Recently, a young couple came to class with their nine month old large mixed breed dog. He appeared to be a little fearful, unsure of himself, and in conflict with what he wanted and needed. I asked the couple a few questions about him and they expressed to me that he had just started Prozac. What? I was a little taken aback and I asked them why. “He is an anxious dog and he had a rough start as a pup”. Well, yes he is a little anxious, but he has never had an ounce of training. They had never had him evaluated by a trainer or behaviorist. He was simply put on Prozac.
When I grew up I had never heard of a dog on Prozac but then again none of my friends were on Prozac either. Dogs back then played with us outside all day. Yes, kids played outside not on I Pads. Dogs ate table scraps, bones, meat and sometimes we even snuck them our ice cream cones. They all lived very long lives.
We were vaccinated once when we were children. Why are we vaccinating our dogs every year? Why are we warned of bones, scraps, meat, canned food and the dreaded “human food”. Have you ever read the ingredients on a bag of kibble? The crappiest ones start with corn, wheat, soy etc. I would call that human food at its’ worst and yet we are told that is what is best for them.
Our dogs got flea baths every week and for some reason my grandmother swore on bacon grease between the paws for flea remedies. I am not sure how that worked without the dogs licking it off. My point is that we did not over vaccinate, inundate with toxic flea and tick medications or feed them expensive prescription diets. And they were never put on Prozac.
Perhaps it is time that we look at the causes for the behaviors and not look for a magic cure in the form of a pill. Do I believe that in an extreme case that medicine can be helpful? Yes. But not every dog who exhibits a little neurotic behavior needs medication.
Maybe they just need a little guidance and time with their humans: this does not include leash walks with you chatting on your cell phone, trips to the dog park with you on your cell phone and your latte’ or throwing a ball incessantly for half an hour to get the energy out.
It means being present, teaching, guiding and trying to love the dog for who she is. It means seeing that they get a species appropriate diet. It means that they are not over medicated, over vaccinated and undersocialized. And most important, it means that they are allowed to be a dog: dogs hunt, chew, dig, eat dead smelly things and hump pillows for fun. This does not mean they are crazy, they are a dog. Medications can have side effects that worsen behavior. See link below.