Options for Fear Aggressive Dogs: Prozac and Behavioral Training

01 Jun

We got a puppy that we love.  He is cute and smart and very affectionate with our family.  The problem is severe fear and anxiety.  People often ask, “Was he a rescue?” or “What happened to him as a puppy?”  Well, we got him at 9 weeks, so it is possible that someone handled him inappropriately during his first 9 weeks, specifically during the 6-9 week period when they are very susceptible to becoming fearful and gaining trust.  It is also possible he inherited these fears from his mother, who was a little standoffish.  We met both his parents, his dad was great, his mom wasn’t immediately friendly but not fear aggressive and played ball with us.  I am not sure which is more likely.  He is a purebred border collie.  It is also somewhat in their genetic makeup to “guard,” but not to the extent at which our pup is fearful and reactive.  We have invested a lot of time and money into helping him in lieu of putting him down which we were told just didn’t make sense for such a young dog.  Every trainer seems to believe we can “get out of this mess” since he is still young.  We work with him every day.  We have hired two trainers.  The first didn’t have a strong skill set to deal with his issues.  The second, was Colby Self, from Sit Means Sit in Raleigh.  Colby is great, we believe he has Whiskey’s best interest at heart!  Sit means Sit uses the e-collar to train.  Now, I will admit that I am not 100% comfortable with the philosophy of e-collar training for the average dog.  However, I feel that in certain situations there is no other way.  Whiskey is one of those cases.  We have to reach him by whatever means possible as his life depends on it (getting put down or not).  We are determined to train him so that he is no longer reactive to people and dogs.  I will talk more about Colby and Sit Means Sit in a minute.

We also decided due to the severity of his fear and anxiety that we needed to try medication.  We started him on Prozac.  He is currently a few days shy of 6 months old and weighs about 37 pounds and is taking 10 mg. of Prozac a day.  We started him 3 days ago.  I will try to keep blogging about the impact of the medication and the training since I find that when I search I have not been able to find good posts that show the effects of Prozac, in particular, when people start to notice a difference and what those differences are.  Hopefully, I can provide that for others.  So far, with 2 doses, we have seen no change that we can tell although it sometimes will be hard to fully judge since we are constantly working on behavioral modification at the same time and one cannot tell if the Prozac or BM is causing the improvement (or both together).  We have also seen no side effects so far.

As for the training:  we sent Whiskey to board and train with Colby for a week.  It was important to me to stress that we are NOT interested in getting a trainer to teach our dog the usual commands one might send their dog to board and train for.  In Whiskey’s case, he already knows all of his commands very well.  I will list what he knows as a guide:

Sit, Stay, Come, Place, Down, Shake, High Five, Inside, Roll Over, Crawl, Back up, Take It, Put it in, Wait, Heel (we are working on this – it is still hard for him, he doesn’t pull but it isn’t a stay at your side perfect heel either), Cookie, Home, the names of everyone in our family, Okay, Eat, Good Boy, Hurry Up (Go Pee on command), and probably more that I can’t think of right now…  He is a border collie and they are the smartest dogs and he learns easily.

What Colby worked on what teaching him what the collar meant and how to give us his attention when we asked for it.  This is what Colby says is needed to break his aggression, he needs to turn his focus to us rather than the object that is causing his fear.  Colby is much more adept at all this than we are and he is able to get Whiskey to be pet by strangers (which he would normally try to bite if someone tried to pet him), trust a new dog (which he would normally try to bite), walk at heel without a leash with people walking by, etc.  So…. if we can get him to do the same, it will be great.  We have had some successes.  He no longer reacts to the children playing in the yard next door.  When we walk, he does not growl at people he sees for the most part (there might be a few cases that for some reason still cause fear and he will react) and we have been able to redirect his attention to us around other dogs (but it is still a challenge).  We have not yet tried to get others to pet him or have him to meet dogs – I am hoping once the Prozac kicks in and his anxiety is lower, we can begin to have those as goals but we have made progress.

We have had 2 lessons with Colby since our board and train and will start going to his group class (you get unlimited group classes with his program) this week!  Hopefully, group class will give us the opportunity to have Whiskey meet people and dogs more closely.

We have put Beware of Dogs sign up and when people come over, we send Whiskey to place, which he will stay at and relax in after a few minutes.

It is a lot of work trying to fix a fear aggressive dog, up to checking the electric fence reviews, but I want to reach out to all the others who are trying to help their dogs rather than just putting them down.  You need to be safe (people safety must come first and you have to be responsible – use muzzles as needed) but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the effort to rehabilitate the dog.  Feel free to email me if you are struggling with the same although don’t bother with negative comments about using e-collars, medications, or keeping a fear aggressive dog for rehabilitation – every dog deserves a chance!


Posted in Personal


Leave a Reply


  1. Amy

    August 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Hi, Your story sounds just like mine. Our dog Crosby has fear aggression. We just went to a Tufts Animal berhavorist and he recommend Prozac. I am willing to try anything at this point to save his life. I was wondering how your dog is doing and if you noticed any improvments being on this medication.

