Dog Bite Prevention Week: Poster on the Body Language of Fear and Aggression

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Click on the image below to be taken to our store where you can download a PDF of this poster for free or a donation.

Body Language Fear in Dogs Poster


This poster clearly illustrates both the overt and more subtle signs of fear and anxiety in dogs. Feel free to make copies for your clients, colleagues, and friends.

Check out our “Free Posters” blog post here for more posters and handouts!


updated 4/2021

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35 responses to “Dog Bite Prevention Week: Poster on the Body Language of Fear and Aggression

  1. Hi Dr Yin, Love your blogs btw. Can this poster be used in a commercial setting. I am developing a kids and dogs seminar to present in pre-schools and to pet oweners with young kids.

    Louise Kerr – The Pet Care Magician
    Elite Pet Care & Education.

  2. I’m confused. I wanted to download the poster that was on the website with the pics of people greeting dogs but can’t find that particular poster. The only one I can find is reading body language. Is the other one available? Just got a copy of your book!

  3. Only one comment. If your dog is truly a fear biter, put her down before the problem escalates any further. The dog can never be trusted around anyone because you will never know what will set her off.

    1. No! This is the most terrible thing I’ve ever seen! You would never ever say this about a scared human child that lashes out and physically attacks out to protect themselves. You adapt, you learn their triggers, and body language and you monitor every situation you put them in. As an owner if you know your dog bites out of fear it’s up to you to make outings as stress free as possible, and when it’s getting to much you bring the dog to a safe place. It doesn’t mean euthanasia, it means patience, hard work, and understanding that you have to take control and protect your dog! Fear biting is absolutely something that can be worked on, it just takes time and patience. And an owner who cares enough to know it’s something they always have to prepare for and try to prevent.

      1. The “most terrible thing I’ve ever seen,” is comparing a dog to a human. Putting a dog down vs. a dog being allowed to bite a human (for whatever reason: fear, aggression) is an easy decision. I have owned dogs my entire life: labs, setters, and now german shepard, I have not had to put a dog down for biting a human, but I would not hesitate to do so. I love dogs, but I realize humans are more important. It’s ironic that the dog knows this, but apparently some humans do not.

        1. If you are not an animal behaviorist it’s EXTREMELY IRRESPONSIBLE to give advice advocating death. Telling her to seek professional help is what was warranted. Fear can be treated with meds & behavior modification. Education especially focused on safety is needed. Careful analysis of when and how the dog bit to figure out how to proceed. A dogs life is far more important than you make it sound. Your poor dogs.

          1. I totally agree with you here Aj. It just shows a complete lack of these people and their understanding of dogs and this is why we have the problems we do with bites towards humans today. The amount of people I see who do not understand one bit of their dog’s body language is unbelievable, yet I come across it again and again every day, even though the dog is giving clear signals. Even when I teach people about canine body language, some still ignore it and it’s the poor dog that suffers. I’m always wary when people use the term “I’ve had dogs all of my life”, I’ve got friends who say that and they are the worst and show a complete lack of understanding. It takes time, patience and unfortunately people these days just want instant gratification and quick fix for their dog. They don’t actually want to learn anything.

      2. EXACTLY RIGHT. Know your dog, take it out of those situations!!! Responsible owner !!! If your dog is nervous around someone or something,,,,,,, take it out of that situation an work with them BUT always be aware of your surroundings and your dogs….. love them an protect them

    2. With all due respect, that is not exactly true nor is euthanasia necessary. As Tara said, it’s a matter of learning the signs and triggers. Only mentally ill dogs go from zero to bite with no warning. I have worked with many “fearful” dogs and while it takes time, patience and planning, many can go on to be very safe and well-adjusted dogs. Now, this doesn’t mean that maybe “rehoming” might be on the table in certain situations, but not automatic euthanasia.

    3. That is stupid advice. Unless you are a veterinarian you have no business telling anyone this either. Most dogs can be trained and—with time, patience, and a good behaviorist—can be decent animals in public. I had a fear biter who attained his Good Canine Citizen award. He was never a huge social butterfly (he’d prefer to approach people on his own terms), but lost his fear and tendency to nip after we did training with him for a year.

