CBD for Dogs With Aggression: Why and How It Works
CBD for dogs with aggression might be an unexpected remedy for a behavior problem that has plagued countless dogs (and their owners) over the past decades. Statistics show an increase in bite-related hospitalizations, even fatalities.
Being the owner of an aggressive dog is a very stressful experience because of the ever-present, lingering fear that your dog might seriously hurt another person or another dog. This, of course, does not mean that you love your dog any less. You want to help him become a safer member of society and gain a calmer state of mind.
As CBD oil is rising in popularity and taking the world by storm, the pet industry is welcoming a variety of CBD-based products on the market. Many dog owners are now wondering if this is just another hype or something that could actually help their sick, anxious, and aggressive dog. Can CBD truly be helpful for canine aggression?
Aggression in Dogs
How are fear and aggression connected?
Aggression is a strong violent reaction to a perceived external threat. Just like humans, dogs have three natural fear responses: fight, flight, and freeze. Aggression is a manifestation of the fight response. This is how we know that all aggression is essentially born out of fear.
There are many different threats a dog can perceive, such as other dogs, competitors, intruders, etc. Fearful and aggressive dogs cannot discern between an actual threat and a perceived threat. This is why many aggressive dogs are called unpredictable, as their owners struggle to understand their triggers.
Studies have shown that the majority of dog bites happen at home, where one would expect dogs to feel safe. Over half of all people who get bitten are children. Dogs with aggression are suffering from internal fear and opting for the fight response, ultimately making them very challenging to live with.
The idea of a supplement that could help these dogs feel calmer in their environment, not to mention in the world at large, comes as a saving grace to many dog owners who are struggling with fear in their own homes. Thankfully, more and more connections have been made between CBD oil and the improved moods of anxious dogs, giving hope to many owners that their aggressive dogs can be helped after all.
CBD Oil for Dogs
What is CBD? Can a dog get high?
CBD stands for cannabidiol and it comes from the cannabis plant. It can be used as an ingredient in a variety of products, such as edibles, ointments, tinctures, and oils. The CBD in these products is primarily derived from hemp (not marijuana), meaning it contains little to no THC and therefore does not have any psychoactive consequences. Your dog will not get high from CBD.
How does CBD work?
All mammals have a natural endocannabinoid system, known as the ECS. This is a system that regulates many functions in our body, most notable ones being sleep, inflammation, pain, memory, and moods. The way CBD works is by stimulating the ECS receptors, therefore impacting all functions regulated by this system.
Dogs with anxiety and aggression notably suffer from imbalanced moods, sometimes even as a result of physical pain or sickness. Since CBD oil impacts exactly the receptors that regulate moods and pain, it could ease several of these symptoms at once, resulting in a more balanced system and a calmer dog.
CBD Oil and Canine Aggression
Is there proof that CBD can help dogs with fear aggression?
Most of the feedback on successful CBD help for aggressive dogs has come directly from the owners that have reported seeing changes in their dogs’ state of mind. CBD oil can be used as a regular treatment or as extra help on special occasions, such as the New Year’s Eve fireworks, welcoming a new family member, taking a trip to the vet, etc.
Take Barnaby, for example. A 15-year-old dog who has become reactive and fear aggressive as a result of old age. It only took a week of taking CBD for his owners to already notice a change in his mood, which made it easier to work on his behaviors. Stories like these are an inspiration to struggling owners, but they can also be an encouragement to those who work in rescue and daily encounter anxious and aggressive dogs.
One foster dog mom has noticed how much calmer her PTSD fosters are, after giving them CBD treats. She notes that the visible shift in their mood opened the doors to easier socialization and further behavior modification.
While there is much research still to be done on this topic specifically (the first veterinary studies have mainly been focusing on the physical ailments), there are two notable studies that give us a good insight into the value of CBD for aggression in dogs.
