Many owners like to think that their beloved pooch wouldn’t hurt a fly, but a dog’s behaviour and body language can often reveal a lot about their intentions, even if owners may not realise it at the time.
Vet Emma Chandley has revealed some of the subtle signs that owners might miss which indicate that a dog may become aggressive.
“There are many subtle signs that your dog may react dangerously in their day-to-day life. Many of these signs are present before your dog has bitten anyone. Owners need to be aware of these signs so that they can intervene and get help before their dog hurts or kills another animal or human,” Chandley said.
Dogs that are anti-social towards other dogs and humans are likely to display signs of aggression during many interactions.
“Dogs that won’t share their toys and growl if other animals or humans touch their toys are more likely to show aggression. If the dog is nervous outside and chases cars, other animals or members of the public jogging or on a bike – this is a warning sign that the dog is nervous and dysregulated,” Chandley explained.
“If they pull and lunge at other dogs or humans when they are on the lead or show aggressive tendencies towards strangers this is also a red flag. They may be overly protective of their owner or growl or lunge if their owner interacts with another dog or human. They may feel extremely threatened when they are in the car and people pass them.”
The expression to let sleeping dogs lie is also true according to Chandley.
“Dogs may growl or snarl if they are made to move from a bed or sofa. They may react badly if they are touched while they are sleeping. They may become territorial over who sleeps on the bed with them, for example accepting one partner but objecting to another,” she said.
Food aggression is a behaviour that is common amongst dogs but the severity may not be fully recognised.
“Dogs will often become aggressive over food. They may snarl and growl while eating, they might stop eating when they are approached, and they may steal food and become aggressive if their owner attempts to retrieve it,” she explained.
A refusal to allow contact with some or most people is another sign that a dog may become aggressive.
“Alarm bells should be ringing if the dog won’t allow certain people to touch them,” Chandley warned.
“Some dogs won’t tolerate any sort of physical touch even in a relaxed situation with a familiar person. Some dogs will growl when being groomed or when at the vets.”
Last but not least, any form of growling from dogs should be taken seriously, even if the dog does not follow through by attempting to attack.
“Dogs will usually growl as a warning sign to other dogs or humans,” Chandley said.
“Dogs will growl when they feel threatened or frightened. Not all dogs will follow through with a snap or a bite, however, if it has got to the point when your dog is growling, this is a sign that your dog is ready to harm.”