Every year we keep a tally of dogs who have been prescribed Prozac, trazodone, or some other type of antidepressant drug, and unfortunately the number keeps going up ever year. Why? Because we are treating our dogs like human beings. We are forgetting that we signed up for an animal to live in our house, and that these animals the needs of a dog, not of a human. Buying them more toys, hanging out with them in the tv room, snuggling in bed with your dog. These are all great, but they are all bullshit. Your dog doesn’t need it, humans do. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do all of the things listed above too, once my dog’s needs are met. I love my dogs more than anything else in the world, ANYTHING, but I will never forget that they are dogs. They are not my kids. The second I get that twisted, is the second I fail them. I treat Trigger, Thurman, and Xena like dogs BECAUSE I love them so much. Because I respect them so freaking much. Let’s dive in.
Dogs are prescribed prozac and trazodone left and right. (which by the way is not a reflection upon the owner. This is not a guilt trip on you, you are following the direction of someone who is following protocol. My goal, is to change that said protocol) They are prescribed for separation anxiety, nervousness and fear, and worst of all overexcitement and too much energy. Are there some dogs who need medication, absolutely. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say less then 10% of the dogs I train actually need it. What they need is structure. They need to be treated like a dog. They need challenged through exercise, mentally and physically. They need to work. That is the bottom line, and something we forgot along the way. These dogs, they were bred for a purpose. Our job as responsible dog owners is to give them that purpose, and it’s not to hang out in the house and do a short 15 minute walk everyday. That’s not enough. That is not going to cut the mustard.
How can we be better? We can start by changing our mindset. Yes, some people own dogs that dont get Regular exercise and they live a perfectly “happy” life. That shouldn’t be the standard, and honestly, it should be far from it. Some of the higher drive and energy dogs need, two good 40-60+ minute exercise sessions a day. Before we start to think about the, I don’t have the time, remember, this is what you signed up for. Daily obedience sessions, even a few 10 minute sessions daily can change your relationship between the two of you! Exercise alone is not the only component that will fix this problem, its a huge piece though. The other? Teaching your dog down time. Teaching your dog that doing nothing is indeed doing something. This is where it gets hard. We love and recommend kennel training, the right way, and never to be used as a place for punishment. Ever! The kennel though, when introduced correctly, becomes a tool to slow your dog down, so they know they can relax and hang out. (We will go further in depth about re-crate training your dog our next blog post.) Structure in every part of your dogs life. Dogs need to know where they stand and what they should be doing constantly. Knowing what youre doing creates confidence, decreases insecurity and anxiety. Have you ever gone to work and no one tells you what to do? You’re ready to hit everyone in the office with a baseball bat, because it creates stress and anxiety.
Give your dog absolutely nothing for free. Make them work for everything. You want to go outside? Perfect, do a down. You want to eat your meal? Beautiful, let’s practice impulse control and have you stay on place beforehand. This mindset of actively working your dog, is life changing. Not just for your dog, but for you!
As always remember, “Properly trained humans can be a dog’s best friend!”
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