It can be traumatic to witness a dog become aggressive and attack. Dogs can attack for a number of reasons, but usually, they are provoked by something. Pet owners should never believe that their dog won’t attack. Even the calmest of dogs can become aggressive if they are scared or feel threatened. Dogs do not like to be startled or be cornered. They can often quickly change their attitude toward a particular situation or person.

Hormones, painful medical conditions or injuries, and certain medications can affect a dog’s normal behavior. Having your pet examined by a veterinarian will rule out a physical condition that could be causing the dog to act out.

A dog will almost always give warning signs what they are about to attack. Being aware of the potential forewarnings will help owners prevent attacks.

1. Understand your dog’s body language

Watch their ears, eyes, tail, and posture. Be aware of how they are reacting to their surroundings. Growling is one of the most common signs of aggression. It is a warning that the dog has become fearful or stressed.

2. Biting is another sign to watch out for

Biting is also a sign that a dog could attack. Biting should never be ignored, even if the bites do not break the skin or cause bleeding. If the behavior is not addressed and dealt with, it will likely continue and possibly get worse.

3. Does your dog stop eating when people come by?

Dog owners should also pay attention if their dog stops eating when they or someone else approaches. They may also snarl, lick their lips and show their teeth. These too are signs of a dog about to attack.

4. Other common warning signs

Other behaviors that could indicate an attack are the tendency to chase or lunge at other dogs, small animals, or people. Acting overly protective of their owners, their territory or their puppies is another warning. Supervise dogs who will not allow children near their toys.

5. Avoid direct eye contact

When a dog is acting tense, and when their tail is stiff rather than happily wagging, do not make direct eye contact. Act as your dog’s friend and allow space between them and whatever is triggering the aggression.


Do not assume signs of attack are just a phase or will go away. If you are not sure how to handle certain behavior in your dog, or if they react aggressively to reprimand, consult a veterinarian or animal behavioral specialist. Correcting the behavior will help protect you, your dog and the people around you.


In California, pet owners are responsible for injuries their dogs cause