- 6 months, 3 weeks ago Dave PageParticipant
Some consider a dogs hair standing up (piloerection) to mean it feels fear or threatened, although not always the case and have been looking for studies.
Seems it could vary some by breed and individual dog, only thing I have found so far, “location of the erect hair is supposed to indicate the emotional status of a dog. If its just the hair over the shoulders that is raised the dog lacks confidence, likely experiencing fear. If the hair is erect for the whole length of the back, the dog is confident or excited and preparing to exert itself. If the hair over the low back and shoulders is erect but not the hair along the main spine the dog is in a confused emotional state between the two.”
Noticing variations such as, One little strip about a 1/4″ wide all down the back; just the tail; the whole back and tail, the back of the head and tail only. A very wide strip head to tail. All from the same dog depending on the mood.
Seems such insight into a dogs emotions could be a useful training tool.
Any one know of any studies I could read or have more insight?
- 6 months, 3 weeks ago Michael D’AbruzzoKeymaster
Those are some interesting observations which make sense. I do not know of any specific studies but I can speak of my own observations dealing with a career worth of dogs (probably thousands) interacting in puppy classes, as adults with each other, and with people:
The majority of the time, it simply is a reflex of feeling threatened. But, it can confuse people sometimes because of mixed messages. I will see plenty of puppies play in a group while hackles are up when they first show up before it slowly smooths out. Their drive to play is obviously overriding the sense of feeling slightly threatened by all the other dogs/people they don’t quite feel ready to completely put their guard down with.
I’ll also see it in early protection training, where we work the dog with an obvious threat. As the dog gets more confident we cant make the dog’s hackles go up.
So we see it more at a younger age in newer situations for sure.
The other time I see piloerection is more concentrated near the back end and with intense focus when about to pounce into a fight or focusing on live prey. I have never witnessed the piloerection during play aggression such as in sport work and tugs so i assume it part of a very high mature type of serious aggression that is balancing on the edge of fight and prey drive:
My hypothesis is that even with certain prey, the dog is anticipation some slight combat before calming down into a more comfortable and confident prey state.
Dogs learn from experience some prey bite back and kick back. The same goes with very dog aggressive dogs that see other dogs as prey.We welcome these dogs as they are. With respect, compassion, and devotion We will lead…
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