CBD for Aggression in Dogs

Canine aggression is a common, but serious problem in today’s world. It’s a behavioral issue that ranges from mild to severe with many different causes. Aggressive behavior is common in all dog breeds, regardless of size, or age. In most cases, aggressive behavior is associated with some type of negative experience whether it lasted throughout the course of puppyhood or was a one-time event.

Aggression is tricky which is why it’s important to consult with a trained professional prior to attempting to resolve the problem on your own. Aggressive behavior can result in lunging, growling, or even a serious bite wound if not handled properly. It’s also important to note that aggression isn’t a behavior that can be resolved overnight. There are steps you can take as a responsible pet parent to handle the behavior, but it’s important to understand it will take time. The amount of time it takes to remedy the behavior depends highly on the individual dog, what he or she has experienced, and the root cause of the behavior.

Common Signs of Aggression

The common signs of aggression in dogs include the following:

  • Growling
  • Snapping
  • Rigid bodily stance
  • Wagging tail 
  • Excessive licking
  • Yawning
  • Raised fur
  • Tucked tail
  • “Whale Eye” (seeing whites of eyes)

In many cases, the dog isn’t trying to harm you on purpose. Rather, the aggression often stems from fear, trauma, or pain. Prior to beginning any type of behavior regimen, a professional Behaviorist will request to see records from a veterinarian indicating there are no underlying medical causes for the aggressive behavior.

Types of Aggression

In order to fully understand what you’re dealing with in terms of aggression, it’s important to determine the type of aggression your dog is experiencing.

  • Predatory aggression: Dogs become aggressive without warning
  • Social aggression: This is often due to a lack of social interaction as a puppy.
  • Territorial aggression: Dog is defending his or her territory. Keep in mind, this could solely be your home or can extend through all the areas he or she is familiar with.
  • Possessive aggression: This type of aggression is also referred to as resource guarding. This occurs when your dog has special interest in a particular object. For example, some dogs will guard their food whereas others will guard their toys. Dogs who show this type of aggression can be very dangerous. To reduce this behavior, you should avoid feeding the dog in areas where there is a lot of foot traffic.
  • Fear-based aggression: A dog may lunge, growl, and/or attack when faced in a fearful situation. Their original response is generally ‘flight,’ but if they feel as if they cannot escape to safety, the ‘fight’ mode will begin.
  • Pain-elicited aggression: When a dog is in pain, he or she may become irritable resulting in pain-elicited aggression. For example, dogs with hip dysplasia may become aggressive when the area of their hip is touched.
  • Dog-to-dog aggression: Dogs of the same sex may not get along well. 

Food Guarding

Food guarding, in the resource-guarding category, is extremely common and is considered to be a relatively normal behavior in dogs. Wild animals protect their food instinctively; as did their ancestors, so food guarding is a known instinctive behavior. Instinctively, dogs who guard their food are more likely to survive than those who don’t. Of course, we know our dogs have plenty more food and the guarding isn’t necessary, but their brains are hardwired to believe they do not. 

Food guarding can range from a relatively mild behavior, like running away with their piece of food to protect it, or growling as another pet approaches. In severe circumstances, lunging and/or biting may be involved. It’s when the behavior is more severe there often becomes a concern.

In most cases, food guarding is not necessary to be modified with a behavior modification plan. Instead, reasonable precautions are taken. Dogs are left alone while eating, fed in a separate room or in their crate, and provided sufficient amounts of food on a routine basis so they know when to expect it.

Implementing the routine feeding alone may be sufficient in diminishing the behaviors associated with food guarding down to a mild case. Without a routine, dogs don’t know when they will eat next which may cause excessive measures to be taken once their food bowl is down. 

If you continue to be concerned with the behavior, you can take a few steps in an effort to reduce the behavior. Begin by standing far away from your dog’s food that you aren’t a threat, but he or she is still able to see you are there. Gradually decrease the distance between yourself and the food bowl as your dog feels comfortable. This is sometimes completed in just a few steps, and other times may take months for your dog to feel comfortable enough to let her guard down. 

Behavior Modification Techniques

As a canine behaviorist, I strongly recommend not attempting to resolve aggression on your own, especially with children and/or other pets in the home. Once medical causes are ruled out, an experienced canine behaviorist (and some dog trainers) can implement behavior modification techniques including:

  • Desensitization/Habituation: exposing the dog to a stimulus that would normally cause an undesirable reaction at an extremely low level so there is no response. As the pet becomes less reactive, he is desensitized through exposure as you gradually increase the stimulus which caused the negative reaction. 
  • Counterconditioning: re-training the brain to associate a positive response with a perceived negative stimulus. 
  • Additional methods dependent upon the type of aggression your dog is experiencing. 

CBD for Aggression

CBD may provide a natural calming remedy to add to your dog’s behavior modification plan. CBD is known to produce a calming, anti-anxiety effect in our dogs.

According to an article published in Neuropharmacology, researchers found that “in addition to modulating basal anxiety states, recent studies suggest an important role for the endocannabinoid (eCB) and glucocorticoid systems in the modulation of emotional states and extinction of aversive memories in animals.” This means that CBD can help in facilitating extinction of negative memories to reduce PTSD and anxiety-related disorders (like fear-based aggression) in dogs. This is particularly important in dogs who have experienced trauma, like dogs who were previously abused or involved in military or police work. 

Safety of CBD and Choosing a Product

CBD oil has been shown to be safe for all mammals to consume, but it’s important to pay close attention to the product you are choosing. For example, you shouldn’t purchase your CBD oil from your local convenience store. You also shouldn’t grab a bottle of CBD that’s intended solely for human consumption. The CBD developed for people often contains some type of additive, like Xylitol (also found in peanut butter), to sweeten the tincture. This could lead to inflammation and likely won’t produce the results you’re looking for.

You’ll want to search for a full-spectrum, U.S.-based CBD product, like our full-spectrum CALM tincture, to ensure the oil works the way it’s meant to. Full-spectrum means all the cannabinoids and terpenes than can possibly be present are available in the tincture. There are thousands of cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant, and it’s impossible to preserve them all through the manufacturing process, but when a product is full-spectrum it means that all of the constituents than can be present are and none were purposely removed. This is a critical component to the success of CBD.

All of the cannabinoids and terpenes work together synergistically to enhance one another. This is what produces the entourage effect to achieve optimal results. 

The Correct Dosage

Contrary to popular belief, dogs should be provided with a CBD dosage corresponding to their ailment rather than their weight. Every dog is unique, with a different set of ailments, and their dosage should correspond with the severity of the condition. For example, a dog who is only mildly stressed likely will not require as much CBD oil as one who is experiencing severe aggression. For more information regarding dosage, visit the ‘Dosage’ page for CBD Dog Health by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

When your dog is experiencing any type of aggressive behavior, it’s important to observe and monitor her closely to determine the root cause. Understanding the root cause will help you and the behaviorist determine the best course of action. Implementing CBD into your dog’s daily routine may also assist in reducing the aggression, dependent upon type, by assisting with anxiety, pain, trauma, and/or fear-based responses. The best course of action in these circumstances is always to consult with a professional behaviorist following medical clearance from your veterinarian. 

About Angela Ardolino

Angela Ardolino Schnauzer Odie

Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of  Beautify the Beast a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.