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Drugs May Not Be the Best Solution

Amelia looks to be a Formosan Mountain Dog. As is typical with the breed (often rescued from the streets of Taiwan), she is a mix of anxious, shy, and aggressive. She was recently rescued at 3 years old from a home where she had been on Prozac, but continued getting more aggressive, so they gave her up.

Medication like Prozac and Xanax for dogs can be a dangerous and slippery slope.

When we humans contemplate taking medicine to solve a problem, we first need to get to the source of the issue. There is no such thing as a “happy pill” that will make our problems go away. And taking meds to numb ourselves so we don’t feel our emotions is also not getting to the root of the issue.

It’s no different with dogs. I keep seeing dogs who have been put on medication only to get worse because their issues are not being addressed. I have in a few instances used medication to help a dog more easily get through a rough rehab, since some medications can calm down a dog enough so that he can work through his fears more quickly and easily. But I always try training and increased physical and mental exercise before throwing drugs at the problem.

I believe medication should be introduced when we’re not seeing the effects that training and behavior modification should have and we therefore determine the dog needs additional help.

For some dogs, a sedative can also be used effectively for short-term issues, like getting through a plane flight with stressors.  But even then I advise my clients to test the medication well before going on the trip, just in case the dog has an adverse reaction. You don’t want your dog to be 30,000 feet above the ground before you discover that Xanax actually makes him more hyper or nauseous or something far worse.

My own senior dog was prescribed a ridiculous amount of drugs when she got out of the emergency room and was lacking a diagnosis. Not too helpful.

Please consider the prospect of using medication on your dog with caution. Make sure you’ve tried other alternatives like training and behavior modification and are working on the root of the issue and not trying for a quick fix that will almost undoubtedly fail.

Beverly Ulbrich, The Pooch Coach, is the owner of The Pooch Coach Dog Training and has provided private and personalized empathic dog training and canine behavior modification for over 16 years in the SF Bay Area. She has extensive knowledge and success with solving aggression issues and helping shy, fearful dogs. She often appears on TV to speak about dog behavior, in addition to training and handling dogs for TV and film. Her dog Musik is already a budding star, appearing in TV and  print ads and movies. Learn more at

Main article photo by: Photo by Marco Verch / Flikr