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Defensive Aggression
Typically produced when a dog is being attacked or when there is a threat of being attacked. This can actually occur even when there is no apparent threat. This may occur if there has been any significant past trauma, and when certain associated stimuli or circumstances are present that occurred at, or prior to, the time of trauma, the animal can anticipate a threat and act defensively at this time. Often, but not always, defensive aggression manifests itself in situations where a dog is cornered, or its movement is restricted (e.g. by a leash or line). Usually these dogs will provide some subset of threat displays (e.g. lifting its lip, growling, snapping out at the air). Often their ears will be back, and the hair on some portion along their back may be up. Their tails are often tucked. Other aggressive motivational states can occur simultaneously which can act to alter the visual displays produced (body language and behaviors). These dogs should not be provoked or antagonized. They are acting primarily out of fear for their own safety, and adding further aggressiveness to this situation can be harmful on a number of levels.