Raised hair on the nape does not always mean aggression. Your dog may be agitated or alarmed.
Raised on the back and nape wool confuses many dog owners. They think that this is a sign of aggression, but this is not always the case. Wool raising cannot be qualified as a behavior, since This is an involuntary reflex caused by the fact that the dog is in a state of excitement. There is even a medical term for this – piloerection (drank means "hair").
A raised mohawk can be a sign of fear, insecurity, excitement, nervousness, or anger. If this has happened to your dog, then you need to look at other body signals to understand exactly what is happening. Only after that, you can give an exact answer, what emotions your dog is experiencing.
Raised coat as a sign of nervousness
My German Shepherd Ginger raised her hair every time she met a new dog. I got it in 7 months. She was not properly socialized, because the puppy was sick with parvovirus and should not have been in contact with other dogs until it fully recovered. When she was strong enough to meet other dogs, the period of socialization was already over, and she absolutely did not know how to behave on a leash. That is why I decided to pick it up myself.
Even in adulthood, acquaintance with new dogs caused her great excitement and led to a rise in hair on the neck. All other parts of her body transmitted reconciliation signals: a wagging tail horizontally to the ground, a slightly removed look, a raised front paw – everything spoke of her interest. The good news is that I understood her behavior. Great news – other dogs could also read her body language and understand that she is worried, but friendly, wants to meet. This image from my Dog Decoder app best displays Ginger in this state.
Anxiety can lead to a dog’s hair rising on the nape, as seen on a small dog.
(image from Dog Decoder. Illustration by Lily Chin)
Ginger coped with anxiety for the first 60 seconds after meeting a new dog and became the friendliest dog, who happily wallows and fights with other dogs. If I did not understand her and saw aggression in the raised hair, I would lead her out of this situation, thereby continuing to prevent her from socializing with other dogs. This could lead to the fact that she would become more nervous and possibly aggressive, although initially it was not there.
Raised coat as a sign of excitement
Jack, another puppy with whom I worked, also raised a "mohawk" on the back of his neck, but for a different reason. It was caused by pure, uncontrollable enthusiasm and a constant desire to play. He was too persistent in his greetings, and in many cases other dogs tried not to approach him for dating. Many dogs exhibiting such behavior as Jack have raised a scruff when the rest of the body offers a game: fast tail wagging in a horizontal plane, ears pointing forward, barking and whining on a leash with impatience. Some will see this as aggression due to raised fur and barking, but this is certainly not the case.
Raised wool as a sign of aggression
In the following image, you will see a slightly raised fur on the shoulders and along the back of the left dog. Her ears are pulled back and down, her gaze is firm, her tail is raised high, her mouth is wide open, showing her teeth, her whole body is tense. This combination of raised fur and body language speaks of dog aggression.
All behavior speaks of aggression, not only reared withers. (Image from Dog Decoder. Illustration by Lily Chin)
Raised wool as a sign of hunting
If the dog is too agitated, the coat may rise from the neck to the tip of the tail, as shown in the picture below with a predatory sneak However, there is no exact pattern between how much wool is raised and some specific behavior. Every dog and situation is different.
Wool is raised from a stalking dog. (Image from Dog Decoder. Illustration by Lily Chin)
And again I want to repeat that this is why it is so important to look at the entire body language of the dog and take into account the context of the situation. If you do not do this, you can create a problem where there is none. You can easily make a shy or timid dog aggressive, just reacting incorrectly to its actions.
The best thing you can do if the dog lifts the fur on his back is to switch her attention, until you understand exactly what caused the reaction and what emotions the dog is experiencing. If the reaction persists and sharpens, you should contact a professional who will help you help your dog respond less acutely to the trigger.
Understanding a dog’s body language is an important factor in helping a dog live an emotional, happy and healthy life.
About the author: Jill Brainer is a professional dog trainer and dog body language expert. Application author Dog Decoder. Original article in English