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.
Well, it can.
Read on to learn more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, it can.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.