Dogs Hair Standing Up: Here’s 5 Tips to Identify & Deal with Their Aggression


dog and baby cheetah with hair standing up

If you have a dog you are probably already familiar with that heart stopping moment when they see something and run.  Even the best trained dogs in the world can have moments like these.

dog hair standing on end

It is at times like this you will feel your hair standing up as a chill goes through your body.

The problem, for a dog, is that there are simply too many stimuli when they are out; there will always be one thing which appears very appealing.

In fact, there will probably be many things which are more appealing than coming when you call.

By itself this might not be too major an issue.  After all, your dog will come eventually.

But what if your dog is aggressive or simply large enough to knock children over?

Fact: Dogs Hair standing up does not mean your dog is being aggressive.

Identifying Aggression in Your Dog

dog baring teethThere are a variety of reasons why your dog may become aggressive, these include issues with food, territory, sexual urges or simply fear.

Common signs of aggression include:

  • Dominant Aggression – This is displayed when your dog forces themselves between you and someone you are hugging. Alternatively it can be shown by blocking the path, stopping eating or even putting their head on another dog’ back.  You may see the dog’s hair standing up.
  • Fear Aggression – In general your dog will appear to be submissive; they are likely to have their ears back and body low to the ground. They will avoid eye contact, tuck their tail between their legs and may even urinate.
Top Tip
A fear aggressive dog is unlikely to have hair standing up; but it is unpredictable.  Fear can become a motivation to attack without warning.

Dog to Dog – Hair Standing on End Time

dog lunging at anotherThe above signs of aggression are visible whether your dog is dealing with humans or dogs.  However, there are a very unique signs that your dog is aggressive to other dogs:

  • Lunging – specifically at any dog they see.
  • Hackles – Your dog’s hair standing up is a sign of aggression towards another dog.
  • Eye contact – An aggressive dog will stare at other dogs until they look away or show submissive behavior.
  • Teeth – Showing their teeth indicates they are not only aggressive; they are ready to fight.
Remember: Do not try to pull fighting dogs apart; you will get bitten.  A bucket of cold water or a handy hose will quickly stop them.

Discover the Science behind Dog Hair Standing

Hair standing up on a dog is often referred to as hackles raised.  It is an indicator of how your dog is feeling.

sad / scared dogThe scientific term for this hair raising trick is ‘piloerection’; literally ‘hair rising’.

When you see your dog’s hair standing up then you know that the dog has just experienced something which has made them jump.

The hair standing is an autonomous reaction to demonstrate they are reacting to external stimuli.

You will need to look at the body language of the dog to understand which emotion they are currently dealing with:

  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Nervous
  • Angry / aggressive
  • Uncertainty

The hair standing up can be just at the shoulders; or all the way to the tip of the tail!

Identifying the reason for the hair standing up on your dog will help you to react appropriately.  In the case of excitement it will quickly pass as the event unfolds.

However, fear, nervousness and uncertainty can often respond well to some personal time.  Grooming, providing you choose the right brush, can be beneficial.  You will need to know the best way to remove dog hair  from your clothes afterwards!

Top Tips to Deal With Aggressive Behavior

If your dog’s hair is standing up from aggression then you need to monitor it.  You can simply remove the dog from the situation to relieve the tension.

But, you may find it more beneficial to understand what is causing the behavior; this will help you to address the issue and solve the problem for future encounters.

These tips can help to reduce and eliminate aggression in dogs; although it will not prevent their hair standing up!

  1. Socializationdogs meetingThe best thing to do with any dog is to ensure they meet plenty of other dogs; preferably this should start when they are a puppy and continue into adult life.This will help to reduce the fear of the unknown; which is often the issue when they meet new dogs for the first time.It is best to get them to play with other dogs that you know are well behaved; they learn their behavior from them.
  2. NeuteringMale dogs can be aggressive simply because they have got the scent of a female dog or they are trying to establish their place in the social ladder.Whilst a small amount of social maneuvering is acceptable between dogs at home, neutering them will help to prevent aggression when meeting other dogs and even people.
  3. TreatmentA dog which is well treated will have much less to fear than one who is regularly shouted at and told off / hit.If they are well treated then they will know they are safe at home and with you; this will help them to lose their fear and aggression when out.A dog is happy when it knows its place, by treating it well you will have its respect and it will allow you to be the dominant and aggressive one.You should always use positive reinforcement when training and dealing with your dog.  It is also important to groom them regularly; this will soothe them, create a bond and help minimize dog shedding.
  4. Exposureboy and dogSome dogs have developed a fear through the way they have been handled or the things they have experienced.  Others are naturally wary and fearful of many things.This can lead to their hair standing up and aggression through fear.Fortunately, it is possible to treat this, but it requires patience.  You will need to introduce them to the item or event that they fear slowly, a little at a time.They will gradually get used to it and be comfortable around it; preventing their hair standing up and your stress levels rising!
  5. Professional HelpIf you are still struggling to deal with the aggression in your dog, or find there is not enough time in your day, then there are many professionals who can assist you.There is no shame in seeking their help; they will have seen dog hair standing on end for a variety of reasons and will know how to improve your dog’s behavior!


cat and dog happy togetherEvery dog will have a trigger which causes their hackles to rise.  However, it should now be clear that this hair standing up is not always a sign of aggression.  As a responsible pet owner you need to identify your dog’s concern and deal with it in the appropriate way.

This may mean removing them from the situation or allowing them to desensitize to a specific item over time.

Hackles raised, or hair standing up is not a sign of a bad dog or a bad owner; you simply need to understand what is causing it and deal with it accordingly.

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