In the first study, researchers studied mice who exhibited territorial aggression and found that CBD reduced their aggressive reactions and behaviors. In the cases where aggressive attacks still happened, they were much shorter in duration.
The second study exposed rats to a snake, their predator, with the intent to observe the panic-induced reactions. When faced with the threat, the rats dosed with CBD had significantly diminished fear responses. In both cases, the researchers concluded that CBD could help prevent or reduce fear-born behaviors, such as panic and aggression.
While the research on this topic is still at the beginning, it is evident that the starting point is already more than promising, indicating that there is massive potential for helping fear aggressive dogs with CBD.
Are there any dangers to using CBD for dogs with aggression?
While CBD is generally considered safe, there are still some things you should keep in mind before giving it to your anxious and aggressive dog. Always consult your holistic vet before making any significant changes in your dog’s diet, which includes adding a supplement such as CBD. It is also important to find a good product of high quality, so please do your research before deciding on a final purchase.
The most important thing with CBD is the dosage, which is why you should always carefully read and follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Some possible side effects may include lower blood pressure, drowsiness, and an increased notion of thirst. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to check-in with your vet and readjust the dosage.
Finally, it is crucial to understand that CBD can help dogs with anxiety and aggression, but it cannot cure them or take away the cause. It is a very valuable asset for managing aggression in dogs but should not be considered a replacement for consistent training.
Fear is always present in the life of aggressive dogs. It controls their responses, putting their owners in a state of anxiety as well. Many owners are now finding comfort in recognizing the value of CBD oil for dogs with fear and aggression. It can be used alongside their regular training and rehabilitation. CBD oil stimulates the natural system that regulates the dog’s moods, resulting in a calmer dog with a more relaxed state of mind.
While there is still much research to be done, the first studies have been very promising. They indicate that there is an optimistic future ahead for dogs with aggression. This comes as a relief to the owners who are walking this challenging path with them every single day. Since living with an anxious dog often feels like a dead-end street, there is strong hope in knowing the promising effects of CBD for dogs with aggression.
Kriss, Randa. “CBD Oil for Dogs: What You Need to Know.” American Kennel Club, 05/02/2019.
Hartmann, Alice. Lisboa, Sabrina Francesca. Buzolin Sonego, Andreza. Coutinho, Débora. Villela Gomes, Felipe. Silveira Guimarães, Francisco. “Cannabidiol attenuates aggressive behavior induced by social isolation in mice: Involvement of 5-HT1A and CB1 receptors.” Science Direct, 02/05/2019.
De Mello Schier, Alexandre Rafael. Pinho de Oliveira Ribeiro, Natalia. Cardoso de Oliveira e Silva, Adriana. Cecílio Hallak, Jaime Eduardo. S. Crippa, José Alexandre. E. Nardi, Antonio. Waldo Zuardi, Antonio. “Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug.” Brazilian Journal for Psychiatry, June 2012.
Luna’s passion for learning about canine psychology and behavior began when she adopted a severely reactive puppy from a local shelter. She is now a big advocate for positive reinforcement and compassionate training. As a writer, she strives to spotlight the topics that fly under the radar and be the voice for all who cannot speak for themselves.
Take Barnaby, for example. A 15-year-old dog who has become reactive and fear aggressive as a result of old age. It only took a week of taking CBD for his owners to already notice a change in his mood, which made it easier to work on his behaviors.
Can CBD Help Calm Aggression in Dogs?
Does your dog snarl or snap at you or other people and animals?
Does an innocent game with your furry friend suddenly turn violent?
If your dog displays some of these unmistakable signs of aggression, you may be wondering whether CBD can help.
Read on to learn more.
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Table of Contents
Canine Aggression: A Serious Behavioral Problem
Any dog can become aggressive.
If you notice your dog snarling, growling, baring their teeth, or nipping at you or other people and animals, you might have a serious behavioral problem on your hand.
Dog aggression can lead to violent and possibly dangerous situations really quickly:
Something as simple as greeting other dogs or playing may quickly turn into a seriously violent situation within seconds.
