Characteristics of a Dog With Nervous Aggression

Dog sometimes exhibits fear aggression, which is really fear-based defensive behavior. A dog will be rolling, barking, and showing its teeth to scare off threatening objects, other dogs, and people. They will exhibit this behavior because it works for them. Dog owners should look at the problem from the dog’s perspective rather than assume the dog is simply bad. It is crucial to know the characteristics of a dog with nervous aggression. It will help you know the reason behind the fear and use conditioning techniques to help train out the behavior.

Behaviors That Sometimes Lead to Aggression

Characteristics of a Dog With Nervous Aggression


Reactive dogs are commonly thought of as aggressive. Reactive dogs are overexcited by specific triggers or stimuli. Typical reasons for this behavior are genetics, under socialization, insufficient training, a scary experience, or a combination of all these. It can result in reactivity where fear is the driving force. Reactive dogs will be triggered by seemingly harmless stimuli such as men with hats or beards, small children, and being leashed. If a reactive dog gets near you, the best you can do is to keep your distance and give him space. Never attempt to greet them. If you are an owner of a reactive dog, it is crucial to collaborate with a trainer to apply behavior modification techniques to mitigate escalation to full aggression.

Fight or Flight

What are characteristics of a dog with nervous aggression? The most common cause of aggression is fear. Typically, your dog will choose to distance himself from whatever is triggering his fear. In situations where a dog might be cornered and cannot flee, he will fight to protect himself. You can identify fearful dogs from their body language. They might also bite the air and make quick snaps when these threatening triggers are near.

Accidents with dogs could be mitigated if people understand that some behaviors appear threatening to dogs. For example, when you get near a dog and reach out a hand to pet his head, they might react fearfully. A top cause of fear in dogs is under socialization. Dogs with positive experiences with people, sounds, and places from a young age are likelier to be relaxed and less fearful. Training a puppy to relax when being handled will also help.

Resource Guarding

Characteristics of a Dog With Nervous Aggression

Dogs will protect things that are important to them. These may be toys, food, bones, sleeping areas, and even their human owners. This tendency are inherited behaviors from their ancestors. In the wild, dogs protect resources to survive.

Train your dog to follow commands such as leave it, and get off, can help mitigate this behavior. Another effective way to mitigate resource guarding is to trade with your dog. Provided them with treats and rewards in exchange for what he is guarding. You can also toss a treat into his food bowl while they are eating.


Dogs will grow bark and lunge towards objects that trigger their fear. These uncomfortable stimuli may be other dogs, people, children, and people wearing hats. Dogs that exhibit this behavior are trying to increase the distance between themselves and the threatening stimuli.

How to Calm Your Dog – Characteristics of a Dog With Nervous Aggression


As much as possible, do not expose your dog to situations that provoke their defensive behavior. The more a dog repeats a particular behavior, the more it becomes ingrained in him. Since this behavior is repeated, it becomes a habit.


Have your dog undergo obedience training. Training helps increase communication and understanding between dogs and their handlers. It also helps the dog learn desirable behaviors. Apply reward-based training, which is providing your dogs what they want for following your commands. Do it to destress and to motivate your dog. During the training include relaxation exercises, following commands, and leash walking.

Make sure to enforce positive behaviors during the day. Dogs repeat behavior that gets them what they want, and they will repeat what works for them. So, if you find your dog doing something desirable, such as being calm, observing you, or chewing a bone, make sure to positively reinforce it. Check out good books for training dogs to give you additional tips.


Characteristics of a Dog With Nervous Aggression

Apply classical conditioning with desensitization methods and counterconditioning. The process of desensitization exposes your dog to the fear trigger. Start at a lower threshold where fear is not triggered. Afterward, increase the intensity of exposure if you find your dog is calm and relaxed. Counterconditioning is pairing a fear trigger with something extremely pleasant such as treats. The following example shows what to do with a dog that is fear aggressive towards other dogs.

Take your dog outdoors for a walk, and as soon as another dog approaches, provide your dog with high value treats such as cheese and roast beef. Continue giving the treats as long as the other dog is present. When the dog leaves, stop giving your dog treats. Repeating this method, the fearful dog learns that they will get treats when other dogs approach.

You might want to enlist a dog trainer or animal behaviorist to make sure that you are applying the right timing when giving the rewards. They will also make recommendations on how long each session should last. It is necessary to get expert help if your dog’s aggression is directed towards humans. You need to invest time and patience to change your dog’s emotional responses. Methods expert trainers will work well in mitigating fear aggression.


Observe your dog for signs of distress. They may exhibit subtle tensing of their bodies, lip licking, and panting. They might turn their head away from fearful situations, yawn, freeze, bite the leash, whine, and growl. When dogs exhibit these stress reactions, intervene by protecting your dog from the distressing situation. You might want to increase the distance from threatening situations. Use a spray bottle or put yourself between your dog and the fear trigger.


