Raising a Dangerous Dog: How to Manage Canine Aggression Best practices, tips, and products to calm down your aggressive pet

Raising a Dangerous Dog: How to Manage Canine Aggression

Handling a dangerous dog can be challenging for a pet parent. Excess aggression can be harmful to owners and their families, people around them, and other pets. Fortunately, you can manage canine aggression when you are aware and equipped with the right strategies.

As a dog parent, you may find yourself dealing with the aggressive behavior of your pet at some point. Even the calmest of pets exhibit such traits when they sense danger or experience pain. Some breeds are inherently aggressive due to their predatory traits. According to 2022 statistics, 1% of dog attacks resulted in a death, but canine bites can result in serious or disfiguring injuries.  

In a recent incident in New York, residents of a plush rental building at 175 West 79th Street experienced the terror of Sam, a mixed-breed rescue dog. Sam had attacked nearly a dozen residents, staff members, and delivery workers. A tenant even filed a lawsuit last month, holding the owner for the dog’s bite history.

Suing over dog attacks is common in the US, with settlement amounts touching a whopping $1.13 billion in 2022. As an owner, you should do your bit to address the aggressive traits of your pet to ensure the safety of people around you and prevent lawsuits.

In this article, we will help dog parents with a few actionable tips (and products) to manage canine aggression.

Understand the Root Cause

The first step is to understand the root cause of your dog’s behavior. Unlike the common belief, genetic predisposition is not the only reason for canine aggression. According to research, aggression in dogs may depend on factors like offensive or defensive motivation. Your pet may turn dangerous when it wants to target other animals or unfamiliar people. It may also show territorial aggression. 

The underlying can be behavioral, related to past unmet needs, poor socialization, separation anxiety, or stress. Poor diet and diseases like cancer and brain disorders can also cause behavioral issues. Evaluate the root cause to prevent triggers and develop a strategy to help your dog acquire and maintain a calm demeanor.

Recognize Warning Signs

Besides learning about the triggers for aggressive behavior, you must also recognize the warning signs. These could be subtle cues that indicate escalating aggression rather than sudden outbursts. Knowing them beforehand can help you diffuse social conflict and prevent full-blown dog attacks. 

The following are the body language cues you should watch out for:

  • Stiffening or freezing

  • Pinning or flattening of the ears

  • Avoiding eye contact 

  • Yawning or licking the lips

  • Crouching and lowering the body

  • Tucking the tail under the body

  • Snapping

  • Growling

  • Biting

Do not overlook these indications and take proactive measures to deal with them. Try to calm down your pet or take it away to a different place. Removing visual triggers is effective in most cases. 

Ensure Early Socialization and Training

Canine Welfare Science notes that socialization and early exposure can prevent fear and behavior problems, including aggression in dogs. Proper socialization from an early age can make a difference. You can expose your puppy to different people, animals, and environments to develop comfort and confidence in various situations.

Kim Gossom, a pet parent, states that she owned 3 Akitas at one time. She socialized them as puppies and never faced a problem with any of them. 

Likewise, obedience training teaches them impulse control, even in the most challenging situations. It also establishes clear boundaries with owners and other people. While training your dog, you should not be too harsh. A balance between positive reinforcement and discipline is the best way to raise a well-behaved pet. 

Provide Adequate Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Pat Perl, an avid animal lover and former vet assistant, notes that both physical exercise and mental stimulation are important for pets. They are also entwined because a dog not getting enough exercise tends to display mental issues or bad behavior. They may eventually become aggressive or anxious due to boredom and pent-up energy. He recommends ensuring that your pet gets enough of both. 

Physical exercise and mental stimulation promote overall well-being and reduce stress in dogs. Spend quality time with your pet with regular activities such as walks, interactive play, and puzzle toys. Besides expending excess energy, these activities reinforce positive behaviors and improve your bonding with your canine companion. 

Implement Behavior Modification Techniques

Training, exercise, and pet bonding may not always be enough to address excessive aggression in dogs. In such cases, you must implement behavior modification techniques to resolve underlying causes of aggression, such as fear or territoriality. Techniques like desensitization, counterconditioning, and positive reinforcement training can reshape a dog's response to triggering stimuli.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior highlights the role of improved dog-owner communication, habituation, and relaxation protocols in addressing behavioral concerns in these animals. Seek guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to implement tailored intervention plans according to your pet’s unique needs and challenges. 

Consider Medication and Treatment

Studies show that drug therapies may be effective for treating undesirable behavior in dogs if nothing else works to address the underlying cause. However, before committing to a treatment regimen, you must seek advice from a qualified veterinarian. They can assess your pet’s condition and recommend the appropriate medications and dosages to help it. 

The following are some proven therapeutic aids for canine aggression. 


Fluoxetine is an FDA-approved “extra-label” antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication that offers effective outcomes for mental illnesses in dogs and cats. A study conducted in 2020 showed significant clinical improvement in aggressive dogs after treatment with this medication, along with a behavior modification program. 

Besides aggressive behavior, this medication can help treat canine behavioral issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, separation anxiety, and panic disorders. 


An anxious or stressed-out pet is hard to manage, but most pet parents encounter this situation more often than expected. These factors can cause behavioral problems such as obsessive grooming, excessive scratching, inappropriate urination, and self-destructive actions. Your dog may also become aggressive and dangerous. 

Amitriptyline, an effective prescription antidepressant, can alleviate anxiety. It alters the brain's chemicals, balancing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin is specifically a concern because studies show that the hormone’s level is lower in aggressive dogs. Available as a tablet, this medication can be administered with or without food. 

Reconcile® Chewable Tablets

Another medication that can help treat separation anxiety and the resultant aggression in dogs is Reconcile® Chewable Tablets. Fluoxetine hydrochloride, the active ingredient in Reconcile, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It helps prevent anxiety-related actions such as destructive behavior, excessive barking, and house soiling. 

Since Reconcile comes in chewable tablet form, administering it is easy. Your dog will simply chew and swallow the tablet without troubling you.

Pet Naturals Calming for Dogs

If you want a supplement to calm down your canine companion without sedation, Pet Naturals Calming for Dogs is an ideal product. These chews are designed to support relaxation, whether your pet struggles with stress, separation anxiety, or unpleasant noises. Active ingredients in this product include Thiamine, L-theanine, and Colostrum Calming Complex © Biopeptide Blend.

You can try this product to help your pet deal with changes to the environment, such as boarding, vet visits, grooming sessions, parties, traveling, exposure to fireworks, and separation anxiety.

Implement Consistent Management and Supervision

With dog behavioral issues, you cannot take a set-and-forget approach. Whether you opt for behavioral modification techniques, medications, or both, the therapeutic approach may require changes down the road. Consistent supervision and management are essential to keep the results on track and ensure positive behavior in the long run. 

Also, establish clear rules and routines and create a predictable environment to reduce anxiety and minimize potential triggers for aggression. If you use medication for canine aggression, visit your vet regularly or when you notice changes in your pet’s behavior.

In conclusion, managing canine aggression is perhaps the most challenging aspect of pet parenting. However, patience, consistency, and commitment to the well-being of your furry companion can help you find a solution to the problem. 

Remember that aggressive behavior can happen to any dog at any point. You should not overlook the slightest warning signs but adopt a proactive approach to managing them sooner rather than later. Responsible ownership is about ensuring that your pet is not a danger to people around them.

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