"My Trainer Said My Dog Should Be on Prozac!"

If you've heard this advice from your dog's trainer, run don't walk. Here's why.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

That trainer is subject to criminal penalties. In some states, he might even be a felon. No joke! Because when someone who doesn't hold a license to practice veterinary medicine starts prescribing specific medications, that person is ... wait for it ... practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

Dog training as a field is just beginning to professionalize -- to develop standard requirements for education and practical experience. The best dog trainers these days are well read in the science of animal learning in general and canid behavior in particular. We do make a point of learning what behaviors and changes in behavior mean a veterinary workup is in order. We also keep up in a general way with what behavioral meds exist and what they're used for. But here are some things I for one don't know, or don't know in detail:

  • all the potential side effects of behavioral medications
  • how behavioral meds may interact with other medications the dog is taking
  • how behavioral meds may be used in combination
  • canine neurology and neuroanatomy

Unless your trainer happens to also be a vet, look at her cross-eyed if she starts prescribing. And even if she is a vet, you might want to do some grilling. What to look for?


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).