Aggression article  

In addition to the below, for links and lists which address various types of behavioral issues see my Links-Behavioral Issues, Links-General Care and Lists-General Care pages.


Aggression: Canine aggression can result from many things -- from being homed with an over-domineering dog (or one that is too passive), to changes/tension in the household (animals are extremely sensitive to our emotions and will often pick them up and act them out when they become too much), teasing, being crated/caged while other dogs approach . . . the list is endless.  Another fact is that heartworm preventative has as one of its side effects, aggression. The potential side effects of Ivermectin (the active ingredient in Heartgard) include liver problems, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, skin eruptions, seizures, tremors, paralysis, autoimmune disorders, thyroid problems, fever, weakness, dizziness, coughing, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, irritability, sudden aggressive behavior, nerve damage, fertility problems, and sudden death. The drug poses a particular risk to Collies and related breeds (Shelties, Australian Shepherds, etc.).  Other chemical heartworm preventatives have many of the same side effects.

It is an accepted practice among dog owners who practice holistic care that Interceptor and Heartgard are given every six weeks instead of every four because they are effective for that long.  If you live in a state that does not have mosquitoes year round, it is also important to take your dog off the pills for a few months.  In order for microfilariae to develop into the infective stage, it needs to be sufficiently warm (above 57 degrees) for a period of time. It takes approximately 6 months for the microfilariae to mature into adult heartworms, so stopping the drug for a few months will still allow for kill of the various stages when started up again.  In fact, ask your vet -- if the adult heartworm load is not too heavy, it is possible to treat the dog using the heartworm preventative rather than putting them through the toxic treatment of arsenic to kill the worms.  It is a good idea to give Milk Thistle or an herbal liver detox formula following a dose of the heartworm drug.

Aggression articles:  see
and, there are many helpful articles and links at these sites.

Aggression can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Articles regarding aggression and thyroid problems:;;;

According to Dr. Moira Drosdovech (, other physical problems that may result in pain and aggression include, but are not limited to, dental disease, tumors, abdominal pain, constipation, bladder inflammation, reproductive organ problems, encephalitis and other neurological orders. A precipitating factor often overlooked is whether a vaccination was administered in the previous 1-3 months before the aggression began. Both rabies and distemper viruses have a predilection for the brain tissue in their natural live state and their vaccines could potentially cause mild brain inflammation in susceptible dogs, leading to such conditions as behavior changes or seizures. A number of dogs with these "vaccine induced" aggressions have been helped by homeopathic remedies which work very well with a lot of behavioral problems. See (and the possibility that vaccination has caused some or all of the aggression issue, If no physical problem is found upon thorough veterinary examination, a careful history-taking may shed light on factors that may have precipitated the onset of aggression (such as being teased by someone, having objects thrown at them, etc.).

Biting See The Humane Society of the United State's website,, for excellent information on preventing and avoiding dog bites. You will also find information at about biting.

