Project Description

Using Aromatics To Help Dog Aggression

collie cross lying in snowThe development of defensive aggression

Tigs (as she is known) is a 5 year old spayed female collie cross. For the first one and a half years of her life she lived as the only dog of a childless couple. Then they moved abroad leaving Tigs behind. Firstly Tigs was left with the woman who moved into their house, a friend of the couple who did not have much dog experience. A month or so after her ‘parents’ left Tigs was attacked by another dog while out walking and had to have several stitches in her leg. After this her behaviour towards other dogs became much more defensive/aggressive.

 Insecurity increases the problem

She subsequently was moved from home to home every six months for the next 18 months. By the end of this time she was more likely than not to attack dogs she met casually within seconds of greeting them, especially females.

 Clear boundaries breeds confidence

At the time of this case study Tigs had been settled with the same people for two years. they had taken positive steps to re-train her behaviour and her aggression had greatly improved. If her people were around for reassurance she was unlikely to attack other dogs. However if she felt at all nervous or threatened she would quickly snap. It was also still very hard for her to socialize properly with other dogs as her play was overly boisterous and demanding. This could easily become aggression if the other dog tried to protect itself from being bounced on!

Therapeutic intention

The aim for Tigs was for her to feel relaxed enough in herself that this behaviour was unnecessary. The oils chosen were:

  • yarrow for release of trauma relating to the original biting incident,
  • neroli for strenghtening the heart and nerves,
  • peppermint to help overcome feelings of inferiority/superiority and over-defensiveness of personal space.

A sensitive soul

Unfortunately Tigs responded badly to the oils. As soon as a bottle was opened she fled to the other side of the room tail between her legs looking wounded. I stayed where I was with the bottle open and she relaxed for a minute, looking at me and licking her lips very slightly. I decided that she was just extremely sensitive to the oils and that she was taking them in from a distance that felt safe to her.

However as the days went on she was making a bigger and bigger drama about the oils (she was by nature a drama queen) and I felt this was working against the treatment and decided to stop using the oils. On consideration I decided to try her with hydrosols, offering them at well separated intervals.

Hydrosols for the over-sensitive

The first hydrosol (also known as hydrolat, the water part of essential oil distillation) I offered was peppermint. This time I had a more typical response. She smelled the bottle, still not wanting to take more than little sniffs at a time, licked her lips broadly then sat their in a light trance. I then offered her a teaspoon of hydrosol in a saucer of water which she licked once then withdrew from me.

Half an hour later she was offered the neroli hydrosol and half an hour after that, yarrow, both of which she declined but with none of the distress she had shown about the essential oils. The next morning she was offered the peppermint again and showed no interest.

Fantastic result!

Later that afternoon she was taken for a walk, along the way she met five separate groups of dogs of all differents shapes, sizes and attitudes. The path was narrow so close contact was inevitable…. Tigs behaved impeccably showing no fear and aggression, respecting where the other dogs showed dominance and not bullying those that were inferior. Her person was ecstatic.

Three days later Tigs was again offered all the hydrosols again. She stayed close to the peppermint for a few minutes then moved away, the others were refused emphatically. Three days later she was again offered the peppermint hydrosol and walked away from it as soon as it was opened.

Three months later Tigs is a completely reformed character and carries herself with a new air of confidence and joy with none of her former insecurity or belligerence.


Tigs is now 14 years old and a wise old matriarch who has helped many dogs learn how to communicate with each other confidently and without aggression. After her early experiences she seemed to see it as her role in life to educate others in the social graces. On the other hand, she is still ready to bounce with handsome youngsters once in a while.