  2. chris philips

    September 17, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I am currently dealing with a similar situation. We adopted an older dane lab mix. Turns out the poor dog has severe fear aggression. I won’t go into the details of the adoption, suffice it to say that we were lied to and mislead all the way around by the spca that gave us the dog. This is the first time in owning a dog that I’ve felt like an utter failure. I have rehabbed some very damaged dogs and I have to admit that this problem has been the most frustrating. I think because it is such a slow process and if I fail I’m afraid that there is not much hope for my dog to be placed anywhere. I know if I return him to the spca he will be not be adoptable and everyone knows how that will work out. My main frustration is that he is such a sweet sweet boy until he’s faced with the outdoor world and then he scares the hell out of me (and anyone who meets him). Because he is so large he is almost impossible to hold onto. I have just started getting him familiar with the muzzle because I think it’s going to be necessary for a very long time. Thank heaven the trainer associated with this particular spca is helping us free of charge, he was quite ticked when he realized how misled we had been, but he has personally met the dog and is familiar with his issues. There were some issues that I could tell he had when we met him but they were not the type of problem that requires the intensive training that I’m now involved in. Because I’m disabled I very specifically did not want a dog I had to rehab simply because I don’t think I’m physically capable enough. However, I’m so attached to him now that I can’t stand the thought that this whole situation may not work out. Webster (our pup) has just started prozac two days ago. There has already been some huge progress on how reactive he is in the house, I hope that it continues to improve and isn’t just a side effect of being ‘drugged’. I would love to compare notes and ideas with you , so if you want to email me please do. Thanks

  3. Amber

    June 12, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I would love to hear how both of these dogs are doing. I have decided to put one of my dogs on Prozac. With me in the house he is a perfect listener and a complete angel. I have absolutely no problems at all. He doesn’t bark at other dogs walking by or people for that matter. However, he gets very upset when a new person comes in or if we are out on a walk and there is another dog nearby. We work with a trainer and that has helped a lot, however his anxiety is really high with new people and every dog. That being said he absolutely adores everyone that he knows, he is amazing with my other dogs, and if a new person comes around enough he loves them. I want him to live a comfortable life and not have stress every time we go for a walk of meet someone new.

  4. Jen

    August 2, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Prozac takes 2 weeks to get into the dogs system. I have used this several times with dog aggressive dogs and human aggressive dogs. this does take time. I can attest to a Rottweiler who was terrified of everyone and reactive was an understatement. she was on it for 4 months and we worked hard with her. and she is great now. She also no longer uses the Prozac and can in any situation with no negative reaction.
    good luck to you.

  5. Wanda Jackson

    August 21, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    This article and the comments are giving me hope for my little foster dog. He is a 4 year old, Min Pin dog who was brought to me about 2 weeks ago from one of our local animal shelters.

    Squirt, that’s his name, is the cutest and one of the smallest Min PIns I had ever seen. When the lady brought him to my home, I thought it was strange when she told me that I needed to put my other dogs into another room because Squirt did not handle chaos well. Red flag! I usually want to see my fosters at their worst so I can best prepare their adoptive parents. I should not have agreed to what the gal told me to do because I needed to see how the dog would react in such a situation. Secondly, she did not bring me any paperwork from the shelter. Why I accepted the dog from her, I don’t know; but, she obviously had a reason for getting him out of the shelter before he was put down.

    The little guy did end up being just as sweet as he was cute; but, I soon found out that there was a not so great part to his personality. I found him snarling and lunging at me when I would set his food bowl into his crate. He bit me when I picked up a stuffed toy that was near him.
    That night, he lunged & snarled at my roommate when he came in.

    A couple of days went by and I began to wonder what I was going to do with the little dog. He was growing on me; but, I was beginning to think he was not going to be adoptable.

    I contacted the shelter that he had come from. They sent me a copy of the paperwork that noted that he has some serious problems with reactivity. They had actually listed him as being adoptable.

    The lady who brought the dog to we is a volunteer for that shelter. I don’t know how she ended up getting him into our rescue group after the shelter noted him as being adoptable

    I have grown attached to the little guy. He was born blind in his left eye from a congenital cataract. I found that his family surrendered him after having him for 4 years. They had bought him at a pet store when he was 8 weeks old. He loves to suck on my fingers so I imagine he was taken away from mom and sibling way too you and then put in a pet store.

    I guess I feel this little guy got a bum deal in life & needs someone who can try and help him with this problem and get him into a stable home. The people who gave him up said they were moving and had to give him up; but, I imagine they could not deal with his personality.

    The people at the shelter put me in touch with a lady who is a dog behaviorist and has worked with our local humane society for 10 years. The work is slow; but, we have made a lot of headway. I was thinking that it would be good if Squirt could take something that would help calm him down and let him relax. He always seems
    miserable because he is so tense.