Subject: [campnaughtydog] lyme and aggression

I have seen this myself with some of the dogs I have worked with. Pam A RARE SIDE EFFECT OF LYME DISEASE In a message dated 5/26/04 10:53:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, SHOWGSD@... writes: We recently had a very strange event which I think we should share around the rescue-community: Young (~2 years) M Lab-mix, came into our program with a 'questionable' background; may have been aggressive toward some children; then again, maybe not. We kept him for a long while - months of fostering in our premier foster-home, no problems; placed him carefully, with a single middle-aged man who adored him. We also, as we do all our dogs, tested him for Lyme. He had it; we treated it; case closed -- we thought. Everything went very well after adoption - the star of his obedience-class, frequent alum-visits to clinics - for over a year. And truly adored by his adopter. Then, over 12-mos post-adopt, Mojo became suddenly, erratically, and seriously aggressive: literally attacked visitors to his home, people in the vet's waiting room, etc. Terrifying. Very-sudden. Totally inexplicable. He was returned to us with genuine heartbreak from a very loving adopter. Mojo then went to our regular vet and was a totally different dog: bared-teeth and growls at anyone who approached his kennel, lunged at other dogs when being walked, etc. We figured that whatever was happening with him, he had become un-placeable and started a TDC (Tough Decisions Committee - something we 'convene' that is open to anyone with an interest in the dog when we think that euthanasia might be an option). However, someone at the vet's office said that perhaps we should test him for Lyme. Huh???????? They had had a regular client of theirs come in recently with similar, out-of-the blue-aggro, and it turned out that Lyme was the problem - puzzled them, but seemed to be the case. Okay -- hey, we'll try anything -- so we had him tested. He was high positive! Fine, we started treatment while we continued to figure out what to do with him via the TDC. Almost immediately, however, once the antibiotics began, the Mojo we knew came back!! He was himself again - bouncy, happy, a bit neurotic, but not at *all* aggressive! The staff at the vets was amazed, but all confirmed this change. We didn't believe it; vets didn't believe it... BUT a thorough search of the Internet turned up a number of studies (plus) anecdotal-observations indicating that in some dogs (and some humans!!) the primary-symptom of their Lyme Disease can be sudden, irrational and serious aggression. We've known for a while to check thyroid-levels of dogs that show aggro that just 'doesn't fit'. Now we've added testing for Lyme as well. And we have - results not-yet in - another dog, placed 12-mos-plus, returned because of out-of-the-blue aggro... he also tested high-positive for Lyme! We've started treatment; we'll be monitoring his response. So - plug this in to your protocols; worth checking-out. I spent the day today with Mojo... he truly is just the same dog we placed over a year ago. (We've let his original adopter know - because he vowed that it had to be *something* causing this behavior. But he cannot take Mojo back because his roommate, one of the people attacked, won't even consider it. For the record, there were no skin-breaking contacts in any of these attacks, but plenty of fear and we consider them as serious as if they were full-fledged bites.) We actually have additional insight into this because one of our volunteers (human) has had Lyme Disease. Took many months for her to be diagnosed; once she was, she learned it's a VERY-nasty bug that remains permanently, waiting for a chance to 'crop-up' again. When we place Mojo again (TDC unanimously agrees we should), we're going to explain the background, these amazing events, and require the adopters test every 6-mos, whether or not he's symptomatic. We have no idea whether that will work or be sufficient - we're rather flying blind in this - but it seems rational. But based on what we know now, its a real possibility: Lyme *can*, in a few rare-cases, cause aggression- aggression that can be reversed. Permission was granted to cross post this. Pam Dennison, CDBC email:pam@positivedogs, website: Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Dog Training, Bringing Light to Shadow; A Dog Trainer's Diary, Click Your Way to Rally Obedience, How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong; A Roadmap for Rehabilitating Aggressive Dogs, Civilizing the City Dog. PMDT Trainer Academy: "If you don't have time to train your dog, get a stuffed animal No virus found in this outgoing message. Checked by AVG. Version: 7.5.524 / Virus Database: 269.23.6/1404 - Release Date: 4/29/2008 6:27 PM


The Use of Electronic Collars:

Until I attended a training seminar by Fred Hassen (, I thought that electronic collars were a cruel concept, and worried about whether they would break the dog's spirit, turn him into a wimp, cause him to be shy or nervous around me, etc. I am very relieved to say that the collar is not a cruel training device, and if you receive proper instruction in its use (i.e., from a reputable e-collar trainer, not from a manual), you will be astounded at how well your dog learns to respond appropriately to commands. I started Barney on an e-collar during Fred's seminar and was elated to see this formerly flighty, easily distracted dog learn to focus on me. He did not end up being clingy, wimpy, shy, or nervous, and it did not break his spirit. He did experience some anxiety while learning the connection between collar and command, but that's normal and he quickly worked through that. I now feel confident that I can take Barney into any situation, including around other dogs that he previously would have shown aggression toward, and retain his focus and response to my command of "Leave It" or "Come". This is an essential tool if standard obedience (manners) training is not working for you and your dog. Some dogs (they ARE dogs, after all, and have canine appropriate behavior that we must learn to work with) are hard headed, or too easily distracted by whatever, to focus properly and be consistent in their responses to obedience commands. Talking with Barney about appropriate behavior didn't help -- he was too "other oriented" -- i.e., anything distracted him. So the collar has become an invaluable tool for us. It has made him a more confident, focused, reliable companion, and it has also helped him learn to focus better in his SAR work. Fred has great information on his website about e-collar use. He offers seminars all over the world. For more information, see his site. Lou Castle also is an excellent e-collar trainer with many years of experience working with SAR and public service dogs. He has great articles that spell out what an e-collar is and is not, and how it can be beneficial for situations including dog-to-dog aggression. 

