Should You Make Eye Contact With An Aggressive Dog


Understanding Canine Behavior and Body Language

Dogs are known as “man’s best friend” for a reason. They can be loyal, affectionate, and loving companions. However, just like humans, dogs can sometimes display aggressive behavior. When faced with an aggressive dog, one common piece of advice is to avoid making eye contact. But is this always the right approach? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of canine behavior, body language, and the intricacies of when and how to make eye contact with an aggressive dog.


Why understanding canine behavior is crucial

Dogs have been our companions for thousands of years, offering us love, loyalty, and a special place in our hearts. However, like any other species, dogs have their unique behaviors and communication methods. Understanding these behaviors is crucial, especially when faced with a potentially aggressive dog.

2. Canine Aggression: An Overview

Different types of aggression in dogs

Before delving into the topic of eye contact, it’s essential to understand the various forms of aggression that dogs can display. These include:

  • Territorial aggression: When a dog becomes aggressive to protect its territory.
  • Fear aggression: Aggression displayed when a dog is frightened or feels threatened.
  • Dominance aggression: Dogs asserting dominance, often seen in multi-dog households.
  • Protective aggression: Protecting their owners or themselves, especially if they perceive a threat.
  • Possessive aggression: Guarding resources like food, toys, or territory.
  • Predatory aggression: The instinctual drive to chase and catch prey.
  • Social aggression: Aggression toward other dogs or animals.
  • Redirected aggression: When a dog, unable to access its target, redirects aggression onto something else.

Each type of aggression may have different triggers and requires a tailored approach when dealing with it. The type of aggression will also influence whether making eye contact is appropriate.

3. The Importance of Body Language

How dogs communicate through body language

Dogs primarily communicate through body language. Understanding their non-verbal cues can help you decipher their intentions and mood. Some common body language signals include:

  • Tail position: A raised tail can indicate alertness or excitement, while a tucked tail often signifies fear or submission.
  • Ears: Erect ears can mean the dog is focused or alert, while flattened ears may indicate fear or aggression.
  • Hackles: Raised hackles along the back can be a sign of heightened arousal, which may lead to aggression.
  • Eyes: Dilated pupils and a fixed stare can indicate aggression, while soft eyes suggest relaxation.
  • Mouth: Bared teeth are an obvious sign of aggression, but a relaxed, open mouth generally indicates a calm dog.
  • Posture: A stiff, rigid body often accompanies aggression, while a relaxed, loose posture suggests comfort.

Understanding these cues is crucial in determining whether to make eye contact or not.

4. The Myth of Avoiding Eye Contact

Debunking the eye contact myth

The idea that you should always avoid eye contact with an aggressive dog is a widely circulated myth. While it is generally good advice to avoid staring down a dog, especially one displaying signs of aggression, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to interpret the dog’s body language and respond accordingly.

5. When Should You Avoid Eye Contact?

Situations where avoiding eye contact is advisable

In certain situations, avoiding eye contact with an aggressive dog is a wise choice:

  • Direct confrontation: If you find yourself in a face-off with an aggressive dog, avoiding direct eye contact can deescalate the situation.
  • Fear aggression: Dogs displaying fear aggression may interpret direct eye contact as a threat, leading to an escalation of aggression.
  • Territorial aggression: Dogs guarding their territory can become more agitated if they perceive you as a threat, and staring may be interpreted as a challenge.

In these cases, it’s best to keep your gaze averted and use your peripheral vision to monitor the dog’s movements. This avoids escalating the aggression further.

6. When to Make Eye Contact

Instances where making eye contact can be beneficial

Contrary to the myth, there are situations where making eye contact with an aggressive dog can be advantageous:

  • Asserting authority: If you’re the owner or caretaker of the dog, establishing dominance through controlled eye contact can be part of training and discipline.
  • Positive interaction: When a dog is displaying friendly or neutral body language, making eye contact can be a way to engage and bond with the animal.
  • Training: In controlled training sessions with a professional, making eye contact can be a valuable tool to reinforce commands and build trust.

It’s important to emphasize that making eye contact should always be done with the right intention and in the appropriate context.

7. Reading Canine Signals

Understanding a dog’s mood and intentions

A critical aspect of safely interacting with dogs, especially those displaying aggression, is the ability to read their signals accurately. Here are some key indicators to help you gauge a dog’s mood and intentions:

  • A relaxed, wagging tail: Generally indicates a friendly or happy dog.
  • A stiff, raised tail: May signify alertness, excitement, or potential aggression.
  • Ears forward: Suggests attentiveness or curiosity.
  • Ears pinned back: Can indicate fear, aggression, or submission.
  • Dilated pupils: Often seen in aggressive or highly aroused dogs.
  • Growling or barking: Audible signs of aggression or discomfort.
  • Lip licking: Can be a sign of anxiety or discomfort.
  • Raised hackles: A clear sign of heightened arousal or aggression.

