Calming the Storm: Exploring CBD as a Solution for Aggressive Dogs

January 05, 2022
Medically reviewed by James Edward, Pharm. D
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Introduction

Dealing with aggression in dogs can be a challenging ordeal for pet owners. Often stemming from various underlying causes such as fear, anxiety, territorial behavior, or past trauma, aggression can put a massive strain on you and your dog’s relationship.

Traditional approaches to managing canine aggression include behavioral training, environmental modification, and sometimes pharmaceutical interventions. However, a growing body of research suggests that Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants, may offer a novel and gentle approach to help manage aggression in dogs.

This post delves into the potential causes of aggression in canines and explores how CBD, in conjunction with training and behavior modification strategies, could be a viable adjunct in cultivating a more peaceful and positive relationship between dogs and their owners by decreasing aggressive behaviors.

A Primer on Dog Aggression

Dog aggression can be caused by various factors, including fear or anxiety, resource guarding, pain or illness, and past trauma. Understanding the root cause is essential for effective management and training.

  • Fear or Anxiety: Dogs may exhibit aggression when frightened or anxious to protect themselves from perceived threats.

  • Resource Guarding: Dogs might display aggressive behavior to defend valuable resources like food, toys, or resting places.

  • Pain or Illness: A dog in pain or suffering from illness may become irritable and show aggression as a response to discomfort.

  • Past Trauma Dogs with traumatic pasts might react aggressively to certain triggers that remind them of their trauma.

How CBD Helps Dogs Feel Safer

CBD Calming Chews can help manage aggression in dogs through several mechanisms:

  • Reducing Anxiety: CBD is known to reduce anxiety-driven aggression by promoting a sense of relaxation in dogs.

  • Pain Relief: By alleviating chronic pain or discomfort, CBD can prevent aggression linked to pain or illness.

  • Sense of Security Because of CBD’s calming effects on dogs, they will be less likely to react with aggression in situations that remind them of their trauma.

By helping to address underlying issues such as anxiety, pain, and trauma, CBD can be a supportive tool in a comprehensive approach to managing aggression in dogs.

Research on Aggression in Dogs

There is a growing body of research on the effects of CBD in dogs, as well as the root causes of anxiety in dogs in the first place. Understanding what the science says about CBD is the first step in understanding how to use it to decrease aggression in dogs.

Research on CBD for dog aggression

In one study scientists applied either CBD oil or olive oil to shelter dogs and then monitored aggressive behavior towards humans. The dogs receiving CBD oil had significantly decreased aggressive behavior towards humans over time. The dogs that received the olive oil did not show reduced aggression towards humans, meaning CBD had the effect of lowering aggression.

Another study found that CBD can help decrease aggressive behaviors in mice, via the ECS (EndoCannabinoid System). As with all other mammals, mice have a similar ECS to dogs and can be good examples of the potential of CBD in all animals. The study measured aggression by frequency and duration of attacks, and through the delay between introduction of new mice and attack. The study found that mice who were housed in CBD groups were significantly less aggressive to intruder mice.

Because CBD interacts with the ECS, which is part of the endocrine system, there is good reason to believe that it can positively affect mood based on research.

Another study found that 4mg/kg of CBD was effective at decreasing anxiety in dogs. These dogs were in normally stressful situations such as car rides and being separated from their owners.

An additional important factor when considering CBD for Dogs is safety. In one study dogs were given 4mg/kg CBD for 6 months to monitor for long term effects. The study found that there were “no adverse effects on health or wellbeing.” (Bradley et al. 2022).

These studies have shown that CBD oil can be an effective remedy for aggressive dogs, while being very safe.

Research on Dog Anxiety

A comprehensive Finnish study of over 13,000 dogs found that over 30% of dogs with anxiety are triggered by noises. If your dog is overly aggressive, it could be as a reaction to noise.

Progress has also made to find the roots of aggression in dogs. One study found that a dog’s diet could have significant effects on its behavior. It also noted that aggression is inextricably linked to the endocrine system, which plays many roles in the body’s functions such as mood, sleep, inflammatory responses, and more.

Aggression in dogs can spring from an unfortunately large number of causes, but there remains potential ways to alleviate the aggression, like CBD.

How to Use CBD for Dog Aggression

Using CBD for dog aggression involves careful consideration of dosage, the form of CBD, and consistent monitoring. Follow these steps:

  • Start with a Low Dose: In most cases, it’s advisable to start with a small amount of CBD, like that found in Relievet’s Calming CBD chews, and then move on to weight based CBD oils or treats if needed.

It’s easy to determine how much CBD is needed for your dog’s weight with a dosage calculator. A higher dose of 4mg/kg of CBD oil once daily as from the above studies has been found very effective at relaxing anxious dogs.

  • Choose the Right Form: CBD is available in various forms, including oils, treats, and chews. Ingestibles like chews and treats are formulated for palatability and ease of dosing. They might be ideal for aggressive dogs where biting is a concern, since the they make it much easier for them to eat, as compared to getting oil directly in the mouth.

  • Consistency is Key: For managing aggression, a consistent daily dosing schedule is vital. Monitor your dog’s behavior over time and adjust the dose if needed.

  • Monitor and Document: Keep a log of your dog’s behavior, noting any changes in aggression levels, frequency of aggressive episodes, and any side effects. This information is invaluable for adjusting the dose and assessing effectiveness.

While promising, CBD is not a standalone cure for aggression. It should be part of a comprehensive behavior modification plan that may include training and environmental management.

