Vicki Hearne, the well known dog trainer and author of Adam’s Task
, taught me much of what I know about dog training. She consistently refused to work with any dog that was on psycho-tropic drugs. While I’ve not been quite the purist that she was when it comes to this, I think she had a point. My recent experience with a shepherd mix named Lance comes to mind.
Lance is a very fearful dog and this fearfulness translated to aggression whenever he was confronted with a person or dog that made him feel threatened. When his owner started working with me he was on 40 mg. of Prozac a day. Fortunately, not too far into the training his owner left him for a few days with her close friend who is very knowledgeable about dogs. The friend took Lance off the Prozac, and it was beginning at that point that he really began to progress in his training.
The problem is that when a dog is on drugs, he just isn’t himself. I don’t know all the science behind it. Maybe his synapses aren’t firing correctly or something, but in any case, it can severely hinder the training process. In addition it’s difficult to tell whether the drugs or the training is causing the observed changes in behavior. Even those who advocate the use of such drugs will tell you that in order for there to be a lasting benefit, training or behavior modification needs to be part of the regimen.
I’m not willing to say that drugs should never be part of the solution to a behavior issue, but I do think that as a general rule, if you can skip the dope, you’re better off.