There seems to be a consensus that when a dog raises the hair on his sholders, he is feeling some sort of strong emotion. Some people claim that it's a display of agression or dominance. Boo's been pretty laid back and submissive during this first year of life, so I'm not quite convinced. On the other hand, if I'm missing something, I want to know about it.
Lately Boo's hackles have been standing up each time he meets another dog. He's never met a pup he didn't want to play and butt tuck with, so I'm thinking he's just excited and a little cautious. His hair even raised up yesterday when he was alone and had a bone and a tennisball (extreme joy?).
So, what's your experience? Does your dog ever raise his hackles? Have you decoded this body language?
My Boo raises her hackles when she is extremely excited either good or bad. When her and her sister Rush are playing bitey face, or extreme bitey face her hackles are up. Sometimes when she butt tucks around the house they're up. We just chalk it up to her being excited one way or the other. Rush raises her hackles but only when she is extremely unsure of something or someone. When her hackles are up we know she is upset about something. Boo looks like she has a mohawk down her back, it looks so funny!
Like rushpuppy, Ty's hackles raise fairly often. It can be either scared, excited, or a combination. When we first met Macie (our new lab), his hackles were raised, but not in an aggressive manner. When they butt tuck around the yard or chase each other, his hackles are raised. When we get him riles up inside the house, his hackles raise. When he hears voices or people walking on the outside of the fence, he barks and his hackles are raised.
So, like I said he raises his hackels often for good and bad reasons. I bet its different with each dog.
Sammi hackles go up anytime she gets excited, good or bad! Have never seen her be agressive towards another dog, but at the dog park, especially when we first get there she is so excited and hackles are up! ;D
You definitely need to read the whole dog, not just the hackles. Raised hackles can mean fear, anger, excitement. What are the ears doing? What are the eyes saying? What does the mouth look like? What is the posture?
From what you describe I would guess excitement and/or fear.
Sam is a pretty confident dog (compared to Bodie), and he rarely raises his hackles. I can't even remember the last time. Bodie raises his all the time, mostly when he and Sam are playing and Sam is chasing him. I think it's because he's excited or trying to seem bigger to Sam.