Hence, it’s really important to ensure you catch any aggressive behavior quickly, and immediately start getting to the bottom of it.
To do so, you’ll first need to figure out what exactly is causing your dog to become aggressive.
Doing so can be hard, but most dogs with aggression will act out in response to something in particular.
It’s common, for example, for normally passive and friendly dogs to act aggressively towards children.
Other dogs might become aggressive around strangers, including both animals and humans.
Some other common forms of canine aggression include:
- Pain-Related Aggression: Some dogs become aggressive when they’re in physical pain.
- Fear: Dogs may act aggressively when they are frightened or feel threatened.
- Protection: Some dogs can be very protective of their family and home and may become aggressive towards people or animals they deem as potentially threatening to them.
- Territory: Some dogs may protect particular spaces. This can include their home, yard, or even their bed.
- Social Aggression: Dogs can become aggressive in social situations with other dogs. This is a common problem for dogs that haven’t been socialized properly with other animals and people.
- Sex: Male dogs may become aggressive when competing for the attention of a female.
- Predatory Behavior: Some dogs have been specifically bred to hunt wildlife. These instincts may turn on when playing with other animals or humans, causing the dog to hunt their companions during play.
- Frustration: Dogs can obviously become aggressive when frustrated.
Note that some medical conditions can also cause behavioral problems like aggression and agitation.
If your dog has suddenly started acting aggressively, this may be due to an underlying medical condition.
Some conditions that may cause aggression include neurological conditions, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, brain tumors, and encephalitis.
Always talk to your vet to rule out any medical condition that could be causing your dog’s aggression.
Treating Canine Aggression Requires Patience and Training
Once you’ve identified what’s causing your dog’s aggressive behavior, you’ll need to talk to your vet about creating a plan to address the issue.
If the underlying cause is a medical problem like those I just mentioned, you and your vet will want to treat this condition while simultaneously minimizing its effects on your dog’s behavior.
If, on the other hand, the aggression is purely a behavioral problem, you’ll usually want to work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.
Remember, aggression is a really serious problem that can have some pretty drastic consequences.
You might not be able to fix it on your own.
A professional dog trainer will help you work with your pet to change their behavior gradually.
One of the most common techniques that dog trainers use is positive reinforcement.
This involves using treats and praise to reinforce positive behavior, such as not acting aggressively in situations that would typically make your dog aggressive.
If your dog tends to act aggressive towards other animals, for example, a trainer might slowly get them to socialize with other dogs at a distance.
They’ll then use treats and praise to reinforce your pet’s positive behavior.
Eventually, your dog should learn that being civil around other dogs gets them a treat.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t punish your dog for acting aggressively.
Your trainer may scold your dog when they act out, but you should never hit or yell at your pet for acting aggressively as this may only make matters worse.
Remember that addressing this type of behavior is a big task that takes plenty of time, dedication, and patience.
Behaviors can be hard to change, but with professional help and a solid action plan, you should be able to help your dog overcome their aggressive behavior in due time.
Should You Use Medications to Treat Your Dog’s Aggression?
Sometimes training just isn’t enough to change a dog’s behavior.
If your dog doesn’t respond to training, you may need to combine their therapy with medications and supplements.
Most of the prescription meds used to treat aggression work by altering the release of neurotransmitters in your pup’s brain.
These neurotransmitters work like chemical messengers and can alter the way different areas of the brain communicate with each other.
Moreover, some neurotransmitters have a direct effect on mood.
Increased levels of serotonin, for example, can help reduce anxiety and depression and instead promote feelings of happiness.
Increased levels of norepinephrine, on the other hand, can help boost activity and alertness.
Some medications commonly used to treat dog aggression include:
- Fluoxetine, an antidepressant and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This drug inhibits serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to a temporary rise in serotonin levels. This can help calm some forms of aggression in dogs, as well as separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and more.