  4. Hi dr Yin!I know that what I’m asking you has nothing to do with the downloading of the poster ,but could it be possible to have your website translated in optional different languages that you can choose before entering the home page like italian, french or spanish?because I think that for someone who doesn’t know english very well it’s really hard to understand the excellent information that you share with people here!I know I’m asking a lot ,but where I live (Italy)almost anyone takes understanding dog behaviour seriously,and the people who do try to understand them end up with the old fashioned way of training and the misunderstanding of dominance, positive reinforcement is looked up sometimes even with disgust and a lot of people think that people who train like that know very little info about dog behaviour (they are obviously wrong) and think that it’s only about stuffing the pet’s face with treats(I repeat,they are obviously wrong).So,I don’t know if it’s possible ,but I’m asking you anyways.Congrats for having one of the most helpful pet websites!!!(in my opinion ,obviously)
    Don’t stop with this wonderful job you have,and happy new year!

  5. I have a 3 yr old Havapoo. The last 3 months we have been having a problem with him when people walk away or start to leave. He will start barking and going after them and has even bit pants legs before.
    In the mornings when my husband comes out of the bathroom from getting ready for work our dog stands at the end of the bed barking and this morning he actually jumped out the bed and bit his ankle. Husband said this is the last time, I’m not putting up with this.
    I have had him since he was 7 weeks old and nobody has ever been mean to him so can you tell me what’s going on? He has never done this to me and it has been going on now about 3 months. He let’s you love on him but then turns on you when you walk away and everyone rubs him and says bye so I’m confused.
    I need help on this cause I don’t want to give him up.

    1. Bring him to a Veterinarian for a full health check, there may be an underlying health issue. When your there explain what type of issue your having and ask their recomendation for a trainer/ behaviourist. That’s your best option to make sure he can be as healthy and happy as possible.

  6. My dog a rescued dog. Snaps at my youngest grandson .He doesn’t snap at anyone else. He snapped at me once I told him No and let him know I was the Alpha person in my house he loves me. But snapping at my grandson has to end . My oldest grandson says it is because the youngest grandson is afraid of him. But wants to pet him.

    1. If you have a dog snapping at children, you absolutely must keep all children away from him until the problem is corrected. The youngest needs to understand that your dog is not to be petted ever and that he is not to be near it without an adult present. Once you have control of the grandchild, then you can start on the counterconditioning exercises laid out in the reactive dog DVD and have the child help.

    2. First, the whole “alpha” thing has been overturned. There’s no such thing as “alpha” wolves or dogs. Read Sophia Yin’s site more for information and find yourself a good positive trainer who specializes with reactivity.,8599,2007250,00.html

      Second, if you are relying on your oldest grandson to tell you what’s going on it sounds like you need to be watching your dog and youngest grandson more closely—or keeping them separated when you can’t.


      1. Children AND adults who fail to understand or read canine signals/body language are at risk for dog bites. School aged children can easily learn this. However, some people (even dog owners) go their whole lives without learning this. It’s essential for parents to educate themselves and their children if they want to have a dog. BEFORE getting the dog is better. Whether it’s too late now, I can’t comment.

  7. I have a 7 yr old dog and 4 yr old daughter. We’ve had our dog since a pup. Annika has been such a great dog but lately shes starting to nip at our daughter and she actually just bit her (enough to leave a red mark) tonight. Annika has a sore knee and is 7 so i think sje has less patience. Ive told our daughter to stay away from her bc shes old and sore but our daughter doesnt fully understand.
    What should i do?
    Should i find a new home for Annika?
    I just don’t know bc Annika is like family but i don’t ever want to put my daughter on danger, if she is!
    Please help!!

    1. Hi Mj,

      Sorry to hear about your situation. Without intervention this behaviour is likely to get worse and I feel your daughter is at risk of a more serious bite. First I would recommend a Vet examination to rule out medical conditions and also provide pain relief for your dog if she is not already on some( as you mentioned with her knee). You should then seek a Veterinary behaviourist( your vet will be able to recommed one) to help with your dog. It is a situation where you will need to be dedicated to managing.
      Re-homing a dog that bites is not really an option. You don’t want your dog in another home and she bites another child. The only situation this would be ok would be after seeing a veterinary behaviourist first and completely informing the new owners of the situation in a house without children

    2. Do you always watch these two carefully when they are together? If not, make safe places to keep Annika and your daughter separate using baby gates (the pressure mounted kinds that are solid plastic are my favorites as they keep little fingers out).