Make sure you are relaxed because your dog might get affected by your emotional state. Mitigate a tense situation by singing a jolly tune. It is effective and really works.


To make your dog more responsive to you, offer them rewards they deserve, such as treats, petting, and a walk outdoors. On the other hand, remove rewards for undesirable behaviors. Withhold treats or attention. This training program is known as nothing in life is free. Instruct your dog to sit and calm down before getting what they want, such as their food bowl, belly rubs, and a walk outdoors. You’ll find that dogs thrive when they have something to do. Allowing your dog to earn what they want helps mitigate tension and anxiety that may come up in certain situations, especially if your dog is uncertain who they should follow.                             


Train your dog to perform tricks and agility activities. As they learn skills, his confidence will grow, making him less fearful. The dog will learn how to make positive things happen.


Never punish your dog for fear aggression. Punishment only makes a fearful situation worse. It could increase mistrust between you and your dog. The uncomfortable trigger might become scarier and increase the stress of your dog. Instead, focus on training so your dog’s fear will be mitigated. Help him earn success and positive experiences.


Never force your dog to confront the object or situation that is triggering his fear. As an example, if he overreacts to bicycles and you force him to be exposed to them, he will become more fearful with bicycles.                                                                  


Your dog must have plenty of exercise. Exercise does not resolve the fear issue, but if a dog expends his energies by exercisng, it may mitigate other behavioral problems. A tired dog is a calm and good dog.

Medical Conditions

Make sure to rule out medical conditions. Get your dog examined by a vet to make sure they are not suffering from a health problem. A vet will also recommend behavioral training to help you further in calming your dog.


Diet is the cause of a majority of behavioral problems. A poor diet can affect your dog’s mood, so it is crucial to experiment with your vet with various high-quality dog nutrition. Examine ingredients on the label. Some brands will be premium or super-premium. It will have protein sources as one of the main ingredients and include whole grains. The food brand should have zero corn, byproducts, and preservatives. These ingredients can have adverse effects on your dog’s behavior.


Fearful dogs can improve their behavior if they feel less anxious. You might want to consider homeopathic calming aids utilizing flower essences. These remedies are effective in dealing with stress. It has zero side effects, so it is harmless to try. Apply four drops of these flower essences to your dog’s water daily. You can purchase these flower essences at health and natural food stores.

Body Language – Characteristics of a Dog With Nervous Aggression

Dogs cannot tell you what they feel; instead, you have to observe their body language. Through their bodies, they show other dogs and humans how they feel about different situations. The following are some common body languages of dogs.

Your dog is friendly if they exhibit the following:

  • Relaxed body
  • Soft mouth and a happy expression
  • Wagging their tail
  • Play bow
  • Relaxed ears
  • Relaxed tail and wags and wiggle their entire body
  • Rolling over and exposing their belly
  • Approaching you for a petting
  • Soft look in their eyes, a gentle gaze, and blinking often

In contrast, look out for the following signs of anxiety:

  • Yawning without being tired
  • Licking the lips
  • Scratching
  • Sniffing
  • Panting
  • Having their tail tucked under the body

The following are signs of arousal:

  • Ears forward with mouth closed
  • Intense eyes with the whites showing
  • Tense body in a forward position
  • Slowly wagging tail held high
  • Raised hackles

The following are warning signs your dog is about to bite:

  • Prolonged, intense eye contact
  • Showing whites of the eyes
  • Revealing the teeth
  • Growling
  • Taut body

Behaviors That Are Similar to Aggression

Nipping puppies

Puppies explore their world through their mouth. During puppy play with other dogs and their owners, they can become mouthy and bite harder than they should. This nipping behavior is not aggression. Instead, your puppy may be overstimulated and need a break.

Rough Play

Rough play is typical in dog interactions. It resembles mock fighting. Puppies learn how to do this from other dogs. This kind of play is intense, can get loud, and appear aggressive. But if both dogs are enjoying and having fun, it can be a great socialization activity that also provides your dog with plenty of exercise.

Physical Discomfort

A dog that suddenly growls and starts snapping may be sick or experiencing pain. If this behavior is atypical and unexpected, you may want to take your dog to your vet for an examination to rule out medical causes.

To safeguard against the development of aggression, it is crucial to socialize your dog properly. Gradually expose your dog as early as the puppy stage to different people, places, situations, and noises. The secret is to expose your dog to these novel situations as long as they can handle it. Make sure you do not overwhelm your dog. Your dog should approach new things at their own pace. Allow your dog to leave if he wants.

Final Thoughts

One of the main reasons dog lovers enjoy having a canine furball in their life is their warm and friendly company. But in some cases, dogs are sensitive and exceptionally touchy. They can be reactive to harmless stimuli. Unfortunately, when they feel threatened, dogs exhibit behavior similar to aggression. It Is crucial to know the characteristics of a dog with nervous aggression. Make sure to train out their nervous aggression and encourage your dog to be calm and relaxed. Please provide them with rewards when they follow your command and exhibit desirable behaviors.

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