Raised hackles, the hair on a dogs back and neck, confuse many pet parents. They may see them as a sign of aggression, but that isnt always the case. Raised hackles do not qualify as a behavior, as they are an involuntary reflex triggered by something that put the dog into a state of arousal. There is actually a medical term for the reaction: piloerection (pilo referring to hair in medical terms).
What breed of dog has hair that stands up?
One breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, has permanently displayed raised hackles that is a prominence of his breed rather than a constant piloerection. Many people assume that “hackling” is a sign of aggression and that any dog with raised hackles is looking to fight.
What are the first signs of stress in a dog?
Stress is a commonly used word that describes feelings of strain or pressure. The causes of stress are exceedingly varied. ….Pacing or shaking. ….Whining or barking. ….Yawning, drooling, and licking. ….Changes in eyes and ears. ….Changes in body posture. ….Shedding. ….Panting.
Why do German shepherds hair stand up when barking?
A German Shepherd’s hair will stand up on his back due to piloerection, also known as raised hackles. The involuntary contraction of small muscles at the base of hair follicles causes it in response to certain emotions such as excitement, anxiousness, fear, nervousness, or aggression.
During your days of German Shepherd ownership, there will no doubt come a time when his hair along his back will virtually stand up! Dogs will raise their hackles for many reasons, and knowing the cause is essential. So, why does your German Shepherds hair stand up?
The involuntary contraction of small muscles at the base of hair follicles causes it in response to certain emotions such as excitement, anxiousness, fear, nervousness, or aggression. These erect hairs are found along his back, beginning at the neck and running down to the tip of the tail.
They are more noticeable in the German Shepherd breed due to their coarse, dense, and wiry fur. They simply come and go when they please in response to something happening, whether its just a breeze of brisk, ice-cold wind, or we are feeling a type of emotion, such as being scared or angry. Raised hackles can be more common in German Shepherds due to their extremely protective nature.
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However, this overly loyal and protective dog is also highly dominant and can be a bit on the aggressive side if he is not trained or socialized properly. Not only is this unethical and wrong , but it can also teach your German Shepherd that acting out in this way is normal the opposite of what you want to accomplish! While training is important, you should also make sure that your German Shepherd has a quiet place to relax, such as a crate or a special part of a room, and that he receives ample amounts of both physical and mental exercise per day, with 2 hours being the absolute minimum.
For the cool and casual German Shepherd, sudden aggression when new people or pets come near can result from anxiety. He may begin to show signs of fear, such as cowering down, whining, flattened ears, or tail tucked between the hind legs. In some severe cases, your German Shepherd may show a nervousness that results in excessive panting, drooling, and urinating or defecating unknowingly.
The last thing you want is for your German Shepherd to be labeled as an aggressive dog simply because he does not know how to control himself due to his anxiety or fear when meeting new people and animals. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to help ease your German Shepherd out of social anxiety. You will need to handle the situation differently, depending on whether your German Shepherd feels anxious around new people or animals.
Keep a close eye on your German Shepherd and watch to see if his hairs stand up which will give you an indication as to how he is feeling. As he begins to break down his barrier with steady new experiences, you can start taking him on outings and exposing him to different situations. Heres a complete guide of 24 perfectly safe vegetables that German Shepherds can eat to give you some ideas.
Another tip is to ensure the other dog is of the opposite sex to your GSD as he/she wont feel as anxious or fearful. Being overly excited is something that he may be struggling with and could be upsetting and annoying for your dog, who simply may just want to relax just like when you and I are unable to sleep when we get overtired! Without enough exercise, your German Shepherd can easily find himself overexcited with too much energy or even end up destructive or aggressive.
Enter the German Shepherds instinctive prey drive and the final cause of his raised hackles. The German Shepherd originally had a high prey drive but its not as strong nowadays as he is no longer used much for protecting sheep. The squirrel got away.again! If your German Shepherd only preys once in a while and he isnt aggressive or causing any harm, its not something you should worry too much about its natural .
But if this is a common theme for your dog and he is becoming somewhat aggressive, especially with other pets you may have in the home, you will need totake steps to reduce the prey drive: We have learned that your German Shepherds hairs standing up on his back are caused by many emotions such as aggression, anxiety, and fear although he can also be showing a high prey drive or even overexcitement. Remedies include early socialization, obedience training using positive reinforcement, and plenty of exercise.
When she is not spending time with Willow, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site.
