Biting. Snapping. Growling. An aggressive dog can be scary, and it can be hard to know what to do to help. But we know exactly how to calm an aggressive dog, and we’re here to help you! With a blend of natural remedies, changed behaviors, and expert advice, your dog will be back to itself in no time.
Dog aggression is often the cause of nervousness, fear, anger, or possessiveness. It’s important to better understand dog behavior so you can easily recognize when your dog is getting aggressive — and why. This will help you treat your dog’s serious behavioral issues more effectively. So let’s take a closer look at what dog aggression is and why it happens.
What is Dog Aggression?
If your dog regularly growls, snaps, or bites, these are often signs of dog aggression. It is considered a major behavioral problem since it can be difficult to calm and train an aggressive dog. Other animals and humans might get hurt if your dog lashes out.
When people think of canine aggression, they think of big dogs snarling at the mouth or Pit Bulls fighting. But dog aggression is not only found in large or “dangerous” breeds (though Pit Bulls are actually sweethearts). Any dog can be aggressive if they don’t have the right socialization and obedience training. Aggression can also be due to a dog’s upbringing and treatment.
Here are some common signs of dog aggression:
- Looking rigid and not moving
- Threatening-sounding barks
- Lunging forward at approaching people or animals
- Showing teeth and snarling
- Snapping at people or pets
- Quickly nipping
- Biting repeatedly
- Biting followed by clamping on and shaking
Dogs will usually follow this bulleted list in order, with the aggression getting more dangerous as it continues. But they won’t always follow this pattern, and you might not even notice any of the previous body language before your dog decides to bite.
Unfortunately, dog aggression can’t be cured very quickly. It takes time, patience, and consistency to help calm an aggressive dog. But luckily there are ways to help your dog become calmer — from training to CBD treats.
Types of Dog Aggression
Aggressive behavior is defined as anything that can be seen as a potential attack. But why do dogs attack? What triggers them? It’s important to pinpoint the reason for your dog’s aggression so you can better improve their behavior.
Here are some of the most common reasons dogs behave aggressively:
Fear or Defensive Aggression
Many dog owners might be surprised to know that fear is the most common reason a dog becomes aggressive. Dogs often experience “fight or flight” when backed into a corner and feel frightened. When a dog is fearful, they will often warn approaching strangers in hopes they will back off.
It’s important to understand a dog’s body language to avoid aggressive behavior in this situation. You might notice a dog’s ears going back and their lips curling. Maybe they are shaking with their tail between their legs. The hair on the back of their necks and along the ridge of their back will often stand up.
Dogs are territorial by nature. That’s why so many breeds make good guard dogs, watching for intruders and protecting their pack. Most dogs will bark at people or animals approaching your property. They may even lunge or charge at them, even if they know the person entering your yard or home.
But some dogs can take this behavior too far, snapping and biting at people (even those they know already). This kind of aggressive behavior is inappropriate and dangerous. It can even lead to attacks and serious injury.
To survive, the dog’s ancestors had to compete for food and territory. This behavior has carried over into domestic dogs, who sometimes can become possessive over things they care about. These can range from food and chew bones to toys and doggy beds.
Dogs who are possessive about food, toys, or shelter will often hide things around the home. Possessiveness can also lead to aggression, with some dogs growling or snapping when people approach certain areas of the home or their food bowl. Even puppies can become aggressive when guarding their stuff, so this is a behavior that should be addressed early on.
Dogs are very social and often live in a pack that has a hierarchical order. This will influence the group’s pecking order, with some dogs being allowed to eat or mate first. Dogs lower in the hierarchy know to wait their turn.
If you have multiple dogs, you may notice one dog becoming aggressive to remind others of their place in the “pack.” Dogs can sometimes do this to people as well, especially if they don’t respect you and feel they are higher on the totem than you.
This type of aggression is also called “status-seeking aggression.” Even the most trustworthy of dogs can become aggressive when they feel others have overstepped a boundary or might be threatening the hierarchy.
These are behaviors that can trigger your dog to become aggressive:
- Taking food away
- Taking a toy away
- Bothering your dog while they are sleeping (this includes moving them)
- Hugging or kissing your dog
- Reaching over your dog
- Pushing your dog down or making them show their belly
- Trying to pick up your dog
- Holding your dog back when they want something
- Grooming or washing your dog’s face
- Touching your dog’s ears, feet, or other sensitive areas
- Putting a harness on your dog
- Pulling on your dog’s leash
- Threatening your dog by pointing at them
- Hitting your dog
- Bumping into your dog as you both try to walk or enter a door
This type of social aggression is more common in male dogs. It’s also more commonly seen in purebred dogs. Puppies may be socially aggressive with other dogs, especially other puppies in their litter, but not towards people. You’ll usually start to notice this behavior between one and three years of age.
Dogs will often play with other dogs in a way that seems aggressive. Sometimes at the dog park you’ll see dogs nipping at each other or growling as they frolic around. This can be innocent but may also escalate into actual aggression after some time, so always keep an eye on how your dog interacts with other dogs or people. Play fighting can sometimes hurt smaller children or older people.
A lot of dogs have a strong prey drive, especially hunting breeds. They are bred to find small prey and either attack it or point it out for their human companion.
This can sometimes lead certain dogs to act on this instinct inappropriately, whether it’s chasing your cat around or biting at your heels as you walk. Some dogs will also give chase to wild animals while on a walk.
