Rude, Inappropriate or Non-Consensual Behavior

Dogs can have an aggressive reaction to what they interpret as rude or inappropriate behavior from other dogs as well as from humans. Even if the behavior was intended to be loving or playful, the dog may not like it. Even if it’s a behavior that a dog sometimes likes, they may not like it at certain times. Unfortunately, this can, and often does, include playful behavior from puppies as well as affection from well-meaning humans. The “aggressive” reaction may be nothing more than a growl but could also be a bite, especially if the warnings go unrecognized or have a history of being ignored. Let’s have a deeper look at potential triggers, shall we?

Fast or Direct Approaches 

The natural way for dogs to approach each other is by moving slowly and in an arc but domestication tends to mess this up. Pet dogs spend a majority of their lives behind walls, fences and on-leash. Hence, they generally do not get enough exercise or socialization. This causes pet dogs to have poor manners when it comes to approaching other dogs, as well as people.  

  • Leashed dogs are typically allowed to pull their way to meet other dogs and people. The tension in the leash “forces” the dog into an aroused, hyper, frustrated state. Repetition conditions the dog to habitually make these direct approaches, even when the leash is off. (also see: Tight Leash, Hyperactivity, Frustration
  • These belligerent approaches are often reinforced by humans and friendly dogs that don’t mind but it is detrimental to the dog’s social skills and will likely lead to an altercation at some point. (see: Hyperactivity
  • The dog may “just want to play” but non-consensual play can be a trigger for an aggressive response by those who do not enjoy it. (see: Obnoxious Submission)
  • Many dogs (and people) are highly in-tolerant of this behavior. An intolerant human may smack the dog, an intolerant dog may bite the dog, both of which are problematic. (see: Top 8 Punishment Mistakes)
  • Direct approaches can also be aggressive, territorial or dominant in nature. (see: Dominance) 

Note: Once both parties are known to each other, the rules may go out the window. 

We already know how dogs should approach each other but people should also approach unfamiliar dogs slowly and in an arc or with a sideways posture, not head on with direct eye contact. Actually, people would be better off to simply NOT approach a dog they don’t know. Calling the dog to come to you, or waiting for the dog to choose to come to you, is a much better way to avoid triggering aggression. Which brings us to the next section on hugs and kisses. 

Humans Giving Hugs and Kisses To Dogs

Humans, in many cultures, are taught at a young age to approach each other directly and shake hands while making direct eye contact. We also like to show affection with hugs and kisses. We also tend to erroneously think of dogs as “fur babies”. All of this gives people the bright idea of going right up to a dog and kissing them on the face. Yikes! If you read the previous section, you are probably already starting to see how this might be a less than brilliant idea.   

I have seen many “aggression” cases where someone got bit in the face because they tried to hug or kiss the dog. Most were just scratches and bruises but some required stitches and others needed plastic surgery, so this is no joke!  

“Are you saying that I should never kiss my dog?” 

No, I am not saying that at all. Sometimes it is fine to kiss a dog. I kiss my own dogs. The lesson here is simply that, much like with humans, hugs and kisses that are non-consensual are inappropriate and may trigger an aggressive reaction. 

“How do I know if I have consent from a dog?” 

As stated previously, having the dog come to you, rather than invading the dog’s space, is a good start. We should also start by asking some basic questions:  

  1. How well do you know the dog? 
  2. How well do you read canine body language? 
  3. What is the situation? 

Most dog lovers overestimate how well they know a dog that they want to hug and kiss. Most dog lovers are also not great at reading dog body language. Hence, they are at high risk of Misreading Social Cues or failing to recognize subtle signals that dogs give to show that they are uncomfortable, such as freezing or looking away. Dog lovers also tend to have very little self-restraint when they see “that cute little face”, so they pursue their own desires, blind to the dog’s discomfort or annoyance. In other words, there’s a really good chance that you would be better off assuming you do not have consent. How about we stick to petting the dog and keep our faces at a safe distance?  

What is the situation in which you are wanting to hug and kiss the dog? 

Now let’s talk about the dog that has been wonderful and affectionate for years and then “out of nowhere” bites a person who he knows and loves and who has hugged and kissed him many times before. Aside from a mental illness or physical pain, the incident probably happened due to something situational. In other words, the person may have kissed the dog before but not under the same circumstances.  

Example: A client’s 6-year-old dog bit their 15-year-old son on the lip and it required stitches. They have had this dog since he was 10 weeks old and the son had kissed the dog many times before. This time, however, the dog was on the couch snuggling against Mom’s leg. The son approached them, went down to give the dog a kiss and that’s when the “out of nowhere” bite happened. When I asked him if he had ever kissed the dog in that scenario before, he really had to think about it and then said, “I don’t think so.”

Why did this happen? 

This was a case of Dominance as well as Guarding, Protecting and Spoiling. The dog was resource guarding the boy’s mother and “correcting” the son for rude, inappropriate, non-consensual behavior. The dog was also spoiled, only “listened” when they had treats, had very little obedience training and pretty much zero boundaries in the house. With a little more questioning, I also discovered that the dog had growled and snapped at the boy in the past, so it wasn’t actually “out of nowhere” as they originally claimed. (see: History

Space Invaders 

No, not the video game from the 1980s. I’m talking about personal space, not outer space. You probably get the general idea by now but, just to be thorough, let me throw in a few examples of space invasion that might trigger aggression due to being perceived by the dog as rude, inappropriate or non-consensual. 

  • Getting In The Dog’s Face
    • Some dogs don’t like this, especially if they don’t know the person or dog really well. 
    • Huge problem with children and people who believe dogs are “fur babies”. 
    • Huge problem with puppies because they are inclined to muzzle lick. (see: Obnoxious Submission)  
  • Jumping Up
    • Many dogs and people are aggressively triggered by being jumped on. 
  • Body Slamming
    • This is a common part of rough play between dogs but, similar to jumping up, it can trigger an aggressive response when it is non-consensual. 
  • Intense or Prolonged Sniffing
    • Most dogs will tolerate a second or two of being sniffed but too much can trigger aggression. (see: The Three Second Rule)
  • Grabbing The Collar
    • A common cause of dog bites is grabbing the collar. Dogs should be trained to accept collar grabbing as part of a balanced obedience program.  


I would like to close this chapter with the exact same words that opened it:  

“Dogs can have an aggressive reaction to what they interpret as rude or inappropriate behavior from other dogs as well as from humans. Even if the behavior was intended to be loving or playful, the dog may not like it. Even if it’s a behavior that a dog sometimes likes, they may not like it at certain times. Unfortunately, this can, and often does, include playful behavior from puppies as well as affection from well-meaning humans.” 

There is a lot of overlap between this chapter and others in the series, hence why the article is dotted with so many links. I hope some readers will enjoy diving deeper into all the links but I also hope this chapter was informative enough to stand on its own. I believe that an understanding of the concepts provided can help avoid a lot of dog aggression. 


Congratulations for making it all the way through this 13-part series! If you actually read the whole series, you are truly an exceptional person and I love that about you! I started off thinking it would be a single article with a few bullet points but it just kept growing the more I thought about it. I’m sure that I got into more detail than most people care for but, for those who are interested in deeper learning, I hope it was worth the read. 

Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

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