Everything You Need to Know About Fear Aggression in Dogs

You may have heard of scary news about how dog bites in public. Yes, this is a serious problem and could potentially happen if you leave fear aggression in dogs untreated.

Not only are you putting people’s lives at risk, but also your dog’s, which they might be euthanized if things go terribly wrong.

So what is fear aggression?

What causes this undesirable behavior, and what are the signs of it?

Most importantly, how do you manage it if your dog happens to have this problem to ensure everyone is safe?

Below we will discuss everything you need to know about fear aggression in dogs.

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What is Fear Aggression?

Dog Fear Aggression

Fear aggression in dogs is a common issue that many pet owners face.

It is a behavioral problem in which dogs feel that they are being threatened and become aggressive. The stimulus can be strangers, kids, other animals, or anything that will stress them out.

When that happens, their natural flight-or-fight response will kick in, which is a way of how dogs respond to their perceived threats. What that means is that they will either try to leave or to fight.

To help you better understand this, let’s assume a dog that has been attacked before for several times is walking on the street. What do you think his response will be if he sees a scary dog walking towards him? 

Yes, his intuition will tell him to either flee the scene or if he has no other choice, he will strike.


Because he has the history of being attacked before, and he is afraid the same thing will happen again. So, in this case, the scary dog is the stimulus that triggers his fear aggression.

What Causes Fear Aggression?

Aggressive Dog

There are several reasons that may cause dogs to have this behavioral issue in the first place. It could be due to their lack of socialization at an early age. As a result, they are afraid of the new things they encounter and don’t know the appropriate way to respond to it.

The dog’s genetics also play a big part in this, which could cause them to be more skittish and fearful. So make sure you get your puppy from a reliable and reputable source.

It could also be due to the way you train your dog. If the training method is inconsistent, it will cause your dog to become anxious. The reason is that they are unsure if they will get rewarded or punished for doing the same trick. 

Additionally, if you use the old school coercive training technique, you will make it worse because they fear that they will get punished. That is also the reason why positive reinforcement is so popular in recent years and why a good training book is crucial. 

What Are the Signs of a Fear Aggressive Dog?

Signs of a Fear Aggressive Dog

Recognizing the signs of a fear aggressive dog is very important as it allows you to try correcting the unwanted behavior as early as possible before it becomes too severe.

Note that dogs will often warn you before they bite. You can tell by observing their body language and see if they did display some of the following:

  • Cowering
  • Squinting eyes to avoid eye contact
  • Growl
  • Showing teeth
  • Snap
  • Snarl
  • Nip
  • Bite
  • Lip licking
  • Yawn when they are not tired
  • Tail is tucked in under their body
  • Tail is standing straight up and rigid

If your dog is showing some of the combinations of the above, especially when their stimulus is approaching them, which in the example we used earlier is the scary dog. Then, your dog is very likely to have fear aggression.

Professional Dog Obedience Training

Unluckily, there is no permanent cure.

The best thing you can do is to minimize the chances of your dog turning aggressive by reducing their exposure to the people or things that they thought is a threat.

The other way to deal with it is, of course, by hiring a qualified dog behavior professional.

Now, you might ask why should you even bother if there is no guaranteed cure?

The answer is because you will be held accountable for whatever your dog does or damage he might cause in public. And as a responsible pet parent, you should always do your best to help keep your dog healthy and happy.

How do I Manage My Fear Aggressive Dog?

Managing Dog Fear Aggression

If it is unfortunate that your dog has this problem, you will need to address it as soon as you can. This is to prevent the issue from escalating further, which your dog might bite out of fear.

Though there are many different techniques you can apply, they will have adverse effects if the wrong treatment is used.

This is why it is best to look for a qualified dog behavior professional to help desensitize your dog’s fear and rebuild their confidence. However, if you can’t afford it, here are some of the things that you can do yourself.

  • Find what makes your dog uncomfortable and will trigger them to react out of fear. Once you know what that is, minimize their exposure to the stimulus.
  • Make the surrounding more predictable so that there are no surprises that will potentially scare your dog.
  • Give your dog lots of exercises as the study has shown that exercise will lead to less fearful reactions.
  • Always remain calm no matter what, so that they know they are safe by your side, and there is nothing they need to be afraid of.
  • Don’t stare at them because this will intimidate them and increase their fear.
  • Use the dog’s language to ask them to calm down. You can do this by walking away from what they thought is scary and pretend to yawn.
  • Introduce your dog to the things that they are afraid of. Always start from a distance that is far enough so that it doesn’t stress them out. And if they are not showing any signs of fear, reward them with high-value treats. Keep practicing this and slowly bring the distance closer. After a period of time, they will start associating the stimulus with treats and will eventually learn that it is not so scary after all.
  • Provide your dog obedience training to teach them the appropriate and positive way to respond to things.
  • Visit the veterinarian to check if there is any health issue that causes them to be fearful.
  • If you have visitors, explain to them that your dog has fear aggression and ask them to follow your rules when they enter the house.
  • If your dog is showing fear-related aggression, avoid petting their head as this will only increase their fear. Don’t corner them and make sure to give them enough space to calm down.
  • Don’t let children approach your dog because kids tend to be more curious and will do things that might trigger your fear aggressive dogs such as poking and pulling.
  • Never disturb them while they are at sleep. If you need to wake them up, call their name instead of touching them.


Managing a fear aggressive dog can be really hard and challenging. But remember, they are still part of your family at the end of the day, which means you will have to take good care of them regardless. And you should try your best to keep them happy.

If you are about to adopt a new puppy or dog, you know how serious fear aggression is. So, make sure you do everything you can to prevent this from happening in the first place.

Look for a reliable breeder, socialize your dog and provide them a good, consistent, and positive training!

Infographic for Fear Aggression in Dogs

Fear Aggression in Dogs Infographic

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