Dog Anxiety Issues, Biting and Medication

by Maria Cerato
(Regina Saskatchewan)

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Our dog is a 5-year-old Hungarian Vizsla. He is the most well behaved and trained dog both generally and for hunting. Unfortunately he has severe anxiety in the home and his first reaction is to bite when people are in his space (the home) or near his kennel. We have tried anti-anxiety medication (didn't work), taken him to dog training classes (he is always top dog) and had him see an animal psychologist (cannot figure out how to fix the problem). We are at our wits end at how to fix the issue and do not want to put down this beautiful dog.

Please someone provide some insight into this issue so we can keep our beloved dog and work together to cure his anxiety.

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Aug 17, 2014
Vet Suggestion for Dog Anxiety Medication and Treatment
by: Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Reader Question on Anxiety in Dogs and Biting Behavior Problem

Hi Maria,

The most effective way of treating anxiety-based aggression in dogs is to give anti-anxiety medications in conjunction with a behavioral modification program developed for the dog’s specific problem. Consulting with a veterinary behaviorist should give you the best chance at turning your dog’s anxiety around. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ website has a search function that allows owners to find these board certified specialists locally.

Most behavioral modification plans for anxious dogs use some form of desensitization. In short, the dogs are exposed to a watered down version of the stimulus that usually sets them off, for example a stranger at a distance. As long as they remain calm (this is where the anti-anxiety medication are helpful), the next exposure to the stimulus is slightly more intense. Ever so gradually, the intensity is increased and the dog rewarded for remaining calm. The process can take months but is often successful as long as everyone involved is committed to working with the dog in accordance with the behaviorist’s recommendations.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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