This article is not a substitute for veterinary diagnosis or treatment of any condition, symptom, or disease. Please consult with your veterinarian if your dog is suffering from any troubling symptoms.
Is your dog aggressive with other dogs and people, or around certain triggers such as food, toys, and places? This article will help you learn more about aggression in dogs. We’ll explore causes, training tips, and whether using CBD for dog aggression can help.
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that dog aggression can be dangerous. You may need the help of a professional if the aggression is out of control. Many owners make aggression worse by misdiagnosing the root cause or using “common sense” training techniques that can make aggressive dogs more dangerous.
This article isn’t a substitute for professional guidance. However, we do hope that it will provide you with a better understanding of this behavioral problem as well as some of the best tools to use as you help your canine companion find a calmer way of engaging with the world.
Types of Aggression in Dogs
According to the ASPCA, there are 11 common types of dog aggression. These are pictured in the image below. Helping your dog overcome aggression always starts by developing a clear picture of the problem and its causes.
The outdated “dominance” model of canine psychology assumes that most aggression problems are caused by excessive dominance or lack of submission. We now know, however, that dogs have complex social and emotional lives. Aggression is often triggered by fear, insecurity, and anxiety.
Take a look at the 11 types of dog aggression above and notice that almost all of them (with the exceptions of pain-induced and predatory) involve anxiety and aggression about a certain trigger. For example:
Territorial and Possessive: Anxiety about a place or a valued possession being threatened or lost.
Social: Anxiety about one’s place in the pack and the fear of losing status.
Defensive: Anxiety about an impending threat in response to a certain trigger such as being on a leash around other dogs or being approached by a person with a newspaper in their hands.
Recognizing the exact cause of your dog’s anxiety is usually the first step of a behavioral training program. Once that trigger gets identified, you can “reprogram” the anxiety response using positive reinforcement, reconditioning, and desensitization techniques developed from decades of research in animal behavior.
4 Behavior Modification Tips for Aggression
1. Never Punish the Signs of Aggression
The outdated “dominance” model suggests that all dog aggression is caused by dogs who think they are “alphas” and insist on dominating everything and everyone around them.
Unfortunately, these models of dog behavior are not only incorrect, they often do more harm than good. Trainers that use this theory often recommend “dominating” or punishing such dogs at the first signs of aggression ( e.g. raised hackles, growling, hard stance, baring teeth, licking lips, etc.)
The problem with this is that all it does is make an already insecure dog feel even more insecure by adding a real threat of harm. In addition, it trains them to stop giving warning signals when they’re feeling anxious and/or threatened. Such dogs become more dangerous because they will stop giving any warning of their fear.
Instead, they launch right into an attack when their fear becomes too much for them to handle.
2. Humane Use of Muzzles
While they look barbaric, muzzles can be an important safety precaution when dealing with dogs that have aggression issues. Make sure that you purchase basket-style muzzles rather than the cloth kind because they allow for better breathing.
In addition, take time to acclimate your dog to wearing a muzzle in calm and familiar environments where fear triggers are not present, using lots of positive reinforcement.
Never muzzle one dog and not the other if dog-dog aggression is a problem. It can make the fearful dog feel even more insecure and expose him to serious harm should a fight break out.
3. Desensitization and Reconditioning
A technique known as desensitization is at the heart of most dog aggression training programs. It’s a program that involves exposing the fearful dog to a trigger that is far away. So far that they are under the “reaction threshold.” Then, offer a dog treat all calm responses with praise and food rewards.
Slowly, keeping the dog under the reaction threshold, get closer and closer to the trigger while continuing to reward calm behavior. This is the “reconditioning” part of the training program. Over time, the trigger that was once associated with a threat becomes associated with a reward.
A dog that was once fearful of a trigger can learn to love it in good time with plenty of repetition and practice.
A well-meaning dog owner can go wrong with this technique by moving too fast. If a fear reaction happens, it can undo the progress made. It is better to stay well within your dog’s sense of safety for much longer than you think you need to than to go too fast and ruin the progress you have made.
4. Know When to Contact a Professional
Keep in mind that aggression in dogs can become a dangerous problem.
If you have a large and powerful dog or suspect that your dog may pose a danger to other people or pets, it is advisable to seek professional help.
Can You Use CBD Oil for Dog Aggression?
Many veterinarians, professional dog trainers, and pet owners alike have discovered that CBD can promote calm in dogs. While dog aggression remains a complex problem, the calming effect of CBD oil may be part of a successful and well-designed training program to address aggression in dogs.
To learn more, click here to read about one special rescue dog, Archie Barker, who had aggression problems after being neglected and abandoned. Many shelter dogs could tell a similar tale (or tail, depending on who you ask).
If you decide to give CBD oil a try, consider Lolahemp.
Our organic CBD products are made from full-spectrum hemp oil made just with dogs in mind. They’re safe for your pup’s endocannabinoid system and the effectiveness of CBD in dogs is well-known among pet owners. In addition, we donate one bottle for every four sold to a rescue dog in need – a purchase you can feel good about!