      Even if your daughter seems gentle, it’s really hard to monitor what she is doing when you aren’t watching, and at 3-6 children tend to get a bit more rough with pets and not completely understand the consequences. Even the most mellow dog can be pushed into nipping in those situations.

      Also make sure, your daughter stays out of Annika’s dog bed, crate, and food. Using good strong baby gates, this isn’t impossible to do. Finding a good canine behaviorist who understands child behavior as well helps. There’s also a great book called “Child Proofing Your Dog.”

  8. Also, our dog is a bigger dog (85 pounds) so she has a shorter life than smaller dog. I just think Annika is starting to be a grumpy old lady.
    Is there jope to fix this situation??

    1. Please keep them separated. Take the dog to a vet she is probably in pain and does not want to be bothered. There is always hope. Please explain your little one why she should let the dog rest. Hang in there.

    1. Hi Angela,

      The DVD that you are looking for can be found on our Products page at Skills for Handling Your Reactive or Hyperactive Dog. This is a 2 DVD series and the 2nd DVD can be found by following the link at the bottom of the product description at this same link.

  9. I have a German Shepherd that I rescued he is scared of alot of things like noises and anyone that wants to touch him. He has snapped at my neighbor that was trying to pet him. I’m scared he might bit someone and I don’t want to lose him. He is such a great dog and has changed my family for the best. What can I do?

  10. Hi Dr. Yin,
    We rescued a 2 year old Bull Terrier about a month ago. He had been so far very sweet, gentle and didn’t cause any type of trouble. Yesterday however, my 8 year old was playing with him and when trying to take the dog’s toy away, he bit his face. He made 2 incisions and marks (fortunately nothing big). We are 1st time owners and very afraid this can happen again. We want to give him a 2nd chance with proper training. Do you think this is the right decision? My kid loves our dogs and beg him not to give him away.

    1. For starters.
      Never leave the child with the dog unsupervised. An alert adult should always be monitoring play.
      Play should end when the dog becomes too excited or starts playing too rough. It can resume after the dog has calmed down and shows more respect toward the child. If the dog can not remain calm or behaves inappropriately toward the child, play should end. This is an example of negative punishment– the removal of something desired.
      The child should be participating in obedience work with the dog so the dog will obey commands from the child and learn to respect him.

  11. Separate the dog and child at once!
    See your vet, immediately, to rule out a medical cause.
    Find a reputable canine behaviorist. Your vet and local groomer can refer you to one or more, in your community.
    Include the child!

  12. I adopted a 5mos old American Eskimo who is now 9 mos old. As soon as I got her I focused on socializing & exposing her to as many positive experiences with people and dogs as possible. I took her everywhere — stores, schools, community & sporting events, parks, etc. I also have been utilizing Ian Dunbar’s training methods to the best degree I am able, completed a puppy obedience class, started an obedience 2 class and have taken her weekly to a Sirius Puppy Social group supervised by one of their trainers. My Eskie loves children of all ages and shows no fear of any of the toys & other items associated with them so I think she must have had positive experiences with them since birth. She was also friendly with all adults — men & women– and other dogs.

    However, when she approached adolescent she began nipping at men (including family members) around the home which escalated to outside the home and culminated in a bite hard enough to break the skin. After having to confine her for a month when she came into season, the biting behavior expanded to women although I have prevented any actual contact. She responds aggressively when she feels her space has been invaded or when she fixates on someone approaching. Sometimes it’s a lunge, at other times it may be an attempted surreptitious darting nip or bite. The latter will usually occur after unwelcomed petting or after someone walks by. There is usually no bark or growl when aggression occurs outside the home with people. When she initiates the interaction she is fine and even cuddles up to people. She may initiate an interaction with a person but 10 minutes later if the same person walks by and reaches down and pets her she will try to nip after. Initailly when socializing her I had people feeding her treats but it makes no difference. She will accept the treat and still behave aggressively afterward. In large crowds or restaurants though she has shown no aggression toward people. She also is able to get along with dogs in a large off leash dog park but will initiate skirmishes with specific dogs in the confined Puppy Social group or frequently while walking on the leash. She is leash reactive when meeting other dogs.

