Behavioral Medication for Your Dog

How the right behavioral medications can help your dog.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #120

Most of the dogs I work with have serious behavior problems. Some are afraid of everybody except the people they live with. Some explode into intense aggression when someone touches them. Some are so terrified at being left alone that their bowels and bladder empty the instant their guardian walks out the door.

This week, I’ll explain why my motto as a trainer working with behavior problems is “Just say yes to drugs,” and how you as your dog’s guardian can get the most expert advice on behavioral medication for your dog.

The Right Meds Can Relieve Suffering

The right medication can relieve suffering and make behavior modification more effective. In my personal experience, that’s especially true with anxiety disorders and outright phobias. If you’ve ever been badly frightened, or had a long-lasting chronic anxiety that preoccupied you and made it hard to sleep, eat, or concentrate, you know how sweet relief can be. Dogs share with us the brain structures and neurochemistry that govern fear and anxiety, so it’s a good bet that they experience those emotions pretty much the way we do. When their anxiety is relieved, they learn more easily and are usually less likely to aggress. Their lives are happier, too.

Dogs learn more easily and are happier when their fears are relieved.

Do you have trouble getting past the fact that doctors and veterinarians don’t claim to fully understand the neurochemistry and neurology of behavior? I’d like to reframe that uncertainty. Try seeing it as appropriate humility about a complex biological system, and instead be very afraid when someone claims to have “the” safe and effective treatment whether or not any evidence supports them.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).