Telling the Difference BetweenPlayfulness and Aggression
If you’re a dog person, you probably know how to spot an aggressive dog amid a bunch of playful dogs pretty well. They give off clear signs that they aren’t to be bothered and want nothing to do with the present situation, whereas a playful dog will very clearly want to play. However, the signs may not be easily recognizable to the untrained eye, so let’s take a quick look at how you can tell the difference between playfulness and aggression.
Dogs are by nature very territorial creatures. When they’ve marked out a specific zone as their own, they don’t want anyone to cross into it without their permission and blessing. You can see your own dogs do this very regularly where they’ll gladly run to greet you when you come home, but will bark at the man delivering a package the very next day. The key difference is all about comfort, and if your dog isn’t comfortable with a situation, they may be more on edge and prone to anger.
Not all dogs will have a set limit before they snap though, nor will all dogs behave the same in any given situation. Depending on the dog’s personality, a lot of times determined because of their breed’s traits, they could be the most outgoing and friendly mutt that ever sniffed the earth, or they could be a mean cuss that wants nothing to do with anyone or anything other than perhaps you as their owner. As the dog’s owner, you will be much more in tune with your dog’s attitudes, so you’ll be able to more accurately judge whether they’re just fooling around of if they mean business.
Chances are though that when you see a dog acting suspicious, it won’t be a dog you know well enough to instantly understand. You’ll have to make a judgment call and usually that will involve sizing up their overall attitude. How are they standing? What are their ears, eyes, and fur doing? What does their tail look like? Are they barking or snarling? All of these things could equal different things when combined differently.
The biggest indicator that the dog is not to be messed with is an extremely aggressive, guttural snarl with teeth clearly bared. Their stand will usually be low and the fur all along their neck and spine will be raised while their ears will be forward and alert or possibly flat and turned backward. Every muscle will be tense and they won’t respond to any calming methods.
That’s really the key difference. A friendly dog may bark but they’ll back down or at least take pause when told to stop. They generally come off as non-confrontational despite running up and rooing at you to let you know that they’ve seen you and know that you’re being watched, at least when they’re not chewing on their bone. A bark is not a threat; it’s just communication. A snarl is a threat, and it means very clearly to stay away and leave this dog be.
It can be frustrating when you’re in public and your dog encounters another one whose owner is doing nothing to control and whose attitude is very unpredictable. Especially then, you may not be able to tell if your dogs begin fighting or are just playing around, and it’s even less clear from someone unfamiliar with either dog, but the big difference is again guttural snarling. Dogs will bark, bite, and bare their teeth when playing around, but they don’t typically snarl deep down in that part of their lungs known as “the demon lobe” if they’re just having a good time. It’s overall a good idea just to keep your dog away from strange encounters if you can help it.
Few things are as terrifying as seeing a dog snap and revert to its primal stage of rage and fury, partly because we have such an image of dogs as happy, silly little pups running around because running’s fun. They’re animals, and deep down they can unleash if they feel the need. Be careful and train them to be outgoing rather than frustrated and stressed. Love is the best cure half the time along with patience, so good luck to you and your dog. May you never have to deal with a real dog fight!
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