Can Dogs Be Passive Aggressive?


Do you think that only humans can be passive aggressive – like those co-workers that are always finding ways to passively anger the others out or dislike for one another? It was once thought that dogs were not completely capable of feeling complex emotions, however, we know now that is not the case. Your dogs can feel a host of more complex emotions and that includes acting in a passive-aggressive manner in many different situations.

Let’s take a look at some signs your pooch is passive aggressive, why it has happened, and what you can do to correct this unwanted behavior.

Sings of a Dog Who is Passive Aggressive

There are plenty of different signs you can look out for that suggest your pup has a passive-aggressive personality or at least has passive aggressive tendencies from time to time. The first sign is selective hearing.

For instance, your dog may respond instantly to the word “walk” or “treat”, but when you tell them to stop or come, they choose to completely ignore you. Blocking is also another common passive aggressive trait. This means your pup may come and stand right in front of you blocking the TV so you can’t binge watch your favorite Netflix show.

If you find your dog sighing loudly and relentlessly from time to time, or all the time, this is their passive-aggressive way of getting your attention and showing you they really need some attention or are displeased with the way you are acting.

Ever take notice that your dog will paw at you until you give him or her a pet? When you stop petting your pooch, do they will continue to paw at your until those belly scratches and chin rubs commence again? Unfortunately, this isn’t “cute” behavior and it’s rather a passive-aggressive way to keep getting your attention even when you say it’s time to stop. Essentially, it is your dog’s way of asserting their dominance over you. Passive aggressive dogs may also whine, bark, howl, dig, or jump as well.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog is passive aggressive:




Jumping Up



Other Signs

These are some other signs you may notice if your dog is passive aggressive:

Only Responds To Certain Words

Blocking The Tv Or Computer Screen

Sighing Loudly At You

Relentlessly Pawing At You Until You Pet Them

History of Dogs and Passive Aggressive Behavior

For as long as humans and dogs have had their special bond, we can assume dogs have used passive aggressive behavior to get what they want. As dogs became domesticated by humans, they learned to read humans’ expressions, their body language, and other forms of communication. This has allowed dogs to understand humans very well and on a deeper level than we originally believed.

They were able to learn what we liked, what we did not like, what made us happy, and what made us annoyed and angry. Dogs have gone through their evolutionary process for anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years, which is plenty of time for dogs to observe us and understand us – but to also figure out how they can try and manipulate us as well, which can lead to passive-aggressive behavior.

For example, a dog named Eko always wanted his human to wake up early in the morning with him. However, the human did not want to wake up, would push the dog away, and try to go back to sleep. The dog soon learned that his direct attempt at waking her up, like poking her in the face with his nose, did not work.

Eko quickly turned to other passive-aggressive attempts to wake up his human. Eko would turn around on his bed, scratch his blanket loudly, and make a ton of noise, which would eventually wake his human up. To the owner, Eko only indirectly woke her up, and since she was up already from his loud noises, she would stay awake anyway.

Science Behind Dogs’ Passive Aggressive Behavior

Surprisingly, there is not a lot of scientific research on passive aggressive behavior in dogs. Although many dogs have a passive-aggressive personality or tendencies, it is still an unexplored area in the world of science and dog behaviors. Passive-aggressive behavior most likely stems from a dog that is needy, assertive, and/or a bossy pooch.

Most dog behavior is a result of what we have trained them to do or not to do, so your passive aggressive dog most likely stems from your own bad behaviors and direct or indirect encouragement of certain behaviors. If you allow a certain behavior to take place, and do nothing about it, the bad behavior will continue to grow and grow.

Dogs have complex brains and the ability to understand and remember how you handle certain situations. If your pup paws at you for affection and petting and everytime you give in and pet him, he is going to learn – ok, if I paw at you I will get you to pet me – which is encouraging the passive-aggressive behavior.

Training Dogs to Stop Passive Aggressive Behavior

Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can tame your dog and train them to snap out of their passive-aggressive behavior. The biggest key to success and the easiest success is to make sure you catch the behavior early because it will be much easier to train them to stop. One of the simplest approaches to stopping passive-aggressive tendencies and needy behavior is to simply ignore it.

If your dog is pawing at your to be pet, ignore him. If your dog howls at you or stands in front of the TV, pretend to do something else or act as if it does not bother you. Over time, your pup will learn his actions no longer have an effect on you and will stop the behavior since he is not getting what he wants out of you anymore. The only drawback to this form of training is it make take a very long time for your pup to learn and stop the behavior. This will vary from dog to dog, however.

You also need to establish yourself as the pack leader, which is a crucial step. It is likely that your dog is showing his behavior because he does not feel like you are being an effective pack leader. Essentially, the dog feels like they need to take matters into their own hands and establish themselves as the leader of your pack.

If your dog thinks they are the leader, they will take control of all situations, not listen to you, and act however they want. For you to regain your position as leader, you need to act calm and assertive at all times and you must set boundaries like controlling when they eat. They should walk on a leash properly, and you always need to be clear, firm, and consistent.

“Training dogs to stop passive aggressive behavior requires patience, consistency, and establishing yourself as the pack leader.”

Tips & Things to Know

1️⃣ Dogs are capable of displaying passive-aggressive behavior, such as selective hearing, blocking your view of the TV, sighing loudly to get your attention, or pawing at you until you pet them. These behaviors often result from the dog trying to assert dominance.

2️⃣ A dog’s passive-aggressive behavior often stems from the owner’s actions or inactions. For instance, if a dog learns that pawing at its owner will always result in petting, the dog will continue this behavior. It’s crucial to discourage these behaviors early on to prevent them from escalating.

3️⃣ To curb passive-aggressive behavior in dogs, owners should ignore the undesirable behavior and assert themselves as the pack leader. This can be achieved by acting calm and assertive, setting boundaries, controlling when they eat, and ensuring they walk properly on a leash. Consistency and firmness are key in this process.

Frequently Asked Questions, Answered ✅

1. Can dogs exhibit passive-aggressive behavior?
– Yes, dogs can display passive-aggressive behavior, such as selective hearing, blocking, sighing, and pawing for attention.

2. What are some signs that indicate a passive-aggressive dog?
– Signs of a passive-aggressive dog include barking, digging, whining, jumping up, howling, pacing, and only responding to certain words.

3. How do dogs learn to be passive-aggressive?
– Dogs learn passive-aggressive behavior through observing and understanding humans’ likes, dislikes, and reactions. They may manipulate their owners to get what they want.

4. Is there scientific research on dogs’ passive-aggressive behavior?
– There is limited scientific research on passive-aggressive behavior in dogs, but it is believed to stem from dogs being needy, assertive, or bossy.

5. How can passive-aggressive behavior in dogs be trained and corrected?
– Training methods for passive-aggressive behavior in dogs include ignoring the behavior, establishing yourself as the pack leader, and setting boundaries through consistent and assertive actions.

Max Kozinskiy
Max Kozinskiy
Max Kozinskiy is a seasoned writer and an enthusiast of dog breed expertise. Having dedicated over 5 years to studying the intricacies of different dog breeds and their unique characteristics. His profound insights and love for our four-legged friends have made him an invaluable part of our team.

Related Pet Guides