Hackles on a pet dog – What Does it indicate When My Dog’s Hackles Are Up?

Hackles are that strip of hair along a dog’s back. A dog’s hackles can rise in a number of different situations: fear, anxiety, excitement, nervousness or anger.

In the early days after my pet dog Baxter came to live with us, I noticed that when we met other dogs, his hackles went up.

I had always heard that hackles were connected with aggression, but Baxter didn’t seem in any way aggressive. In fact, he was wiggly and ecstatic and friendly any time we encountered other dogs—although he did it with his hair in a Mohawk!


What does “raise your hackles” mean?
Are increased hackles a sign of aggression?
Raised hackles on a puppy
Do cats have hackles?

What does increased hackles mean?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “raise your hackles” and the association with “making someone angry.” However, in the context of dogs, our fitness instructor put my mind at ease.

She compared my dog’s increased hairs on his back to human goosebumps. In checking out Baxter’s body language overall, she said he was just excited. The excitement made his fur stand up.

Alexandra Horowitz in the book inside of a pet dog describes a dog’s increased hackles not as aggression, but a lot more normally as arousal.

“The hair between the shoulders or at the rump—the hackles—may be standing at attention, serving not just as a visual signal of arousal but also releasing the odor of the skin glands at the base of the hairs.”

For dogs, for whom scent is so important, I think the smell component is a really amazing feature of hackles raising.

A dog’s increased fur for communication

It’s crucial to pay attention to your dog’s body language and try to learn what he’s saying if he increases the hair on his back. Your pet dog may be reacting in concern or aggression, so you have to be prepared to manage that situation.

For us, Baxter’s fur will go up often if he hears a noise outside and feels like he needs to be on guard. Usually, he and his Mohawk go running to the dining room window and survey the farm until he’s sure there’s no danger—and then his hair relaxes again.

Are increased hackles always a sign of aggression?

No, a dog’s increased hackles does not always indicate aggression, although it can.

A dog’s increased hair on his back are an example of why it’s crucial to look at body language as a whole, and not just one particular part of your dog.

Horowitz says, “For dogs, posture can announce aggressive intent or diminishing modesty. To simply stand erect, at full height, with head and ears up, is to announce readiness to engage, and maybe to be the prime mover in the engagement.”

When meeting other dogs, while Baxter’s fur may be up, his tail is wagging so fast his entire back end is wiggling. In checking out his ears, his face, his overall posture, I can normally examine how he feels about a particular situation.

I can also learn what Baxter is saying by checking out the other dogs around him. They aren’t hesitant to meet him or aggressive towards him. They normally return his friendliness and sniff enthusiastically.

As adapted as dogs and humans are to live together, we still communicate very differently. Figuring out what he’s feeling and thinking is a fascinating process. and it’s crucial to not make assumptions based on what we think we know. I love working on strengthening my understanding of my dog.

Raised hackles on a puppy

Some puppies may raise their hackles, for the same reasons as adult dogs. considering that puppies are still figuring out their place in the world, they may be a bit a lot more dramatic as new things are a lot more likely to make them ecstatic or nervous.

Lindsay, the main blogger behind That Mutt, noticed her puppy Remy would raise his hackles whenever they went to his puppy obedience class. The fitness instructor would even comment about his mohawk, but Remy never showed any aggression. It was pure excitement and probably some anxiety.

Do cats have hackles?

Yes, cats absolutely raise their hackles when they are upset, stressed, ecstatic or scared. I’m sure you’ve seen a cat standing with its fur all puffed up. The cat was probably hissing or growling.

A lot of animals have “hackles” along their neck and back that will raise when the animal is on alert, ecstatic or nervous.

Do you notice your pet dog raise her hair on her back? Mikor?

Julia Preston writes for That Mutt about pet dog behavior and training, working dogs and life on her farm in Ontario, Canada. She has a sweet, laid-back boxer mix named Baxter. She is also a blogger atOtthon 129 hektáron, ahol írja a vidéki és barkácsolás kalandjairól.

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