Separation Anxiety, Fear of Storms, Etc. The following are some of the tools which you can employ to assist your animal in addressing and healing from anxiety, fear and terror.

Medical Checkup:  Sometimes there is a medical reason for fears, phobias, behavioral/personality changes . . . such as a low thyroid, sensitivity to heartworm or flea prevention medications, etc.  Talk to your veterinarian about medical conditions and medications which can influence behavior and personality.

An Animal Communication Session, to find out the cause behind the separation anxiety (early separation from mother, i.e., prior to 8 weeks of age, is often a cause). Communication can also work with fear of storms or other triggering factors which frighten your animal friend by exploring and addressing the cause, i.e., is it the sound, the energetic vibrations, the change in barometric pressure), and to explain the nature of a storm or other fearful object/sound to him/her.

Bach Flower Remedies such as Dr. Bach's Rescue Remedy (a five flower blend) can address fear, terror, anxiety, pain and shock. There are more specific remedies which are used to treat certain types of fears, so please contact me if you're interested in a consultation and treatment plan.  You'll find information about Rescue Remedy on the Bach Flower Essences page.  This flower essence line can be found at most health food stores and even certain grocery stores.  A dose is 4 drops; shake or tap the bottle lightly 8 times (each time before you give, or take for yourself, a dose) to activate the essence.  Then give/take one dose three times, five minutes apart, and you should notice that you/the animal are relaxing and becoming centered again.  Then give/take one dose every 15-60 minutes or as needed during this time.  You cannot take too much, but with very small animals you need to be careful because the remedies are preserved in alcohol. The alcohol can make a small cat or dog sleepy (not to be confused with the sleepiness they may feel after their emotions calm down). The flower essences are not drugs, herbs or homeopathy. They are vibrational essences (energy), and work to rebalance dis-ease in the mind, emotions and spirit.  It is an important tool to keep on hand.  It is especially useful in cases of trauma, shock, fright/terror, anxiety, pain . . . and especially so with grief. If there are other animals in the household and they are exhibiting signs of anxiety or other emotions as noted above, then please give them Rescue Remedy as well. I highly recommend you take it Rescue Remedy on the same schedule as you give it to them because we tend to mirror emotions with our animals. Please let me know if you're interested in a consultation and Bach remedies treatment bottle for your animal's issues.

Anxiety Wrap, which can be found at

Vitamin B Complex -- the B vitamins are known as nervenes and they help calm and soothe the nervous system.

Stressfree Calmplex found at, or Nutricalm through Both have all natural ingredients. I can personally attest to great results from the Stressfree Calmplex.

Other Herbs: Scullcap and Valerian Root can also be helpful.  For proper amount to use, please purchase a book regarding use of herbs in animals.  See Herbs for Pets and The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat on the Books-Holistic Care page.

Melatonin, a naturally occurring substance in the body which can be helpful during stressful events and situations. (general information; not animal-specific) and for information about use in dogs. The Canine Epilepsy Resource Center has a bit of information on their site about use of Melatonin, see The May 2000 issue (Vol. 3, No. 5) of The Whole Dog Journal has an article about use of melatonin for noise and thunder-phobic dogs.  See for ordering information. Christina Chambreau, a holistic/homeopathic veterinarian ( says to give 1 mg for dogs under 30 pounds, 3 mg if more than 30 pounds and up to 6 mg for Giant breeds one hour prior to thunderstorms.

