Fear Aggression versus Outward Aggression

Signs of Fear Aggression in Dogs

  • Head held low
  • Wrinkling of the nose
  • Curled lips, teeth exposed
  • Corners of the mouth pulled back
  • Ears pinned back
  • Raised hackles
  • Tail tucked/lowered
  • Panting


Fearful dogs will typically choose fight over flight if given the option. In a kennel environment or on a leash, we have taken away their ability to run. If you must handle a dog exhibiting fear aggressive behavior, do so with caution. Ideally, take some time to sit on the ground with your body angled away from the dog. Avoid direct eye contact, and talk in a calm, kind voice. Toss treats at them if they will take them. Fearful dogs typically snap when you have them cornered, or as you are walking away. Never turn your back on a dog exhibiting aggressive behaviors.

Signs of Outward Aggression in Dogs

  • Head held high
  • Front teeth exposed when lips curled
  • “Puffy” lips/huffing
  • Ears up and forward
  • Tail stiff and held upright, slight stiff wagging motion
  • Stiff posture
  • Mouth usually closed when not barking/growlingpost-3404-0-98483000-1362360823




Knowing the difference between fear and outward/assertive aggression is critical. Approaching the wrong one incorrectly will likely end in a bite. If a dog is exhibiting outwardly aggressive behaviors, do not attempt to handle him unless absolutely necessary.


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