So, your dog’s hair just stood up on end… what does it mean?!  Most people would immediately assume their dog is about to attack something or somebody, but that’s not necessarily the case.  A dog’s hair can raise up for a variety of reasons, and with a little observation you can easily read what’s going on.

A dog’s hair can stand on end when:


1. Aggression is in the Air

Along with excitement, this behavior is usually easy to spot.  Jill Breitner, a dog trainer and behavior specialist says to look for:

“slightly raised hair at the shoulders and just along the top of the left dog’s back, along with ears back and down, hard eyes, tail high, wide open mouth with teeth showing, and more of a rigid body posture. This combination of hair and body behavior signals aggression from the dog.”


2. They are Going to Hunt Something

This is all about the situation your dog is in.  Look around, are there other small animals or birds nearby that may be triggering a hunting response?  Our dog expert says this:

“If a dog is highly aroused, the hair can stand up from their neck all the way to the tip of their tail”

You really need to judge the situation and determine if your dog is potentially hunting something.


3. They are Anxious or Afraid

Dogs can get anxious for a variety of reasons.  Frequently, dogs that did not get a chance to socialize with many other dogs as a puppy can get anxious around other dogs.  Our behavior expert says to look for:

“low horizontal tail wagging, squinty eyes, and a paw lift — all with wiggly interest.”

Fortunately, in most cases, this anxiety subsides within minutes.  If you see your dog exhibiting this behavior for a long period, however, you may want to remove them from the situation… but note that more often than not, they simply require more socialization and eventually this behavior will disappear.


4. They are Excited

This one is usually pretty easy to figure out!  Along with raised hair, look for:

“fast horizontal tail wagging, forward ears, even barking and lunging on the leash in excitement.”

Learning the signs your dog exhibits will easily allow you to react appropriately.  It can also be helpful when encountering unfamiliar dogs as well!  Just remember that each dog, and each situation are different and you need to treat them as such.

One of the easiest things to do is redirect the attention of your dog in any given situation and see how they react.  If they remain focused on what they were doing, regardless of your attempts to distract them, then you might be witnessing aggressive or hunting behavior.  Again, just pay attention and after a while, you’ll be able to figure out what is happening.

So just pay close attention the next time you see the hair on your dog stand on end and soon you’ll be understanding each other that much better!



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