Tips and news

The ladder of aggressiveness in dogs

In this post we help you understand when your dog is uncomfortable, and how they express it through their body language. It is important to understand these signs in order to act accordingly and avoid potential conflicts.

For the most part, dogs communicate with their body language. To express themselves they use body posture, eyes, ears, tail, mouth … Of course, they also use this form of language to express discomfort. Seeing these signs, a well socialized dog acts accordingly to avoid conflict.

Here we want to list the different signals, and how close the dog is to the point of physical aggression. It is commonly known as the ladder of aggressiveness. Recognizing the signs of the steps is important as it will help you control, know how to handle and eliminate early states of stress and threats that the dog perceives.

The different states are:

  1. Mild:
    He blinks, yawns, or licks his nose.
    Turn your head, avoid eye contact.
  2. Mild-Medium:
    It moves the body away, sits or paws.
    Walk away from the stimulus.
    Walk dragging the body. It shows the ears lowered and attached.
  3. Medium-High:
    It remains crouched and has its tail between its legs.
    He turns on his back (showing submission).
    He stiffens. Your gaze is fixed on what is bothering you.
  4. High:
    Mark with his mouth (bites into the air).

It is common to see the first 4 steps in your dog’s day to day. For example, if you take a toy from him or do not let him smell a trace that interests him, it is very possible that he will lick his nose, showing frustration. When we take them to the vet, we will surely see them yawn in even trying to get away from the vet.

If you see that your dog shows signs of discomfort within the highest area of ​​the ladder, it is recommended that you help eliminate the stimulus. For example, if you are in the dog park and your dog is uncomfortable with another dog, it is best that you leave and come back later. On the other hand, if you see that your dog is making someone else uncomfortable, you should intercede and keep your dog away to avoid conflicts.

Stress contagion

Another factor to take into account is the ability of our dogs to read our nervousness or stress. They do it through our body movements, smell, voice, and the tension of the leash. Therefore, in encounters with other dogs we can, without meaning to, transmit our insecurities to them and raise their status within the aggressive ladder. It is important to be aware of our emotions and avoid pulling or pushing when our dog is interacting with other dogs.

And finally, when two dogs are in a moment of tension and the owner slaps his dog (either with his hand, with the leash, tap with the knee …), he will be fueling conflict and, possibly, aggression. At that moment, your dog associates the aggression with the stimulus that makes him uncomfortable and possibly starts to attack. Ultimately, your aggressiveness becomes his aggressiveness.

Strap reactivity

Notice how off-leash dogs communicate differently. It depends on the relationship they have with the leash, they have learned that when they are tied they are “trapped”, and they do not have the freedom to move or flee if they see it necessary. The jerks, not letting sniff, forcing to walk … It makes them aware that they are tied.

Encounters with other dogs can be a tense situation in and of themselves. Especially if you have a reactive dog. If your dog is aware that he is tied, it is possible that he “feels trapped” and sees no other option than to try to drive the other dog away, showing signs of aggression. Therefore, you have to be the one to help him get out of that situation by reading his body signals since they will climb.

You see a lot of bad interactions between dogs because of the owners. For example: when the dogs are sniffing, give a tug with the leash, a push with the knee, hit the dog when a conflict between two dogs has ended, among others.

Keep in mind that the leash is a safety mechanism, but control over your dog has to be verbal. You have to let your dog feel as free as he can even if he is tied up. If your dog is interacting with another dog, don’t jerk unless the situation calls for it (a fight, for example).

The importance of good bite inhibition

To conclude, most conflicts between dogs are about making a lot of noise but not getting to blood. The key is in bite inhibition.

When the puppies are around 3-4 months old, they start to bite more frequently. Between them, when they hurt each other, they stop the game and leave a time slot before playing again. This is their way of “telling” themselves that the game is out of control, and that they have to better measure the force of the bite.

It is vitally important for your puppy to play with other puppies so that he develops good bite inhibition. Puppy parties are very popular events to help your puppy socialize properly and develop good bite inhibition.

At home, you can play with your dog to bite and, when you notice that he is putting more pressure than usual, he will scream and stop the game. Leave the room for a minute or two, and go back to playing with your puppy after asking him to sit down. Never punish your puppy because he has bitten harder than normal, since he can damage the relationship between you.

A dog with good bite inhibition opens his mouth but does not press, even in times of stress or tension. In the few cases where the dog makes pressure with his mouth, he rarely breaks the skin (there is no blood).

We hope you put the advice in this post into practice, and help your dog in those situations in which he feels uncomfortable.

By subscribing to our newsletter, you agree to our privacy policy.