- Sertraline, another SSRI. It is commonly sold under the brand name Zoloft and can be used to treat aggressive behavior in dogs as well as phobias, anxiety, compulsive behavior, and urine marking in cats.
- Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA). TCAs, like SSRIs, work by blocking the absorption of serotonin as well as norepinephrine. Amitriptyline can be used to treat a wide variety of behavioral disorders in dogs as well as anxiety.
Other drugs used to treat canine aggression include clomipramine, buspirone, and propranolol.
Remember, these drugs shouldn’t be your go-to if your dog is showing signs of aggression.
Instead, you should only use these medications when your dog doesn’t respond to regular behavioral therapy.
Can CBD Help Relieve Aggression in Dogs?
Chances are you already know a little bit about the health benefits of CBD.
After all, cannabidiol has taken the health industry by storm over the recent years, helping both people and animals with everything from pain and inflammation to epilepsy.
So, if you have an aggressive dog at home, you may be wondering whether CBD can help improve their behavior.
CBD activates the endocannabinoid system, which has been shown to play a huge role in regulating emotion and mood, as well as our response to fear and stress.
By activating this system, CBD might help calm anxiety and stress, as well as boost your dog’s mood, which could ultimately help reduce their aggressive behavior.
Below I’ll take a closer look at the endocannabinoid system as a potential therapeutic target for canine aggression.
The Endocannabinoid System in Mood, Emotion, and Stress
The endocannabinoid system is a signaling system made up of endocannabinoids (like anandamide and 2-AG) as well as their respective receptor cells.
And while it was only discovered in the 20th century, we now know that the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in mediating a wide variety of functions in the body, many of which relate directly to our behavior.
But before I go into more detail, it helps to have a basic understanding of how the ECS works first.
Until now, we’ve identified 2 cannabinoids that the body produces naturally: Anandamide and 2-AG.
The body seems to produce these chemicals on an as-needed basis in response to stimuli from both our internal and external environments.
For example, our bodies produce endocannabinoids in response to exercise, stress, and even the time of day.
When they’ve been created, anandamide and 2-AG bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors.
To visualize this, think of the cannabinoid receptors like locks, and anandamide and 2-AG as keys that fit perfectly into them.
When they do, endocannabinoids can do all kinds of things, such as mediate stress, regulate the formation of memories, and much more.
THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, works as an alternative key to these cannabinoid receptors and is able to bind directly to them.
When it does, THC can either mimic or disrupt the flow of the endocannabinoid system.
In response, the endocannabinoid system starts to down-regulate itself by producing fewer endocannabinoids as well as endocannabinoid receptors to prevent becoming overactive.
CBD works a little differently:
It doesn’t bind to either cannabinoid receptor and instead acts on other molecular pathways that end up stimulating the endocannabinoid system indirectly.
In fact, researchers have identified over 60 different molecular pathways via which CBD can work on the body.
But what exactly can CBD do to help dogs with your dog’s issue?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, the endocannabinoid system plays a very important role in managing our emotions, mood, and responses to the world around us.
By activating this system, CBD can change neurotransmitter activity in the brain and possibly drive down aggressive behavior in your dog much like some of the prescription medications I mentioned earlier.
CBD Can Boost Neurotransmitter Activity
A growing body of research has shown that CBD can effectively increase serotonin levels in the brain.
It does so by acting on specific serotonin receptors called 5-HT1A receptors.
As I mentioned earlier, boosting serotonin activity is how most prescription antidepressants and anxiolytics work.
That’s because increased serotonin levels have been shown to have mood-boosting effects.
Boosting glutamate activity, on the other hand, can help increase focus, alertness, and memory.
GABA is another important neurotransmitter that helps regulate the activity of brain cells.
Studies have shown that CBD modulates GABA receptors in the brain, making them more efficient at binding to GABA.
This essentially drives down the levels of GABA in the brain, slowing down brain activity to have calming and, in larger doses, sedative-like effects.