This process is called piloerection and it is mediated by tiny muscles in the skin. People experience piloerection too, except we call it chill bumps. We can experience them when we are afraid, like in a scary movie or when we are actually chilled. Your dogs piloerection can occur from the same stimuli. Contraction of the muscles that pulls the hair up is an automatic response. Your dog does not mentally decide to raise the hairs (and neither do you).
Have you ever noticed the hair on your dog’s back stand on end? It might be the hair along their spine stands up, almost like a hedgehog backed into a corner. These hairs are known as hackles and raised hackles are a normal reaction for the dog, similar to how we humans can experience goosebumps. Similarly, the reasons behind such a reaction are also varied and may have implications about the dog’s well-being, and not only in the moment in which it happens.
When a dog is angry, they can growl, bear their teeth, wag their tail and even keep their ears forward. If you notice your dog’s back hairs standing on end and think they are angry, try to divert their attention from the source of discomfort.
Fear can cause dogs to be reactive, so they may growl or bear their teeth similar to when they are angry. Dogs which have been poorly socialized, abused or abandoned by previous owners are generally more likely to be fearful animals. Other signs of a happy dog include wagging their tail excitedly, barking or jumping around.
Unneutered dogs are generally more prone to various negative behaviors, including aggression, jealousy and hyperactivity. When they are neutered, the testicles are removed and this lessens the likelihood of problem behaviors, although it is not the only influence on how a dog acts.
Raised hackles as anxiety
My German Shepherd Dog, Ginger, used to display raised hackles every time she met a new dog. I rescued her when she was 7 months old. She hadn’t been properly socialized because she had parvovirus as a pup and needed to be kept away from other dogs until she fully recovered. When she was well enough to finally meet other pups, she was beyond the critical period of puppy socialization and was out of control on the leash, which is why I rescued her.Meeting new dogs caused her much anxiety, and as an adult that manifested into raised hackles. All of her other body parts conveyed appeasing signals: low horizontal tail wagging, squinty eyes and a paw lift — all with wiggly interest. The good news was I understood her behavior, and the better news was that dogs we met also read and understood her body language: she was anxious yet friendly, willing to greet. This image from my Dog Decoder app perfectly represents Ginger in this state.Ginger got over her initial anxiety within the first 60 seconds of meeting a new dog, and she was the friendliest pup who loved to rough and tumble with the best of them. If I didn’t understand her raised hackles and body language, and saw it as aggression that required her to be removed from the situation, her continued lack of socialization would have caused her to become more anxious and even aggressive, when that wasn’t her original intent.
Raised hackles as excitement
Jack, another pup I worked with in the past, also displayed raised hackles whenever he saw another dog, but because of a different trigger. His was pure and uncontrollable excitement, always wanting to play. He was overly exuberant in his greetings, and oftentimes this put other dogs off from wanting to meet him.Many dogs displaying this kind of behavior have raised hackles while the rest of their body suggests play: fast horizontal tail wagging, forward ears, even barking and lunging on the leash in excitement. Some might see this as aggressive, too, because of the raised hackles, but for Jack in this situation, it wasn’t at all.
Raised hackles as aggression
In this next image, you’ll see slightly raised hackles 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 raised hackles and body behavior signals aggression from the dog.
Raised hackles as predatory
If a dog is highly aroused, the hair can stand up from their neck all the way to the tip of their tail, as shown in the predatory stalking image below. However, there is no consistent pattern that correlates the amount of hair raised and where to a particular behavior. Each dog and each situation are different.
The bottom line on raised hackles
It’s so important to read your dog’s entire body language and to take context into consideration if raised hackles present. If you don’t, you could create a problem where there wasn’t one before. You could turn a fearful or shy dog into an aggressive one because of how you respond.The best way to handle a dog with raised hackles is to redirect his attention until you can better understand the triggers and see a pattern. If the reaction persists and escalates, consult a behaviorist who can help you help your dog feel less of whatever triggers them.Understanding your dog’s body language is crucial to helping our dogs live an emotionally happy and healthy life.
What Are Raised Hackles?
When looking at hair standing up on your German Shepherd’s body, you are likely looking at raised hackles. These erect hairs are found along his back, beginning at the neck and running down to the tip of the tail.They are more noticeable in the German Shepherd breed due to their coarse, dense, and wiry fur. Certain types of responses can trigger more raised hackles in certain spots than others.TheThis reflex is known as piloerection, which is simply an involuntary response under certain circumstances and to different emotions.By the way, if you are thinking about buying a product or toy for your dog, check out my favorite gear below. Also, check out the 10-year warranty on the dog bed!
