At a job that requires interaction with dog how would one go about dealing with aggressiveness? For example if you worked at a petsmart or kennel how would you deal with an aggressive dog?

  • 3
    What kind of animals do you mean? It really depends on the animal, and for any animals that are aggressive and potentially dangerous, you should receive training! Handling a dog is vastly different from handling an anaconda!
    – Layna
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 6:46
  • And if you expect to deal with aggressive animals frequently, you may want to consider getting a rabies inoculation. They're expensive, but it's a rapidly fatal disease if not treated immediately. Inoculations aren't complete protection but they give you more time to get to a doctor before it becomes incurable.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 13:29
  • 2
    I think this question might be overly broad, I have started a discussion here Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 9:24
  • Is this client/customer dogs or dogs that are being sold? Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 12:45

3 Answers 3


Two words: body language.

  • be calm (I did not say pretend, I say be calm. Animals can read body language way better than humans)
  • avoid eye contact, direct eye contact is a challenge
  • avoid facing the animal directly, turn at an angle. Stand up straight, you want to project confidence without aggression
  • yawn or stretch, it means "I am not a threat"
  • keep your hands and feet for yourself, do not gesticulate and do not reach for the animal
  • if you have to speak, speak slowly and with low register (high pitch is an alerting signal to animals)
  • be patient while you follow the above. If you do it right, the animal will calm down. When it does, offer food but only if the animal appears calm. Now you can also lower to your knees but keep the back and head straight. You are not submitting, you are being friendly.

I gained this knowledge in several years of dog rescue volunteering cross referenced with current body of knowledge. Specifically I specialized in difficult cases where dogs distrust humans and for good reasons.


If you are messing with an aggressive dog,

  1. crouch low.
  2. if it is not trying to bite you put you hand out slowly.
  3. if it is close and calmish try to pet it.
  4. if it tries to jump onto you put out your knee.

This is for training new animals. Just make sure you feel safe man I hope this works. It did for my dogs.

  • Note that petting the chest may work for dogs that object to other contact. Some dogs have't been socialized to understand that for humans, petting the top of the head or the back isn't a dominance challenge. Move slowly, give the doge space to back away, and watch for reactions -- and be very aware of the difference between threaten, grab, nip and bite.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 17:27

Aggression in dogs varies enormously. In rescue organisations, it's not uncommon to encounter the dog that is described as 'aggressive' but on closer examination turns out to be reacting to inappropriate handling.

To be honest, I think at an organisation such as Petsmart there should be formal training in this stuff from a professional, but here's my take on it for what that's worth.

First thing: find out as much as you can about the circumstances of past aggression. Was the aggression against dogs, or people? If people, was it towards children, men, women in hats, men with beards? Did the dog actually bite, or did he just growl? Some people even describe dogs as 'aggressive' when they are simply bouncy.

Some dogs may be aggressive in response to environmental factors: thunder, heavy traffic. Or they may redirect their aggression onto a human because they are stressed and worried about a dog running about in the distance. The more you know about the circumstances, the less you are likely to get bitten.

Ensure that you are not inadvertently causing fear. Make sure that the area is well lit: some dogs will react fearfully to a shadowy figure. Observe the dog carefully from a distance. Is he afraid of something you are wearing? Are you holding a stick that he's afraid of? Did you drop something that made a loud noise? Take it slowly, stay low and don't approach if the dog is looking uncomfortable. Be prepared to back off at any moment.

Time is really important with dog stress. A dog that would bite you if you walked straight up to him when he's terrified might be quite happy to meet you if you are prepared to just sit on the floor nearby and not look at him for ten minutes.

Do not grab at a dog by the collar. If you need to move him, put him on a lead before you need to move him. If putting a lead on the collar is difficult, you could use a slip lead, or keep a harness on the dog until you have won his confidence.

Do not grab and remove toys, bones, or other desirable items such as shoes: instead, set the dog up for success by keeping that stuff where he can't get it. If the dog gets something he really must not have, try swapping for something better, such as sausage or ham. That's a useful exercise to transform an 'aggressive' dog into a nice one anyway, so swapping is a good behaviour to teach.

Learn to introduce a muzzle. Muzzles have pros and cons, but sometimes they can be useful, for example to allow a dog to exercise when you are not quite sure how he might react. The more positively and carefully a muzzle is introduced, the more likely it is you can use them as a handy management tool. I find that squeezy liver paste can be handy, or cheese paste. Let the dog lick the stuff out of the muzzle a few times before you try fastening it onto his face.

The kind of muzzle that is made of cloth and holds the dog's mouth shut is only suitable for use for very brief periods, for example for a vet check. For other purposes, a basket muzzle that allows the dog's mouth to open fully, pant and drink, is much more suitable. People tend to use muzzles that are too small: the dog is less likely to try to get it off if it's a nice big one that doesn't press uncomfortably on his face.

There are some dogs that really are dangerous, to all other dogs, or to people. Some of them can be managed, some of them really can't.

Even healthy dogs can have mental illnesses that make them dangerous to people, and no, it's not always down to bad handling or a terrible owner, sometimes great owners end up with very troubled dogs. If you think you might be dealing with one of those, do not take risks. The owner of a dog suffering from that kind of mental affliction should not really be asking anyone else to take the risk of getting near him.

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