What Does it Mean When a Dog’s Hair Stands Up?


Your doggy's hairs sometimes stand up on end. Do you wonder why this happens? You'll have the answers very soon! Read below to solve the mystery.

Raised hackles as anxiety

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 put his hackles up 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.

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 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 best way to handle a dog whose hackles are up is to redirect their 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.

It's incredible to find out the many different reasons why our doggies raise their hackles up. They might be scared, surprised or curious about other dogs. Next time you see your pup's hackles stand up, try and pay attention to his surroundings in order to understand his reason for raising them up!

For more information, be sure to check out Dogster.

Featured Image via Dog Decoder smartphone app/illustration by Lili Chin

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