Your German Shepherd is Feeling Aggressive
Here are four primary reasons why your German Shepherd’s hair will stand up. And while every response is involuntary, eachThe primary reason for the raised hackles is to make the dog appear bigger to scare off a potential threat, which is why many dog owners
Let’s take a
Your German Shepherd Has Social Anxiety
There areThis does not mean that you should hurt your dog in any way to show dominance, though. Not only is this unethical andBelow are some great ways to reduce aggression in your German Shepherd:You should never brush off your German Shepherd’s aggression, as it can quickly escalate when not dealt with. Stay calm and consistent, and your patience will pay off.While training is important, you should also make sure that your German Shepherd has a quiet place to relax, such as a crate or a special part of a room, and that he receives ample amounts of both physical and mental exercise per day, with 2 hours being the absolute minimum.
Nervous Around People
If your dog is nervous around people, you will need to act slowly andNever force the meeting. Simply bring the individual into the home near your dog. Keep a close eye on your German Shepherd and watch to see if his hairs stand up which will give you an indication as to how he is feeling. Allow him to have a safe space to “hide” until he is ready. Let your dog initiate the first interaction and always reward good behavior.
As he begins to break down his barrier with steady new experiences, you can start taking him on outings and exposing him to different situations. The outings may be a bit of a challenge at first, but over time he will become more accustomed. You should begin to notice that piloerection is gradually reduced.Reward him for being good during walks with a treat. A healthy treat alternative on long hikes is vegetables. Here’s a complete guide of 24 perfectly safe vegetables that German Shepherds can eat to give you some ideas.
Nervous Around Animals
If your dog is nervous around animals, especially other dogs, then you will need to take extra precautions as you don’t want this to escalate.Keep it simple, and don’t run the meeting for too long. If you can, you should find a dog that is smaller and not as threatening to your German Shepherd. Another tip is to ensure the other dog is of the opposite sex to your GSD as he/she won’t feel as anxious or fearful.During the meeting, slowly bring the two dogs together. If your German Shepherd starts to get too anxious and his hairs stand up, then increase the distance between the two until he is more relaxed. Try again. The process may be drawn out, but it will be well worth it in the end. Just remember that your German Shepherd may
Your German Shepherd is Overly Excited
Something that may happen with some German Shepherds is that they simply becomeIn this instance, your German Shepherd simply will not be able to settle down.While this might not be the worst thing on this list, it still needs to be dealt with. Sure, sometimes the overexcitement will only last a couple of minutes before he can calm down – in which case, not much needs to be done. However, if this is a recurring theme that happens often and for an extended time, then you need to do something about it.This study documented by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers showed that raised hackles during excited play can sometimes lead to aggression – but only 40% of the time.
The hackles themselves refer to a group of hairs which appear along theIn a dog, there are certain situations which can cause their hackles to be raised. Dogs raise their hair due to:While we will go into more details below about the specific reasons a dog raises their hackles, but it is important to know the physical process. The scientific word for a dog’s hair standing on end is known asThe hair will stand on end due to a signal sent from the brain. This is controlled by various hormones and chemicals released in the body, but
While fear and anxiety are two different emotions, they can be related. Often a dog will become aggressive because they are frightened. When they feel insecure or threatened, they willSome dogs are generally more fearful than others. They can experience anxiety or stress even in situations which do not actually pose a threat to their security. Again, we will need to look at the body language of the dog, including raised hairs, to see if fear is the reason. We also need to look at the context of the situation as there may be an obvious stressor such as the presence of anFear can cause dogs to be reactive, so they may growl or bear their teeth similar to when they are angry. However, a scared dog will likely keep their tail between their legs and try to hide form whatever is causing them to be scared. Dogs which have been poorly socialized, abused or abandoned by previous owners are generally more likely to be fearful animals.
3. Asserting dominance
Before we explain how being dominant can raise the hairs of a dog’s body, we want to differentiate this from theHowever, dogs do have aDogs will be dominant or submissive depending on the situation and with whom they are interacting. It is usually not a serious situation and they may only raise their hackle momentarily. It is something
4. Excitement and anticipation
Not all of the reasons why your dog’s hackles will be raised areIt is important to remember that we need to best