    Today, I took Squirt to my vet and requested that we try Prozac, in addition to the work that I am doing with the dog behavioralist. I am staying hopeful.

    It is beginning to look like he won’t be a very good candidate for adoption. I really, do not need another dog; but, I am doing what I can for the little guy.
    Pulling pups from their family too young and then putting them in a pet store situation can really mess them up.

    The little guy curls up with me at night and nuzzles up under my neck before he goes to sleep. It is hard not to fight hard for such a precious and innocent, little creature.

  6. L

    September 29, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Hi. I looked for a way to contact you directly and couldn’t find one. Would it be possible to get the information about this trainer? He isn’t in our area but I’m hoping he has a network and knows of other trainers.

    We adopted a beautiful dog last fall. She is smart as a whip and loves our children with all her heart. She is absolutely incapable of being around other dogs or other children without completely losing her mind. It is to the point that we can’t take her on walks because of course you always pass a child or another dog and then she becomes uncontrollable.

    I am genuinely afraid to rehome her, afraid that someone will not understand how serious this is and take her only to put her in a situation where she bites and then will be cruel to her. The thought of euthanizing a young, healthy and (to us) loving dog tears me up. I am looking for a new vet to try some psychiatric meds for her and want to find a good trainer. Like you, we have tried trainers and they end up wanting to work on “party trick” training and don’t seem to have much experience with genuine aggression. Our last hope is a good medication and a miracle worker trainer.

  7. Nancy

    October 12, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Am wondering how your dog is doing. My dog suffers from fear aggression as well. It is extremely stressful on a daily basis dealing with this. I have to muzzle him when people are over. He is on Fluvoxamine 50 mg. daily. I have thought about e-collar training myself but everyone tells me it could make fear aggression worse. I would love to have a normal life with our dog whom we all have grown fond of. Let me know how you are making out.

  8. Harley rider

    January 14, 2015 at 7:52 am

    My 78 pound boxer is on his 8th day of 60 msg of Prozac he has been sleeping solid the past three days. Anyone else had this happen?

  9. Barbara Banda

    April 27, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    I was wondering about an update for your dog? I’m having a situation with my dog and I want to get it fixed if possible. Would love an update from you!

  10. Rebecca

    October 12, 2015 at 9:33 am

    You story above mirrors mine! I did everything right from the get-go. Met the dogs parents before they bred – check. Visited puppy and tested him at visits a few times before we brought him home – check. Took him to puppy playdates to socialize (he would not interact w other puppies) – check. Took him everywhere to socialize him – check. Spent thousands of dollars on trainers that said they treated aggressive dogs only to be taught sit, stay, walk nicely, etc. My dog is now three and he hates other dogs and he seems unpredictable at times, so I am reluctant to even take him anywhere public. Do you think Prozac might chill him out even a little?

  11. Laura S Faulconer

    April 7, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I’d love to know how your dog has responded to the Prozac and how well everything with Sit Means Sit has worked out. We have an extremely reactive, very intelligent, one year old dog and have been through 5 trainers so far….seeing little improvement.

  12. Karen Mooney

    January 15, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Hi – So glad to see your blog. I have a rescue GSD male (fixed) approx 11 months who has come with a LOT of baggage. 3 1/2 months in vet bills/training at 3 grand – I can live with that (EPI for him w/pancreatic enzymes now). But I cannot live with him not accepting our new rescue, a 3 year old male mastiff who is sending only calming signals to the GSD. Excellent trainer who is working with us (recommended by our vet) watched the GSD outdoors, running repetitive path and tail chasing for up to 5 hours without responding to us AT ALL – and said, “I don’t do this often – but he needs Prozac” She informed our vet and we are now on day 3 for the GSD. Hoping and praying with the medication and lots of continued training that we can get him to exist calmly in our household. Hubby and I DO NOT give up on dogs – but this one is really pushing my limits. This coming from a mom who had 2 severely colicky babies that NO ONE else (even pediatrician) wanted to take care of!! Please keep us informed of your hound and I will keep my fingers crossed for all our “kids”.

  13. KAREN Wrey

    April 2, 2017 at 6:57 am

    I recently put my Doberman on 30mg of Prozac after trying many natural and homeopathic suggestions. We are finishing up our 4th week, and I’m frankly disappointed that I don’t see much improvement other than more “neediness” and lethargy. I’m a dog trainer and AKC obedience judge. My problem is that my girl “fires off” with no warning. She’s great with people, but dogs even on TV, cause explosive outbursts. She’s gone after her housemates, and after a horribly loud and potentially dangerous (avoided due to her wearing a basket muzzle) attack, she acts like it never happened, engages in play bows etc. E collar (which you briefly mentioned above use has been suggested, but I’m concerned that my dog may perceive the vibration as coming from the other dog and subsequently ramp up even more…so I guess I’m asking in a round about way how long should I have to wait to determine if the medication is actually helping?