By driving up serotonin and glutamate signaling and decreasing the levels of GABA activity in the brain, CBD can produce calming effects which can help drive down fear, stress, and anxiety.
This could be really beneficial for dogs who act aggressively out of fear, overprotection, or in situations when they feel agitated or stressed.
CBD Can Increase Anandamide Levels in the Brain
As I mentioned earlier, anandamide is a cannabinoid that the body produces naturally.
Like other neurotransmitters, anandamide has been shown to have unique effects on our mood and emotions.
When we’re stressed, the concentrations of endocannabinoids like anandamide in our body tend to go up.
This can help reduce the levels of other stress hormones in the body.
In fact, research shows that when exposed to the same stressful stimuli various times, our bodies produce fewer stress hormones each time and higher concentrations of cannabinoids instead.
You can learn more about this in this talk (YouTube video) by Dr. Ruth Ross on demystifying the endocannabinoid system.
When our bodies produce more endocannabinoids like anandamide, we may experience feelings of happiness and calm.
In fact, the “runner’s high” we experience after exercising has been shown to be caused by increased levels of anandamide in the brain.
By temporarily boosting anandamide levels in the brain, CBD can have mood-boosting and calming effects that can also drive down aggression in dogs with behavioral problems.
Are Other Pet Owners Using CBD to Treat Canine Aggression?
Unfortunately, no research has tested the effects of CBD on dogs.
Instead, what we know about the effects of CBD for pets comes from studies on lab animals, in vitro research, and clinical trials on humans.
Now, I know that probably makes you a bit nervous about trying CBD with your pup.
I was much the same when I first learned about CBD.
Luckily, there’s a huge body of pet owners actively using CBD with their pets and seeing great results.
In fact, many pet owners use CBD to treat aggression in particular.
Parker, for example, is a mixed-breed labrador who suffers from anxiety and fear-aggression.
This made it really hard for Parker to get along with the other animals in his family.
Screenshot taken from: Canna-Pet.com
Luckily, his owner’s learned about CBD, and have since seen a huge drop in his anxiety and aggressive behavior.
Duchess, on the other hand, is a 55lb American Pit Bull.
Her owners rescued her from a breeder where she lived in horrible conditions and was never socialized properly.
It goes without saying that Duchess was extremely reactive to other dogs.
Screenshot taken from: Canna-Pet.com
Luckily, after just 3 weeks of using CBD, her owners saw a huge improvement in her behavior with other dogs.
For more stories like this, make sure to check out the testimonials on websites like Canna-Pet.
Find the Best CBD Products for Aggressive Dogs
If your dog suffers from aggression, I highly recommend you look into CBD.
As we saw, research shows that CBD acts via some of the same mechanisms as prescription medications.
Therefore, it can be very effective at driving down emotions like fear, stress, and anxiety that might be causing your dog’s aggression.
Best of all, CBD is completely safe and produces almost no side effects.
Right now, one of my favorite brands of pet CBD specicially for this type of ailment is HolistaPet, which makes a variety of CBD-rich oils, capsules, and treats specially designed for dogs.
For aggressive dogs, I would recommend their 300mg CBD Oil Tincture. This is the ideal concentration and size for most dogs.
If your dog is over 60 pounds, consider HolistaPet’s larger 600mg tincture as it’s more appropriate for larger dogs.
I highly recommend this brand for dog’s suffering from this issue.
If you want more specific information about HolistaPet, consider reading my review here.
Hey I’m Blake, the founder of this website. Our family was fortunately to have discovered CBD products after our dog Rosie was diagnosed with a few common ailments. I truly believe they enhanced her last few years, and it’s my passion to spread the word through this website. Thanks for visiting!
Can CBD Help Calm Aggression in Dogs? Does your dog snarl or snap at you or other people and animals? Does an innocent game with your furry friend suddenly turn violent? If your dog