4 min read


Why Do German Shepherds' Hair Stand Up



4 min read


Why Do German Shepherds' Hair Stand Up




Danny is very loyal. He follows you wherever you go and he listens to you when you ask him to do something. In fact, he is even protective over you when he feels like someone unsafe is around. Recently, Danny started to bark at a man at the park when you were walking him. Although the man did seem unsafe, you did not like that Danny barked at him and you noticed that the hair on his back stood up. Although this has never been concerning to you before, you now are a bit bothered by it and want to know why Danny has hair standing up on his back.

The Root of the Behavior

Danny is a German Shepherd who loves you unconditionally, even though some have told you that German Shepherds can be aggressive. You never thought Danny was an aggressive dog, but now you have noticed that his hair stands up on his back when he barks at others. Could this be a sign of aggression? It possibly could be, but it could also mean other things. In fact, it is just an emotional reflex reaction that is called piloerection and it is not that concerning because it is not a behavioral trait. This reflex is well-known in German Shepherds because they seem to behave in ways that may trigger this reflex. Yet, what behavioral tendencies are those? Aggression is one of them, but so is predatory behavior. If your dog is in a mode of protection or if they are aroused with anger, the hair on their back may stand up from their neck all the way down to their tail. 

It is common in any and all dogs that are loyal and protective, so there is no need to single out German Shepherds in this capacity. Secondly, your dog may have hair raise on his back because he is excited. Just as aggression provokes an emotional response in your dog, so does excitement. If your dog is happy to see you or if he is around other animals, he may have hair lift on his back. With that excitement, your dog may also have anxiety. If Danny meets a new friend, he may have hair raise on his back during the first minute or two because he is anxious about this new dog. But once he feels comfortable, the hair might fall back down. It is a completely normal response in your Danny. The amount of hair that stands up on your dog's back does not matter, so do not worry if more hair stands up during times of anger over times of anxiety. 

Need advice about your pet's health?

Get answers fast from a veterinary professional 24/7 in the Wag! App.

Get Vet Chat

Encouraging the Behavior

It is important to remember that this piloerection reaction in your dog is not a behavioral trait. You will be able to see your dog's level of intensity in their emotional response by this reaction. If your dog is constantly barking or reacting to others in a negative way, you are definitely going to want to pay attention to the hair on your dog's back. If it happens frequently and things start to get out of control, it is recommended that you hire a behavioralist. Yet, sometimes this reaction is just a part of the canine nature and any bit of emotion can cause it whether that be anger, excitement, or even jealousy. 

German Shepherds are more prone to this reaction than other dogs because of how they are. In fact, you may see German Shepherds working with law enforcement and they are used for protection. Therefore, it is more likely that Danny may have hair raise on his back when he is in a defensive mode rather than a happy mode. You can also watch the hair on your dog's back for the location of where it raises. Most times, you will notice that the hair will raise on your dog's shoulders when they are angry over having hair raise along their whole back. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

You want to watch over Danny's behavioral traits. Watch to see how often he exudes aggression and anger over anxiety and excitement, and see how often the hair reacts on his back. You may want to also watch to see how much force he is exerting, if he is showing his teeth, or if he is intimidated. If things are out of control, you are going to need to train Danny. There is no harm in this piloerection if Danny is not exerting his anger, excitement, or fear towards those that are around him. It is also a wise idea to use positive reinforcement with your dog and show him that you are the alpha leader.


Regardless of the piloerection in Danny, he is a great and loyal dog. You could never imagine not having Danny around you because he makes your life that much better. Yet, you still want to make sure that Danny understands the boundaries of his actions, even though the piloerection is not the behavior that you may be worried about.

By a Golden Retriever lover Erika Seidel

Published: 04/26/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

What do you think?

Wag! Specialist
Does your pet have a supplement plan?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.