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  • Writer's pictureSara Scott

Should You Consider Medication for Your Dog's Behavior Issues?

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

For dogs tormented by pronounced anxiety, aggression, or phobias, medication may be one piece of the rehabilitation puzzle when combined with professional training. But what is the appropriate role of prescription drugs in treating canine behavior problems? As a trainer, I use criteria originally developed by renowned trainer Suzanne Clothier to help assess whether medication may be appropriate.

Clothier's 3 Ps: Provocation, Proportion, Persistence

Provocation considers what triggers the behavioral response. Is it something relatively mild like a normal noise or routine event? Or is it an unusual situation the average dog would not react to?

Proportion looks at whether the reaction is proportional to the trigger. For example, a dog who reacts to a doorbell ring with a dramatic startle response and prolonged shaking may be overreacting based on the relatively benign trigger.

Persistence evaluates how long the behavioral reaction lasts even when the trigger is gone. Quickly re-regulating is healthy. But inability to calm down long after the stimulus passes can signal an issue.

A scatter of dog behavior modification medication pills in red, white, and golden capsules and tablets on a white background. The medications vary in size and shape and include Prozac, Zoloft, and Trazdone.

Why the 3 Ps Shed Light

Analyzing provocation, proportionality, and persistence provides insight on whether the dog is having an expectable response or potentially needs medical intervention.

A dog who startles intensely at a loud thunderclap but then immediately settles is likely just frightened. But a dog persistently panicking for 30+ minutes after a distant firework boom may have an anxiety condition requiring medication.

The longer the disproportional reaction persists, the more it suggests medication could help strengthen nervous system regulation alongside training.

Integrating Medication Judiciously

If reactions are extreme and enduring, medication prescribed by a veterinary behaviorist can be beneficial paired with training.

But for dogs who have strong reactions that resolve quickly, training is likely sufficient without drugs. The key is considering their ability to return to a regulated state.

Medication is not a replacement for training. But used carefully, it can empower dogs overwhelmed by chronic stress. Analyzing Clothier's 3 Ps helps determine if that empowerment could allow your dog to thrive.


If your dog is struggling with serious behavioral challenges, a combined approach of training and medication may be needed. As a certified professional trainer, I can design an effective modification plan tailored to your unique situation. Click here to learn more about my customized training programs and let's develop a coordinated strategy to help your dog overcome their issues for good.

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