This aggressive behavior can result in injuries, your dog getting lost, or even another pet getting severely harmed (or worse). Don’t allow dogs to treat you or other pets like prey.
Is Dog Aggression Dangerous?
Yes, dog aggression is a very serious behavioral problem that should be immediately addressed and treated. Aggressive dogs are not only stressed and upset but can be a potential danger to others around them. This includes biting at you or others, possibly even fatally injuring someone.
How to Treat Dog Aggression
Having an aggressive dog can be tough. Aggressive dogs can be hard to control, maybe even dangerous. You can’t simply hold back your dog when they are lunging at strangers or other pets. This can result in further aggression, possibly directed at you the next time.
So what do you do when your dog is aggressive? The most important thing you should do is properly socialize your dog and provide obedience training for them when they are puppies. This can seriously decrease aggressive behavior as your dog ages, teaching them how to properly interact with others and behave in various situations.
If your dog is already older and behaving inappropriately, it’s not too late! While it will be harder, there are things you can do to improve your dog’s behavior and keep them and your family safe.
When our dog goes to bite another dog or snarls at a family member, our first instinct is to yell out a loud NO. But being loud can trigger your dog even more, making them more defensive and likely to attack. Being calm in these situations will naturally help calm an aggressive dog.
If your dog is on a leash, calmly and quietly guide them away from the situation. The further you get from the triggering person, dog, or activity, the calmer your dog will become as well. An off-leash dog should not be approached, or they may take it as a threat. Instead, add some distance and don’t attempt to dominate an aggressive dog.
Look For Triggers
A lot of times, dogs behave aggressively as a defensive response. It may be done out of fear or a reaction to a certain situation or individual’s actions. Aggression is often a “symptom,” meaning your dog may be trying to tell you something. So paying attention to not only their behavior but what led to it is crucial. Are there certain things that seem to happen before your dog starts to get snappy? What happens before your dog starts to growl?
While you are working on your dog’s aggressive behavior, it’s important to be considerate of others. You don’t want your pet harming other dogs or scaring people who come over or pass you on the street. There are a few things you should consider to reduce the possibility of your dog attacking others.
- Baby gates: When you have guests over, try keeping your dog in a separate room or area. This will take them away from the target of their aggression and make people feel safe in your home.
- Crates: Dogs can sometimes feel comforted when given a comfy crate to feel secure in. This will also keep them separated from other people in your home. But keep in mind that some dogs become possessive over crates.
- Basket muzzles: This is a type of muzzle that allows your dog to breathe easily and still open their mouth comfortably while ensuring they can’t bite anyone. A lot of people use this on dogs while taking them on walks.
- Head halters: This is a type of leash that encircles the muzzle. This teaches your dog not to pull on a leash. If your dog lunges at another dog or person, you can more effortlessly hold them back.
Dogs need about one hour of exercise a day minimum. Some breeds will require even more. Exercise is a big factor in helping to calm an aggressive dog. Without proper exercise, dogs will become bored and agitated. This can lead to destructive behavior or aggression. Dogs need stimulation to be happy and healthy, so make sure you’re walking your dog each day and giving them time to play.
Fix Your Dog
Spaying and neutering can help mellow some dogs out and even out their mood. If your dog is fixed, dominance and territorial aggression could be significantly reduced. However, this usually only works well if they’re neutered very early in life.
Seek Professional Help
Dog aggression is often too serious of an issue to try and treat on your own. It can leave people or pets injured. Contact a behavioral specialist who can train your dog (and family). Look for some of the following:
- Certified applied animal behaviorist
- Associate certified applied animal behaviorist
- Certified professional dog trainers
The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists is a great place to start your search!
Can I Use CBD For Dog Aggression?
Once you have contacted a veterinarian and behaviorist, there are some things you can do at home to help your dog feel calm and comforted. CBD is a great natural way to calm an aggressive dog.
CBD is a non-toxic phytocannabinoid found in hemp that interacts with your dog’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS promotes balance and overall well-being. It has receptors in all the major systems, including the nervous, digestive, and immune systems. CBD interacts with these receptors, helping to improve your dog’s mood.
At Healthy Petables, we have various dog-friendly CBD products to choose from that are perfectly safe for your pooch. Oh, and tasty too! A more aggressive dog may not let you near their mouth, but you can still drop CBD oil into their food in the morning and at night. You can also give them CBD treats. No dog can say no to some tasty, natural, vegan treats!
If your dog is ingesting the CBD, it will most likely take 60 minutes or so to work. So if you know a triggering event is coming up, give them the CBD an hour beforehand. You’ll notice your dog become calmer and less nervous.
CBD can also soothe physical discomfort, like swelling and aching joints. Your dog is less likely to lash out or feel upset when they are feeling their best. You’ll notice your dog will be active, happy, and confident after taking CBD treats. These can be given to your dog every eight hours or twice a day for consistent comfort.
Final Thoughts – How to Calm an Aggressive Dog
When you think of dogs, you probably think of their tongues lolling out and their tails excitedly wagging. They are our best friends and beloved family members for a reason! But some dogs can show aggressive behavior, which can be a concerning issue.
Aggression is usually the result of your dog being nervous, threatened, in discomfort, or territorial. It’s important to figure out the cause of your dog’s aggression so you can better help them become less anxious and friendlier with other dogs and people.
While you’ll most likely need to contact a vet and behavior expert for the proper treatment plan, it doesn’t hurt to give your dog some CBD meanwhile to ensure they are calm, comforted, and feeling a bit more confident!