How to Use CBD in Conjunction with Training

Using CBD in conjunction with training involves timing the CBD dosage to reduce anxiety or aggression during training sessions, creating a more conducive learning environment. Here’s how to integrate it:

  • Administer CBD Before Training Sessions: Administer the CBD Oil approximately 30 minutes before a training session to allow the calming effects to take hold. Use treats or chews about an hour ahead of time. This will help your dog stay more focused and less reactive during training.

  • Use Positive Reinforcement: Pair the calming effects of CBD with positive reinforcement training methods. Reward desired behaviors with treats, praise, or play to reinforce calm and non-aggressive actions.

  • Create a Routine: Consistency helps dogs learn. Try to schedule training sessions around the same time you administer CBD. This creates a routine that helps your dog associate the calming effects of CBD with a positive training experience.

  • Evaluate Progress Regularly: Regularly assess your dog’s behavior for improvements or any need for adjustments in CBD dosage. Keeping a log of how your dog performs can also help keep you motivated and evaluate areas of strength and what needs improvement.

Remember, patience and consistency are key. Improvements in behavior can take time, and the combination of CBD with effective training techniques can help pave the way toward a more peaceful and positive relationship with your dog. We’ve worked with several dog trainers and pet parents who have used CBD in conjunction with training to create lasting non-reactive behaviors.

That said, while CBD can be initially helpful for getting dogs into the proper mindset where their aggressive behaviors can be trained away, it is not necessary for long term changes. It can be seen just like a clicker, useful during training but not necessary for long term growth.

Pharmaceuticals for Aggressive Dogs

Pharmaceutical intervention is sometimes necessary for managing aggression in dogs, especially when the aggression poses a risk to humans, other pets, or the dog itself, and natural remedies aren’t enough to curb the behavior.

One of the more prescribed drugs is Prozac (fluoxetine). Prozac is an SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) used to treat various behavioral disorders in dogs and cats. A survey from 2016 noted that 83% of veterinarians had prescribed Prozac to cats and dogs.

Prozac has been studied for controlling aggression in dogs. One study found that it was effective at decreasing aggression in conjunction with behavioral training over a 6 month period.

Before starting your dog On Prozac, it’s critical to consult with your vet to see if it’s the best course of action for your dog’s unique health journey. It’s also important to consider the side effects associated with prozac:

  • Diarrhea

  • Incoordination

  • Hypersalivation

  • Panting

  • Restlessness

  • Shaking

  • Whining/vocalization

  • Weight loss

It’s also worth noting that as with many other antidepressants, Prozac must be slowly stopped. Your vet will give you exact instructions, but stopping Prozac may take a few days or weeks.

It’s important to note that all medications can have side effects and may not be suitable for all dogs. Additionally, medication should be part of a comprehensive behavioral modification plan, as relying solely on pharmaceuticals without addressing the underlying causes of aggression is unlikely to be effective in the long term.

Regular follow-ups with a veterinarian are essential to monitor the dog’s progress and adjust treatment as necessary.

How to safely deal with an aggressive dog

Dealing with an aggressive dog requires caution, understanding, and a strategic approach to avoid escalating the situation. Here are steps to safely manage an aggressive dog:

  • Stay Calm: Dogs can sense your emotions. Stay calm and composed to prevent further escalating the situation.

  • Give the Dog Space: Do not corner or approach an aggressive dog. Give it space to calm down, ensuring it has a clear escape route.

  • Speak Softly: If you need to speak, use a soft, calm tone. Loud or angry tones may further agitate the dog.

  • Remove Triggers: Identify and remove any immediate triggers that may be causing the aggression, such as taking away a toy or moving away from the dog’s territory, if possible.

  • Avoid Punishment: Punishing an aggressive dog can increase anxiety and aggravate the problem. Focus on positive reinforcement and professional guidance.

Making changes to your dog’s environment that minimize the causes of anxiety can be very helpful for decreasing aggression. Think of moving your dog’s bed to a remote corner of your home where there is not as much activity. Or change the feeding times to be early in the morning and late at night when there is unlikely to be many loud noises around.

Conclusion

Addressing dog aggression involves a multifaceted approach that includes understanding the root causes, implementing behavior modification techniques, with natural aids like CBD, and making environmental adjustments to reduce sources of stress and anxiety. Your vet can always help you to determine the right course of action for increasing your dog’s quality of life while strengthening the bond with your dog.

In conclusion, with patience, consistency, and the right strategy, you can work towards reducing or managing aggressive behaviors in dogs, leading to a safer and more harmonious relationship between you and your pet. Remember, improvement takes time, and small steps in the right direction can lead to significant changes in your dog’s behavior and overall wellbeing.

References
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Biscuit's Story

Chris Kjolseth | CEO, Relievet

I was unprepared for what would happen to my dog, Biscuit. 

Ever since she was a puppy, she’d spend her days running and playing. I’d take her on walks, to the beach, and dog parks.

Unfortunately, at age 10, she started to limp after trips to the beach. It broke my heart to see her in pain doing what she loved the most. I started feeding her a raw food diet and added high-quality supplements to ensure her nutritional needs were met. Unfortunately, while she loved the food, the limping persisted.

I went to the vet, who looked over Biscuit and said she was likely limping due to joint inflammation. She gave us something to help. This worked well at first. Biscuit was moving around more freely, and was limping less. 

However, a few days later, It was to my absolute shock that she…

Read Her Story

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