The Difference Between Aggressive and Overstimulated Dog Behavior

Letting your dog socialize is important to their development and overall wellness–but sometimes it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know the other dogs your pooch is interacting with.

It can be difficult to tell whether your dog is just playing, starting to get overstimulated by a lot of new friends, or ready to bite. As a k9 boarding and training facility, Top Dog knows firsthand how to make sure play stays safe and fun!

Top Dog Training and Resort is the best dog boarding near me in the Triangle Area. Our fully licensed staff provides superior boarding, training, and grooming to our local furry friends, and we even offer a dog pickup service!

We are experts at helping dogs behave well, and we want to help you understand how to respond when your dog starts acting strangely during play.

Overstimulated vs. Aggressive: What’s the Difference?

When your dog is walking in your neighborhood or playing at the dog park and they start acting strange, it’s important to understand what they’re feeling.

When a dog is overstimulated, also known as “reactive,” they display certain behaviors that some erroneously label as “aggressive.”

An overstimulated dog isn’t aggressive; they are just overwhelmed and fatigued. They might be super excited by everything going on around them, or they might be frightened by something. In either case, they are not dangerous.

Dogs can get overstimulated from socialization, a particular visual or auditory trigger that causes fear (like fireworks going off), or resource guarding (when a dog becomes fixated on a certain object, like a toy or stick).

An overstimulated dog has no intent to harm. They may just need some further training to improve their behavior, or they simply need to be removed to a quieter, calmer environment.

In contrast, aggressive dog feels threatened, and they think they need to act to defend themselves–which usually means biting.

Here is a helpful chart comparing the signs of overstimulation and aggression:


Signs of Overstimulation Signs of Aggression
Slowing down Growling/snarling
Focused eyes Showing the whites of their eyes
Ears forward Raised hackles and tail
Mouth closed Showing teeth
Tall posture Aggressive barking
Light pulling Lunging
Nipping Snapping
Panting Uninterested in food
Sniffing Intense staring/focus
Hiding Unresponsive to commands


How to Keep Overstimulation from Turning to Aggression

An overstimulated dog has no intent to harm; however, their heightened reactive state can lead to aggression if you do not take steps to make them feel more relaxed.

If your dog is overstimulated, consider:

  • Keeping them on a leash
  • Using simple commands like “sit,” “leave it,” and “heel” to help your dog redirect their attention from triggers and resource guarding
  • Removing them from an environment when seem they seem tired and overstimulated
  • Dog training at a k9 boarding and training facility like Top Dog

If the behavior persists, you may want to take your dog to a veterinarian, because they might be experiencing physical discomfort.

If your dog starts showing signs of aggression, remove them from the situation immediately, as they might be about to bite.

Top Dog: The Best Boarding for Dogs

Every dog can benefit from training, but easily overstimulated dogs really notice a difference!

Top Dog’s signature boarding school programs offer the best boarding for dogs while also providing an ideal learning environment to help your dog curb bad behavior.

We offer 3-week, 4-week, and 6-week courses combining three different classrooms–the training room, outside, and dog-friendly public establishments–to teach your dog manners and necessary commands.

In addition to our boarding school programs, we also offer grooming and day school, including our dog pickup service, which will make sure your dog gets to school and back home safely every day.

Contact Top Dog today to experience the best dog boarding near me!

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