February 10, 2021 6 min read

Having a dog who acts aggressively can be one of the most stressful parts of pet parenting. It can take a toll on the relationship between you and your dog, even if the incidents are isolated. Many dogs end up being surrendered due to aggression.

It is important to learn everything you can before making that type of decision. Often if we understand the signs and causes, we can address and eliminate stress and aggression in dogs.

Why is the Dog Acting Aggressive?

Fear and anxiety play a huge role in aggression in dogs. Most will only lash out if they have no other option. Dogs have different triggers than people. You may not understand why your dog is afraid, but it still needs to be recognized.

Comforting your dog when they are afraid of something isn’t always the best solution. Putting them into “work mode” rather than coddling them is another way we can be a strong leader for our dogs. For example, if your dog is afraid of noises like thunder or fireworks, try to work them through a sequence of commands like sit, down, stay, and come. Use food and toys to get them to focus on you instead of what they are afraid of.

Forcing them into a situation they are uncomfortable with can also be detrimental to progress. Using food and toys is a great way to encourage your dog to explore their fears without force. For example, if your dog is afraid of the car or water, don’t just scoop them up and force them in. Try using treats and toys to encourage them to move into space on their own.

Depression is another huge contributor to stress and aggression in dogs. Here are some causes of depression in dogs that can lead to unfortunate outbursts:

Living in a shared space, whether it be roommates or neighbors, can cause restlessness for your pup. Loud noises often are part of apartment life, whether from parties, traffic, or people yelling. Your dog needs to have a nice quiet space in your home.

Isolation is a big cause of stress and aggression for dogs. In the wild, dogs spend most of their time with their pack. This is for comfort AND safety. Keeping your dog away from its pack. 

You can cause them to feel unsafe and anxious. To prevent this, crate trains your dog from a young age and never leave them alone for too long. If you have to work long hours, hire a dog walker, or enlist a friend to check in on them.

Separation anxiety is one of the most common behaviors pet owners seek professional guidance for. It can cause your dog to become destructive in your home. It is totally treatable, but don’t be hesitant to seek professional advice if you need it!

Change in routine can cause major anxiety for your pup. If you introduce a new person into your home, whether it be a baby or a new partner or roommate, give your dog some time to adjust. You can’t expect them to warm up immediately. The same goes for moving to a new space. If you allow your dog some time to settle in, while keeping their old routine, they will ease into it with less anxiety and stress.

When you have an issue with an aggressive dog, it will help to figure out the cause. It is often an issue we create without realizing it. If you figure out the root of the stress, you can often eliminate the aggression.

Signs of Aggression

There are many physical warnings dogs will show before they lash out at someone. Watch for these signs and back off to avoid getting hurt.

Fur standing up: often this warning sign on its own can come from excitement. Evaluate the situation closely if your dog is displaying bristled fur.

Growling and baring teeth: this warning is very clear and to the point. If you’re seeing these signs from your dog, diffuse the situation by giving them some space. Often if you push too far, you will also see your dog snap their teeth.

Tensed muscles and abrupt movements: this is often displayed when playing, but when paired with other signs, can be an indicator of major stress from your dog.

Lip licking: this can be a much more subtle movement from your dog. We often miss it. However, it is one of the most common signs of stress in dogs. If there is no food or treat around, your dog’s lip-licking is surely a sign they are stressed.

Ears pinned back: this is another subtle hint that your dog is uncomfortable. It can be situational, so be mindful of the situation when your dog displays this behavior.

Lack of eye contact: your dog’s eyes can tell you a lot if you know what you’re looking for. If they are larger than usual, especially showing the whites of their eyes, they are usually very stressed. If your dog is avoiding eye contact with you, it is often due to intimidation.

Dealing With Anxiety and Aggression

Consulting with a veterinarian is the first step if you are concerned about your dog’s behavior. They will usually ask the necessary questions to narrow down the cause. They may refer you to a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to help remedy the situation.

Your vet may also prescribe some type of anxiety medication. There are prescription-strength options available if your vet deems it necessary.

If the idea of prescribing your dog anxiety medicine gives YOU anxiety, there are also holistic remedies you can try. CBD oil is great over the counter option. The popularity of CBD oil has grown rapidly in recent years because of its low risk, high impact results.

Before medicating your dog, you will want to make sure they are getting plenty of exercise. Physical and mental stimulation is essential to eliminating aggression in dogs. Paired with a proper diet, a solid routine will prevent stress and aggression in dogs.

There are many options for CBD, you'll want to find one that is guaranteed to have 0% THC, as well as one that is sourced from the United States. This can ensure that your pup is getting the best product and treatment that they can get.

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Natural Doggie Organic CBD Hemp Oil helps relieve pain and anxiety in pets. Utilizing only the best natural products, the difference in our oil is that is derived from the highest quality Non-GMO, organic Colorado hemp. All dogs can benefit as this product is a perfect supplement to your animal’s diet and will help keep them happy and healthy. If your animal suffers from anxiety or chronic pain, you will see a noticeable difference in your dog immediately.

Using this information can help address the causes of aggression with your dog. It can be a daunting task, but will only get worse if the circumstances stay the same. Take the time to see what you could be contributing to your dog’s stress. Seek professional advice from a vet or trainer. If your dog is being aggressive it is because they are anxious or afraid. If you can help them feel more comfortable, you will likely be able to eliminate stress and aggression in your dog!

Nicole DeVault

Nicole is a professional dog trainer who has been in the business for about 5 years. She has two dogs of her own. Milli is a ten-year-old Beagle with plenty of sass to go around, and Axel is her three-year-old Pit bull who has more energy than anyone knows what to do with. Both of her dogs are rescues who came to her with their own set of issues. Working with troubled dogs is where her passion for dog training started. She has grown to learn that teaching people how to communicate with their fur babies allows them to enjoy happy and stress-free lives together.

Working through a multitude of different dog problems has allowed Nicole to become very knowledgeable of the best products out there: collars, leashes, toys, treats, beds, crates, and even hiking, camping, and boating gear for pups with a more “extreme” lifestyle. Nicole is always learning and growing, so she can find what is best for her dogs and yours!

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