    When she is very excited she will even nip at my clothing and I routinely handle her all over for grooming etc. She will now allow all members of the family to pick her up and handle her however she still initially barks at them sometimes when they enter a room.
    It seems to me the 2 main problems are fear in allowing people to invade ‘her space’ and impulse control. In order to countercondition her, she must be taken out in public continuously. Would it be best to try to get her to enjoy wearing a muzzle out in public? This would keep people from unexpectedly trying to pet her and prevent future bites. However, she barely tolerates the head halter and if she doesn’t take to the muzzle, the responsible safe alternatives seem limited. I am conflicted on how much I can achieve and what kind of home would be best for her. Will I always need to be constantly alert to preventing a situation that may result in a bite when taking her out in public? Considering we liked to take our previous dog everywhere with us this seems an impossibility. Not to mention, finding a safe place that will accept boarding her if she doesn’t accompany us. Would she be better off in another home where she would spend most of her time in the home with limited public interaction? How difficult is it to rehabilitate her? To what extent can she be rehabilitated and how permanent would it be?
    Any thoughts? suggestions? advice?

    1. Wish to also add,
      I am currently working on attention focus training with her i.e. ‘watch me’ command with an exclusive high value treat reward for when men approach and a different one for when women or dogs approach or are nearby.
      I just read Dr. Yin’s tips on how to implement this more successfully and plan to incorporate them immediately. I especially hadn’t realized how important it was to make sure the dog’s stress level is low when I begin to reward her with the treats. I think I need to start giving the treats earlier before the people get too close.

  13. Have a 10 month old shiztu sweet playful smart as a whip housebroken(by me) sometimes will growl ( or not) when I need to put his leash on or pick him up(car etc) and bite sometimes very aggressively has bitten me pretty badly hands mostly but once on my throat yes draws blood puncture wounds it genuinely seems to be nothing but he doesn’t want me to do whatever it is I’m doing I’ve tried everything he’s small 18 pounds but has some seriously pointed sharp teeth I’m so sick of it! Just when I think problem is gone the furiously biting growling lunging stranger returns does have enresolved issue( was sold with stitches in what appears to be hernia repair that never heals- my own vet removed 4 stitches says might be another deep in there always infected/swells under neath skin been cleaned out /antibiotics 3 times no change have had dog neutered) any ideas?

  14. Hi I have a dog I took out from the dog shelter and he is friendly with me into he meets someone else than turn on me and bite what’s wrong

  15. So I have a dog I bought for $100 adopt fee from a person in craigslist , she came afraid of most people already, after a month and a half she finally adjusted to me. I love her to death shes a 2 year old Australian Shepherd and is scared of men and is still kind of fearful of my fiance. He has tried and tried to bond with her but she still barks at him when hes home from work, cowars, hides and so on and hes given her treats and so on and has pet her. Sometimes she doesn’t seem to mind him, she jumps on the bed and sniffs him. Any way we’ve had her since December and shes very slow to progress, my fiance loves her to death and just wants her to be her goofy self when hes around. She’s so afraid of men its crazy, whats worse is when her old owners dropped her off the wife told me her husband hated her and so did his two blue heelers and his dogs often nipped her heels when she pottied and also they never let her inside, they always growled when she dared entered the house or tried. She didnt mind the lady but when the guy finally came into the apartment she attempted to pull away and when they left she hid the first day. I’m just unsure how to help her and my fiance bond. We’ve even tried walking her, when he takes the leash she freezes and will not budge and her ears go down and she raises her back leg. I’m not sure what the guy did to her but its made her fearful of most men around 5ft 8 or taller.

  16. Thank you so much for making this site. It’s full of very useful information that I cant find anywhere!

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