By paying close attention to these signals, you can better gauge whether to make eye contact or avoid it altogether.

8. The Staring Game: Intention Matters

Why intention behind eye contact matters

When making eye contact with a dog, your intention matters greatly. Dogs are remarkably attuned to human emotions and can pick up on subtle cues. Here’s how intention affects the impact of your gaze:

  • Friendly intent: If you’re making eye contact to establish a friendly connection, your body language and facial expression should be relaxed. The dog is more likely to respond positively.
  • Dominant intent: When using eye contact to assert authority, it’s essential to do so calmly and confidently. In this context, you’re communicating your leadership rather than aggression.
  • Threatening intent: Staring with the intent to challenge or threaten a dog is likely to provoke aggression. This is why it’s generally advised to avoid staring down an aggressive dog.

Understanding and controlling your intention when making eye contact can be a key factor in determining the dog’s response.

9. Positive Eye Contact

How to use eye contact for building trust

Positive eye contact can be a powerful tool in building trust and a bond with a dog. When a dog perceives your gaze as friendly and non-threatening, it can lead to a more positive interaction. Here’s how to establish positive eye contact:

  • Approach slowly and calmly: Sudden movements can startle a dog. Approach with care.
  • Blink slowly: Slow blinking is a universal sign of relaxation in the animal kingdom. Blinking slowly at a dog can convey your peaceful intentions.
  • Smile gently: A relaxed facial expression can help put the dog at ease. Avoid baring your teeth, as it can be seen as a sign of aggression.
  • Speak softly: Use a soothing and gentle tone when addressing the dog. Avoid loud or aggressive voices.
  • Offer treats: If the dog is comfortable, you can offer a treat as a gesture of goodwill. This can further build positive associations with your presence.

Remember that positive eye contact should only be attempted with dogs that are displaying friendly or neutral body language.

10. Negative Eye Contact

Recognizing and responding to threatening eye contact

On the other hand, negative or threatening eye contact should be avoided, especially when dealing with an aggressive dog. Signs of negative eye contact include:

  • Intense, unbroken gaze: Staring down a dog without blinking or looking away can be perceived as a threat.
  • Wide, dilated pupils: A sign of heightened arousal or aggression in the dog.
  • Growling or snarling: Audible signs of discomfort or aggression.
  • Raised hackles: The hair along the dog’s back standing on end is often a sign of aggression.
  • Stiff body posture: A rigid and tense body indicates discomfort or aggression.

If you encounter a dog displaying these signs, it’s crucial to avoid making eye contact, as it can escalate the situation. Instead, back away slowly and calmly without turning your back on the dog.

11. Canine Aggression Triggers

Identifying what sets off aggressive behavior in dogs

Understanding the triggers for canine aggression is essential for preventing potentially dangerous situations. Common triggers include:

  • Protecting resources: Dogs can become aggressive when they feel their food, toys, or territory is threatened.
  • Fear: Dogs may react aggressively when they are afraid or cornered.
  • Pain or discomfort: A dog in pain may lash out defensively.
  • Lack of socialization: Poor socialization with other dogs or humans can lead to fear or aggression.
  • Maternal or paternal instinct: Mother dogs may become aggressive if they perceive a threat to their puppies.
  • Illness or injury: A dog in pain or discomfort may react aggressively to being touched.

Knowing these triggers can help you avoid potentially dangerous situations and approach dogs with caution when necessary.

12. Safety Precautions

Protecting yourself when dealing with an aggressive dog

When confronted with an aggressive dog, your safety should be the top priority. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Maintain a safe distance: Keep a considerable distance between yourself and the dog to reduce the risk of an attack.
  • Avoid sudden movements: Sudden movements can startle an aggressive dog. Move slowly and deliberately.


  • FAQ 1: Is avoiding eye contact always the safest option when encountering an aggressive dog?
    • Avoiding eye contact is generally a good rule of thumb, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are situations where making eye contact can be beneficial.
  • FAQ 2: How can I tell if a dog is being aggressive?
    • Look for signs such as raised hackles, bared teeth, growling, and a stiff body posture. These are often indicators of aggression.
  • FAQ 3: Can making eye contact with a friendly dog be a sign of aggression?
    • No, friendly dogs often make eye contact as a form of social interaction and bonding. It’s essential to consider the context and overall body language.
  • FAQ 4: Should I ever approach an aggressive dog?
    • It’s generally not advisable to approach an aggressive dog. Maintain a safe distance and seek professional help if needed.
  • FAQ 5: Can eye contact help in training an aggressive dog?
    • Yes, controlled and positive eye contact can be a useful tool in training, but it should be done under the guidance of a professional trainer.
  • FAQ 6: How can I protect myself from an aggressive dog without making eye contact?
    • Carry a protective tool like a walking stick or pepper spray, and back away slowly without turning your back on the dog.
  • FAQ 7: What should I do if I encounter an aggressive dog while jogging or cycling?
    • Slow down, dismount if cycling, and try to put an obstacle (like a tree or a parked car) between you and the dog. Avoid sudden movements.
  • FAQ 8: Can an aggressive dog be rehabilitated?
    • It is possible to rehabilitate some aggressive dogs with professional training and behavioral therapy, but not all dogs respond the same way.
  • FAQ 9: Are certain dog breeds more prone to aggression?
    • While some breeds may have a predisposition to certain behaviors, it’s essential to remember that individual temperament varies widely.
  • FAQ 10: What should I do if a dog becomes aggressive while I’m petting it?
    • Slowly withdraw your hand, avoid eye contact, and give the dog space. Aggression during petting can be a sign of discomfort.

