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How can I identify an aggressive dog?

While it’s ultimately up to dog owners to prevent their animal from attacking, not all dog owners take their roles seriously. This can lead to a dog that lashes out at strangers or expresses aggressive behaviors, up to biting and causing significant injuries.

While you can’t always prevent dog attacks when a dog owner is lax, there are steps you can take to avoid aggressive dogs. The ASPCA explains a few of the signs of canine aggression so you can protect yourself when possible. 

Aggression can mean different things

Dogs express many different behaviors when acting aggressively. Additionally, a dog that’s behaving aggressively isn’t necessarily angry. A dog might perceive a real or imagined threat and lash out in a fearful state. These types of attacks can be just as damaging, however.

No matter the underlying reason, canine aggression often encompasses some combination of these different behaviors:

  • Snarling
  • Growling
  • Rigidity
  • Making contact with a person by pushing their muzzle into the person
  • Charging, but stopping short of making contact

These behaviors are all clear signs that you should cease contact with the animal if at all possible. If you remain in the presence of an aggressive dog, it may begin to nip at you. Depending on how hard the animal nips, your skin may be broken or bruised. More serious puncture wounds and lacerations can also occur. 

Defending turf

Along with fearful dogs, some dogs lash out because they perceive a person as a threat. The dog may believe a family member is in peril, which can then lead to an attack to protect a member of the “pack.”

A canine’s aggression can also be redirected. For instance, if a dog is threatening your pet and you intervene, you could become the victim of an attack.

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