Essential Oils: for dogs, rub one drop of peppermint oil and/or lavender oil on paw pads.

Sound Desensitization (using a tape of a thunderstorm and other loud, discordant sounds). Start it on very low volume, away from the animal (such as across the room). If they react calmly, slowly increase volume over a period of days or weeks, always gauging their reaction. If their anxiety increases at a certain volume, decrease it for a few days. Play the tape as often as possible; repetition is what helps them overcome their fear. Note that their sense of safety while you're home during a storm may not be there during a storm when they're alone, which would require additional work.

Static Electricity: Animals are extremely sensitive to energy. During a storm, the barometric pressure changes; sometimes this hurts the animal's ears or their head, such as we feel with an earache or headache. The energy cannot be changed, but the animal may well feel better if you use a healing touch such as . . .

Ttouch/Calming Signals: There are books available on these subjects which can be found on my Books-Behavior page.  Two I recommend are  On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals and The Tellington TTouch: A Revolutionary Natural Method to Train and Care for Your Favorite Animal. The Ttouch technique can be used on any species of animal. This hands-on bodywork is gentle, non-invasive movements of the skin and body of the animal.

Crates are wonderful tools, but not for all dogs. Some do well in a Vari-kennel (plastic with air vents, feels like a cave), some in a wire crate because they can see all around them. If you have a crate, and can crate during a storm -- while you're home! --, try putting a sheet or blanket over the crate to create a dark cave, leave just a little gap at the bottom of the door area for air circulation. (You can achieve the same thing by putting their bed in a corner of a darkened closet.) Gauge their reaction for the first few minutes -- if their anxiety escalates, sit with them and talk soothingly, see if that helps. If that is helpful, then you can increase the time the crate is covered to a period long enough to keep him/her calm and feeling safe throughout the storm. My Weim, Barney, hates being crated (which is only done when I'm leaving because he gets into trouble otherwise!). But he is okay once I leave. The biggest thing to remember when crate training is to not make a big fuss about leaving. You crate them, pick up your purse and keys and go. No dawdling, making sweet talk, etc. A short, sweet, "goodbye, be a good boy/girl, I'll see you later" and out the door you go. Dawdling increases their anxiety. You need to feel confident and centered when you send that message and when you go out the door, get in the car and drive away. They are VERY sensitive to our emotions, so make sure you are staying calm when he's wigging out. Feel free to tell them that you're going to X, and you'll be back at Y, and picture those two things in your head when you say it.

Homeopathy, which can also address fears and generalized anxiety. Homeopathy addresses the whole animal (body, mind and spirit) by supporting the body's natural vital force and helping it to "step up" to a higher level of health and immune system function. This includes mental health as well.

Search the Internet for "anxiety in [species]" and see what you come up with as far as desensitization techniques or other options (always use only positive reinforcement when training).

Look at the Food You're Feeding  Processed foods, especially those which contain chemical preservatives (BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and forms of glycol) can cause hyperactivity (i.e., destructive behavior, barking for no reason, separation anxiety, etc.).  Be sure you are feeding only treats and kibbles that are naturally preserved with vitamins and/or mixed tocopherols (vitamin derivatives).  Avoid rawhide chews, which are loaded with chemicals and preservatives.

Kongs: Give your dog a Kong that has been stuffed, frozen and partially thawed (can be microwaved for 30-60 seconds to slightly thaw). See for information and recipes. You can stuff them with anything you can think of (exceptions: no onions or grapes). Dinner leftovers, boiled hamburger and cream cheese with garlic powder and baby carrots, yogurt with peanut butter and banana, etc. If crated, give that to him/her as soon as s/he goes in the crate, and then you must immediately leave. S/he may bark for a few minutes but after s/he senses you're gone, s/he should quiet down and focus on the Kong. If s/he hasn't had one before, you should start out with an unthawed (or freshly stuffed) Kong so they don't have to work as hard at emptying them. Then work up to frozen over time as s/he masters cleaning them out. Make sure you get a size-appropriate Kong (the Large size is good for dogs 40-90 lbs or so).

Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) and Feline Appeasing Pheromones (Feliway) come in a vaporizor form that plugs into an outlet, like an air freshener, and has been found to be helpful for stressed dogs and cats.  An overview of DAP can be found at, and for Feliway see See also These products can be purchased at most pet stores. For optimal results, be sure to read the product insert regarding when and how to use.

Build Confidence: Sometimes fears and anxieties can be reduced, maybe even resolved, through helping the animal develop confidence in itself to handle a situation calmly. For instance, during a storm, take the dog (for example) through a series of obedience exercises to distract them from what they fear.  Play games with them that require them to focus on you, not the storm.  Doing this can teach the dog that loud noises don't hurt them.  Talk softly to them, ask for commands in a gentle but firm voice, use treat rewards or whatever the dog responds well to. Do this for 15-20 minutes at a time, have them follow you through the house, do the exercises in various rooms.  This is not an instant fix, but if done through several storms (or whatever is causing the anxiety), you should notice an improvement in their behavior.

Clicker Training:  Clicker training can be used for just about any animal and any situation.  This is especially useful for rescue animals that may have a history of abuse. For enlightening stories and testimonials about dogs, cats and horses who were clicker trained, please see the Gem Posts and Gem Posts II at Karen Pryor's website, Ms. Pryor is the author of Click to Win, Don't Shoot the Dog, Lads Before the Wind; she also offers several videos about clicker training of various species through her website, and clicker training tools (including a great starter kit!). For an excerpt from Click to Win: Clicker Training for the Show Ring, see Another trainer/writer is Melissa Alexander, author of Click for Joy. She trained under and works in conjunction with Ms. Pryor. Ms. Alexander's website is, which also has a Yahoogroups list you can join.

Basic Manners Class:  Along the lines of building confidence, take your dog through a basic manners (a/k/a obedience) class. It strengthens your bond with them, and builds their confidence as they learn new behaviors.

Dogs: check out the following site for numerous articles and links dealing with fear, anxiety, shyness/timidity, etc.:

Cats: check out the following site for numerous articles and links dealing with behavior problems in cats:

Coprophagia (Stool Eating) This is a problem more common than people know. A dog came into rescue with heartworms and kennel cough and was very thin. He recovered well, but it was later found that his kidneys were failing. Given that supporting his immune system and kidney function was of utmost importance, the client was even more concerned about his ongoing habit of eating other dogs’ stools (also known as coprophagia). This is a particularly difficult issue to resolve, as habits are hard to break, and the reasons for coprophagia can be many, and can involve eating other species’ stools as well. A few are nutritional deficiencies, pancreatic insufficiency (i.e., inability to digest food properly, which can result in the stool containing undigested or partially digested food which can provide nutrients), and boredom/bad habit. I spoke with the dog about how important it was to keep his body clean internally, and that he was making it more difficult for his body to stay well. Lo and behold (believe me, I was surprised as the client!), he immediately stopped eating stools.

It isn’t always that easy, unfortunately. Animals have free will, like we do. And they have to want to make the change. Or they may agree to, then promptly forget, so they need reminders (through mental images and words from you). Rule out nutritional issues in cases like this, and be willing to diligently address the behavioral aspect. The easiest way to handle this situation, of course, is to pick up all droppings immediately. Support their immune and digestive systems with a good quality probiotic (i.e. beneficial bacteria, such as Fastrack, available from many places including KV Vet Supply, and possibly a digestive enzyme product (such as ProZyme or EnzymePro, also available from KV Vet). If there are two or more dogs in the family, you can also put salt-free tomato juice or V8 juice on the dogs' food and the stool eating should stop immediately (note that this will stop them from eating the other dog's stools because it tastes bad to them. It won't stop them from eating other animals' stools.) For additional information and suggestions, a few sites to check out are: 

Inappropriate Elimination in Cats See for an article about this subject

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