Ask a Pro with Brandog for February 2015

Welcome to our first monthly article for Brandog’s “Ask a Pro” column. This month we asked Dr. Joanna Paul of http://creatureclinic.com/ about dog appeasing pheromones or DAP. Be sure and check out her website for the many great articles and follow her on Twitter via @CreatureClinic.

Question:  Can you tell us about dog appeasing pheromone (DAP)? We know it is used for dogs with anxiety. What are the uses as far as aggressiveness in dogs?

Dog appeasing pheromone (Adaptil) is a synthetic version of the pheromone puppies smell while suckling from their mother. It is comforting and can be useful as part of management or prevention of anxiety problems in dogs, or in situations that are stressful. Useful situations include when you bring your new puppy into its new home, or for adult dogs with separation anxiety or noise phobias. It generally isn’t recommended for use in aggression, as it has the potential to make aggression worse by increasing a dog’s confidence. Having said that, there are many reasons for aggression, and a lot of dogs that behave aggressively are doing so out of anxiety or fear, so it is worth discussing Adaptil as an option with a veterinarian.

Question:  Can I use it to calm my aggressive dog so he can socialize with other dogs and with people?

If you have a dog who has shown signs of aggression towards other dogs or people in the past, I would be very reluctant to suggest trying anything that might put any other animals or people at risk. The best option if you are concerned that your dog is exhibiting aggressive behavior is to make an appointment with your vet who can then offer you more options or refer you further if necessary. It’s important to realize that Adaptil alone is rarely effective for changing behaviors, and works best when used as part of a bigger strategy.

Question:  Can you suggest any other remedy if a dog needs a little help such as medications?

Medications definitely play a part in management of most cases of aggression. This is because aggression is often secondary to anxiety. Like in humans, anxiety is a genuine illness. It involves an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, and this can be addressed partially with medications. Of course there’s much more to it than popping a pill every day, and a comprehensive plan for managing the behavior needs to be worked out with a professional. Another thing that sometimes helps for anxiety-related behavior is a thunder shirt. It can help a dog feel secure by being tight around their body, a bit like be wrapped up snug in a blanket.

Question:  When is it time to get meds for a dog? Should you seek training first?

This is a great question. I don’t believe aggression is something you can ‘train’ out of a dog. It’s an emotional state, so is very different to teaching a dog to sit or roll over. That doesn’t mean there are not wonderful trainers out there who have an understanding of managing these types of problems, but I wouldn’t call it training. I would say seek the advice of a veterinarian with a professional interest in behavior and see what or who they can recommend. When is it time to get meds? That’s difficult to answer, and varies depending on the individual dog, the owners, the experiences the dog has had, and the environment the dog is in. Aggression is not something that can ever be cured, it can only be controlled. The most important factor with any aggressive dog is safety. If there is a risk to the safety of those in contact with the dog then the situation needs to change. While that may involve medications and behavioral modification, (while avoiding risky situations), sometimes it may well involve rehoming the dog to a more appropriate environment, or in some cases, euthanasia.

Many thanks to Dr. Paul for giving our readers a better understanding of DAP.

Until next time,
Shiraz

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