Answer ( 1 )


    Should You Make Eye Contact With An Aggressive Dog

    I love dogs. They’re adorable, loyal, and often very smart. However, there are many types of aggressive dog behavior that can be dangerous to humans. In this article I’ll explain some ways to tell if a dog is angry or not so you can protect yourself from an attack if needed.

    Aggressive dogs often show their aggression through body language.

    • Barking
    • Growling and snarling
    • Raising their hackles (the hair on their back)
    • Lunging at you in an attempt to bite you or another dog. This is often accompanied by barking and growling, but not always.

    If your dog does any of these things, it’s time to take action.

    When a dog is aggressive, it’s best to give them space.

    When a dog is aggressive and territorial, it’s best to give them space. This can be difficult because you’re scared and want to run away from the situation. But if you have time and room to do so before an attack occurs, this will reduce the chance of injury for both parties involved.

    For example: If a dog approaches your child who is playing outside with his friends and starts barking at him/her from behind a fence or tree line–that’s okay! You don’t need to intervene unless there are signs that he might bite soon (like growling). In this case, it would be better for everyone involved if you brought out some treats when someone else was around so they could distract the dog while everyone walked away safely together

    If an angry dog approaches you, slowly back away from the animal.

    If a dog is approaching you and appears angry, slowly back away from the animal. Don’t run, as this may trigger its chase instinct. Also avoid making eye contact with an aggressive dog; some dogs interpret this as a challenge and may attack if they feel threatened by your gaze. Finally, don’t turn your back on an angry dog–this can be interpreted as weakness or submission by other animals in general (including humans).

    Never run from a dog that approaches aggressively.

    If you run from an aggressive dog, it will chase you. Dogs are faster than humans and can run for longer than we can. They can jump higher than us as well, and their eyesight is better too (with the exception of our friend Toto). Finally, dogs’ sense of smell is about a hundred times stronger than ours–so if there’s something on your shoes or in your pocket that smells like bacon or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they’re going to notice it!

    So how do we stay safe when faced with an aggressive dog? Here are some tips:

    • Stay still–don’t move at all until the dog calms down enough that its tail stops wagging furiously back and forth between its legs; this means he’s not feeling threatened anymore!

    Try not to stare into an aggressive dog’s eyes, it could be interpreted as a challenge.

    A dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than ours, and they can detect your fear through your body language. If you stare at an aggressive dog, it will interpret this as a challenge. This will cause the animal to feel threatened and may result in an attack.

    If you find yourself staring at a particularly aggressive canine, try not to look directly into its eyes; doing so can be interpreted as a threat by some dogs. Instead, look at its nose or ears instead of directly into its face–this will help keep tensions low between both parties involved!

    Do not touch an angry dog without asking permission first.

    • Do not touch an angry dog without asking permission first.
    • Don’t try to pet an angry dog without asking permission first.
    • Don’t grab an angry dog without asking permission first.
    • And definitely don’t pick up an angry dog unless you are absolutely sure that you can do so safely, because it will only make things worse for both of you!

    Use both hands and make sure your voice is firm when speaking to an angry dog.

    If you’re approached by a dog who seems angry or aggressive, there are some things you can do to help calm him down.

    • Use both hands and make sure your voice is firm when speaking to an angry dog. It’s important not to show fear in your body language–this can be interpreted as weakness on your part and may provoke further aggression from the animal.
    • Avoid eye contact with an aggressive dog; instead look at its feet or body instead. This tells them that you’re not challenging them, which will help keep them calm and prevent further attacks from happening!

    Do not try to interact with a dog if it is acting aggressively towards you

    The best thing to do when you are approached by an aggressive dog is to avoid eye contact, back away from the animal and wait for it to leave.

    Never try to interact with a dog that is growling or barking at you; this can be dangerous for both you and the animal. If the dog has not been trained properly and does not know how to act around people, then there is no way of knowing what its intentions are towards you or other people in its vicinity.

    The best thing to do when an angry dog approaches you is to avoid eye contact and slowly back away from the animal. If the dog continues to approach, use both hands and make sure your voice is firm when speaking to it. Do not try to interact with a dog if it is acting aggressively towards you unless asked by its owner first!

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