Getting your Dog to Take Pills

fearful dogs reactive dogs Mar 16, 2021
dog looking at spoon of meds

Lots of dogs take pills daily, especially anxious or fearful dogs. (If you haven’t already talked with your vet or a veterinary behaviorist about whether anti-anxiety medication could benefit your fearful dog, call them today!)  But getting your dog to take pills isn’t always easy. Sometimes you end up using more forceful handling than you’d like, if you can’t figure out how else to get your dog to take their medications.

In this week’s short video, I give you suggestions for getting your dog to take pills willingly. 


Hiding Pills in Food: Get Creative! 

My creativity often runs dry when I try to come up with new food hide pills in. Luckily, the thousands of pet parents in our free Facebook support group are a great source of inspiration. They contributed many of the ideas in this training. 

**Please note: Before mixing a medication with food, please check with your veterinarian first. Some medications shouldn’t be given with food, or with some types of food. 

1) Go tasty, and hide well.  In the video I show examples of hiding pills in cheese, peanut butter, lunch meat, cream cheese, and more.  Anything soft that can be molded around a pill can work. Some lucky dog parents have dogs who will take anything in commercially available “pill pockets.”

2) Sandwich. I’ve found layering or “sandwiching” pills in multiple food types helpful. Recently I’ve hidden pills between layer of meat lasagna, or covered them in cream cheese and wrapped in ham. 

3) Grind up/mix in powder. Try grinding up a tablet or emptying the powder from a capsule and mixing with something tasty. I’ve mixed pulverized medication with grated parmesan, and then mixed that mixture into cottage cheese or wet dog food.  Again, be sure to check with your vet before breaking up tablets or emptying capsules. 

4) Boost value. You can add value or “attractiveness” to food by heating it up (makes it smellier!), or adding a “garnish.”  I’ve recently rolled wet dog food “meatballs” in grated parmesan, for instance. 


Improve your Delivery

If you can hand-feed pills to your dog, you can be sure the pill got into your dog. But if your dog will readily take pills from your hand, you probably haven’t read this far. 

1) Rapid fire treats.   Have you tried the “rapid fire” method of delivering many treats in row, quickly one after another, with a pill in just one of the treats?  The dog swallows each treat quickly in anticipation of the next, and often doesn’t even seem to taste it. 

2) Play catch. A variation on “rapid fire” hand feeding, is playing a game of “catch the treat.”  If your dog loves catching treats (and is good at it), try tossing several treats in a row for them to catch (with a pill in just one of them.) They might take their pill without ever noticing it. 

3) Shy eaters. If you have a dog who won’t take food from your hand,  prepare a tempting plate of food containing the medication, and give them time and space to eat in peace. If you have to do this, make sure to carefully examine the area for any discarded pills later. I like to grind up medications (if appropriate) and mix into food in these cases, because then I know that if the dog ate the food, they got the pill.

 A huge thank you to all of our support community members who shared their ideas for this blog! Thanks also to Glenna Cupp of  Wild Thing Dog Training for sharing video of a dog trained to be “pilled.”  Make sure to check out her website for more info! 

If you use these tips to set up an indoor potty option for your dog, we’d love to hear from you! Join our Facebook group and post your questions or comments there. Reach out to us by email at [email protected]If you're looking for more guidance with your fearful dog, check out our monthly training membership.