Treating Behavior Problems in Dogs
Over the last two decades, the role of the domestic dog has undergone significant change. Dogs who used to live in a house with family members around all day, every day-and who had a big backyard in which to play and chase rabbits-may find themselves in an empty house 8 to 10 hours a day and being taken on a leash to a place to eliminate. Some dogs have a difficult time adjusting to this lifestyle, and many behavior problems occur because dogs are on their own and entertaining themselves inside the house. Other problems arise because dogs are more intimate members of the family than they were before and share closer quarters with their human families. Still other problems occur because of the difficulty dogs have adapting their natural behavior’s to the limited environment of the modern urban home.
Behavior problems arising from the limitations imposed by the modern urban environment can be complex and difficult to treat. Anxiety is often a factor. In such situations, medication can help with treatment success.
Is Medication Necessary?
Some pet parents don’t want to give their dog behavioral medication. They’re not comfortable treating behavior issues with drugs and would rather resolve the problem through training and behavior modification. This reaction is understandable. However, some problems can be resolved more quickly and with less distress (for the dog and the pet parent) if behavior medication is added to the treatment plan.
In an ideal world, the most effective approach to treating a behavior problem is behavior change training. Behavior modification treatments designed by knowledgeable, qualified professionals treat the problem behavior by either changing the dog’s perception of a situation or a thing, by changing the consequence of the dog’s behavior, by giving the dog an acceptable behavior to do in place of the problem behavior, or by a combination of these things. (Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, for help choosing and locating a qualified expert in your area.)
However, with many problem behaviors related to fear, medication is necessary to reduce the dog’s fear to a level that allows treatment to begin. Please see our article, Desensitization and Counterconditioning for information about these effective treatments that are commonly used for fears, phobias, anxiety and aggression.