There is no arguing that dogs are among the most beloved pets in America, if not number one (some cat owners may disagree). Dogs are man and woman’s best friend. If you treat a dog with respect and create a familial bond, they will want to cuddle, play, act in the weirdest but adorable ways, and love you forever.

With this understanding, we must focus on the word “you.” Many dogs, sweeping across dozens of breeds, can develop territorial instincts or act out due to fear or anxiety. Other breeds are prone to more alpha tendencies, which is fine if they’re owners train them properly, but can be dangerous if they are allowed to act out. It’s true that some dog attacks occur seemingly unprovoked, but in most cases, a dog will provide warning signs vocally and/or through its body language.

Common signs that a dog may attack

If you view any of the following postures when approaching a dog, avoid eye contact with the animal and separate yourself as calmly as possible. If you act entirely uninterested, the animal may also lose interest and divert its attention elsewhere.

  • Afraid posture: A fearful dog with exhibit a tense and stiff body, with ears back, tail tucked and pursed lips.
  • Alpha posture: Body and chest are puffed up with stiff ears and raised tail to meet the dog’s back while staring at you intensely
  • Growling: Unless the dog is in a play bow position, assume the growl is acting aggressively and stay away.
  • Lip raise: Showing teeth is a common sign of aggression among most dog breeds.
  • Stalking: Unless the dog is displaying a play bow or other cheerful body language, be on alert and disengage all contact from the dog.
  • Staring: Many dogs stare as signs of affection or wanting attention, but if the dog is displaying stiff body language, assume the dog is uncomfortable and watching your every move, in case you act out of line.
  • Trying to engage a fearful dogIf a dog is afraid, they will likely try to run away first, but they may turn aggressive if you go after them. If you decide to engage a nervous animal, get down to their level and have them come to you.
  • Territorial: Whether it’s food, a bone or a toy, some dogs are very possessive about their belongings. Unless you know exactly how hey will react and know how to handle the dog, do not reach for their possession until the dog has lost interest.

Lastly, be very careful if attempting to break up a dog attack, as an aggressive dog can redirect its aggression on you and confrontational training methods. This type of training can signal to a dog that it’s okay to regularly act on their overly-aggressive traits.