In my experience, reactivity and aggression are most often related to fear and anxiety. There are very few dogs that are born with an aggressive nature. In most cases, a dog becomes aggressive or reactive because it is anxious or fearful of something and has learned that adopting an aggressive or reactive stance can sometimes make the fearful thing go away. Over time, the aggressive or reactive stance becomes “normal” behavior and the evidence that the dog is actually fearful or anxious can become difficult to detect, even to those that are extremely knowledgeable in reading canine body language.
Behavior Modification for Reactivity, Fear, and Aggression
Behavior modification involves changing your dog’s behavior in relation to a trigger that elicits fear or causes your dog to become reactive or aggressive. Behavior modification is the most important element in dealing with fearful, aggressive or reactive dogs.
Behavior modification can be achieved in many different ways. All of these methods are geared toward reducing your dog’s fear and anxiety and making him more comfortable when he approaches an object or situation that causes him to become reactive, fearful or aggressive.
One of the tools that can be used to aid in behavior modification training for your dog are drugs and other products that help relieve your dog’s anxiety.
Products that Relieve Anxiety for Your Dog
One of the most useful products that I’ve had found to relieve anxiety is a product called DAP®. DAP® stands for dog appeasing pheromone. It is a hormone that naturally helps relieve anxiety and ease fear for dogs.
- DAP® is available as a collar, which is nice because it will go where your dog goes.
- It is also available as a diffuser which plugs into one of your electrical outlets. The scent is not detectable to you but your dog will smell it.
- A spray form of DAP® is handy for use in cars, carriers, single rooms or other smaller confined spaces. Many puppy classes and obedience courses spray DAP® in the room just before a session starts.
DAP® is a natural product that has no potential to cause side effects or adverse reactions. As such, I usually recommend trying it before moving on to drugs such as Prozac® or Clomicalm®. DAP® works well for mild to moderate anxiety/fear. However, in more serious cases, it may not be enough to solve the problem.
Natural Anxiolytic (Anxiety-Relieving) Remedies
There are a number of herbal products produced to help relieve fear and anxiety. One example is Sleepy Time Herbal Elixir®. You may wish to try one of these remedies as well. Follow the directions on the label for dosing.
Reconcile® (Prozac®), Clomicalm® and Other Anxiolytic Drugs
Anxiety-relieving medications, coupled with behavior modification techniques, can be an effective tool for retraining dogs that are aggressive, reactive or fearful. However, they are not right for all dogs.
Drugs such as Reconcile®, Prozac®, and Clomicalm® can be quite effective when used as a tool in training an anxious or fearful dog that becomes reactive or aggressive. These drugs are labeled for use in separation anxiety in dogs. However, they are frequently used in other situations as well.
It is important to remember that Prozac®, Reconcile®, Clomicalm® or any other drug is to be used only as a training tool. The purpose of the drug is to calm your dog so that learning new behaviors becomes easier. These drugs should never be used in place of behavior modification training.