. I think she is trying to play and show affection, but I want her to mellow down in play.


  7. Michelle Kosan says:

    It absolutely angers me to tears when I see stupidity on the part of the owners/parents. I did a lot of dog training in the past years and now retired, mostly due to owners and their lack of listening, following thru on what we started, and expecting perfection when they get nothing back from their dog. It never stops…when I meet an owner that truly wants to work with their dog and learn and understand, they will have my absolute 150% help. People – please wake up and stop punishing the dog for human stupidity!


  8. I agree that there should be charges bought against these adults.


  9. Janet Igo says:

    Totally ignorant mother wanting to take a cute video of her baby discovering the dog, but knows nothing about dogs nor the warning signals they put off. The dog clearly was trying to tell her to remove the baby from it’s space and when no one would it reacted. I absolutely feel for the child, but I feel worse for the dog. Ignorance of humans is not a reason to destroy a dog!


  10. Joan Boase says:

    Is hair raised at the back of the neck a sign of fear or aboth, or neither?


  11. Michele Taylor says:

    I have always told EVERY person that has ever been near any of the dogs I have owned to keep their face away from them .my son went to a friends house knew the dog for years pet him every time he went over there.Well he went over one day walked in the door bent down to greet the animal and the dog bite him in the face not once but twice lots of stitches and the parents of the dog knew he was an aggressive dog because it had bitten their own child for no reason and they never warned my son or anything and even after my son was bitten badly by this dog they still kept the animal 😡😡😡


  12. Crystal Roy says:

    That poor dog was screaming in his own way to let them know that he was very uncomfortable & wasn’t sure about the situation. That mother should’ve never allowed that to happen. I feel for the child, don’t get me wrong but I guarantee you that dog was more than likely beaten or deemed aggressive b/c of the stupid human. People have to realize that dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc… have their own language to warn/talk to us & it’s our duty to learn not only for their protection but ours. Too many animals are being euthanatized b/c of irresponsible owners & it’s wrong & needs to stop!!


  13. Genella R Coop says:



  14. Robyn says:

    Ignorance is no excuse. People who own dogs should learn about them and learn how they communicate. In my opinion children and dogs should never be left alone and when they are together someone competent should closely supervise them. We stopped socialising with one of our neighbours because their kids were out of control and the parents didn’t appreciate me constantly telling the kids to stay away from my dog.


  15. Matt Harkins says:

    I can assure you these warning signs are evident in a dog on dog situation as well. I work with dogs at a kennel/daycare and reading and respecting as well as (immediately) reacting to prevent biting of humans as well as other dogs is crucial. I stress immediately because it can turn extremely violent in an instant, especially with a dog on dog incident. Most dogs are not inherently aggressive, but stress, new environments, and a miriad of other factors can set off an otherwise friendly, loving dog. Always be mindful and in tune to your dog if ever around strangers, new people, new places, and babies especially! Dogs are love, be respectful of their boundaries so they may show that.


  16. Matt Harkins says:

    This information should be a prerequisite to anyone getting a new dog, and for anyone who has dogs already. Everyone! Please share this so that it may never happen to another human or dog. People can prevent this, let’s not make dogs a victim of there own inherent behavior by our own inherent ignorance. Educate!


  17. Matt Harkins says:

    Both. It can signal fear which can quickly turn into defensive aggression, or it can be a warning to another dog that he is not going to tolerate any approach from the other. Remove the “hair raiser” immediately from the situation. Do not scold or punish the dog for raising its hackles, it is only part of a dogs way of communication.


  18. Nancy honeychuck says:

    She allowed the child to actually pull the dog’s tail. What is wrong with this person? Some kind of sadistic pervert? It was like she was using the poor Child to goad this poor dog to bite. Should be in jail for child and dog abuse. I’m Sure the child survived; the poor abused dog was probably not so lucky AND THIS WAS NEITHER THE DOG’S FAULT, NOR THE CHILD’S!!!


  19. Gina S says:

    My parents have a beagle that was never trained. She was a tied up in the woods hunting dog the first 3 yrs prior to adoption. She greets all by teeth bared, hair raised agression. We were told not to give eye contact and to let her come to us years ago. Now she is fine with most adults but we have grandkids now. We adopted a 5 yr old girl and introduced my parents to her at their house. I varried her in and told her to not approach the dog. I thought she would be safe when i carried her.
    The dog whined barked hysterical howling then stopped. When she stopped she bit my dsughter on the ankle while she was on my lap.

    I offered free training for the dog to my parents and they refuse. So my daughter is not allowed to be there. Since then my granddaughter was born and i warned everyone of the bite. I refuse to do anything with that dog.


  20. Jackie Houke says:

    Not to mention the possible liability it creates for you! I can just see one of those kids running full speed right into your poor dog and start grabbing at his face/ears/tail, etc. There’s a horrible situation waiting to happen before you could even have a chance to intervene! I totally agree…out of control children have no place around dogs. Or most other places for that matter! If it’s not clearly obvious, it’s a pet peeve (bad pun not intended!) of mine when parents don’t discipline their children and let them run wild like animals wherever they go. Why even have kids if you’re not going to take the time and effort to raise them properly?! This is why I have 3 dogs!!! Lol!


  21. Sonny's Mom says:

    When a dog’s hackles are raised, it can mean several things. The dog may be alerting on something, aroused or overstimulated. DON’T try to figure out “what the dog thinks or feels”, but DO learn to read body language and work with the behavior. Chet can train you how to do this.


  22. I couldn’t even bare to watch the videos. JUST looking at the photo of the dog in the first one made my skin crawl The dog obviously was uncomfortable. And ignorance is no excuse. Y’all may have seen the video of “the dog whisperer” (HA!) approaching a Golden who was backed into a corner (dog was “food aggressive”). He put the food dish down for the dog, and stayed squatted down in front of her. As she approached, he HOPPED forward towards her. More signs given by her. He did it again. Then on the third time he HOPPED forward and reached for her bowl, she BIT him ! We, watching, all knew it was going to happen. He then reached out and hit her! That didn’t help. So, ignorance is no excuse. Please read all Chet has to educate you. Dogs are wonderful, but we have to understand them.


  23. Margy says:

    Very glad you have shared this. Confronting but so important to see. Folks simply don’t appreciate the speed at which things can unfold. It saddens me deeply to know just how few of the population bother to really learn canine body language. The situation provided all the ingredients for a horrible outcome. And what a tragic and avoidable outcome that was. My heckles were up from the moment I began watching. It wasn’t just knowing a bite was coming; it was seeing the dog displaying all the signals and know one did anything about it. I only hope that this video goes viral, but only if it’s powerful enough to prompt folks into educating themselves. Without that part, there will be continue to be more damaged children and more dogs euthanised.


  24. Also panting is a sign of stress and I have seen this prior to a dog lashing out.


  25. PicardLover says:

    Thank you for this important post. My dog is, generally, friendly and approachable, but doesn’t seem to know the difference between other (low status) dogs and children. So, when a child is in his backyard (play space), or picks up one of his toys, or something he perceives to be a toy, he tries to play rough or ‘correct’ the child for taking something without permission. Any thoughts on how to teach him to acknowledge that children are humans that he needs to respect will be greatly appreciated!


  26. EVELYN says:

    I also hope the dog was not punished because of the owners stupidity! 🙁


  27. Kim says:

    I heard that poor baby’s cry & knew it wasn’t just afraid & that it truly had been bitten. I felt horrible for it but I hurried & hit the stop button because when the lady dropped the camera to get the baby (I’m guessing) I was so afraid I was gonna hear her hitting the dog! Poor thing. Breaks my heart 😢


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