Modern life is full of things that can make a dog nervous. From the constant assault of noise on sensitive ears to the overwhelming sights and smells of a city street, even the calmest dog may become stressed from time to time.
For a highly sensitive dog, even life at home can be a challenge. Stressors can be specific, like the sight or sound of a vacuum cleaner, or more general, such as any sudden noise. Fortunately, there are many ways to help anxious canines cope. Flower essences are a valuable complement to any stress-reducing program.
Flower essences are a type of herbal medicine consisting of dilute tinctures made from flowers. They work on a vibrational principle, as homeopathic remedies do. Because they are so dilute, there is no potential for toxicity or interaction with other treatments, and so they are safe for all members of the family, including animals.
Flower essences work primarily on the mental and emotional levels, helping to balance and soothe. Animals really enjoy these gentle remedies, and respond quickly and positively to them.
Start with Rescue Remedy
As a flower essence practitioner, one of the first essences I recommend for any type of anxiety is Five Flower Formula, also known as Rescue Remedy. This combination of five flower essences was created by Dr Edward Bach, an English physician and homeopath. It helps to calm and comfort animals and people in all kinds of stressful situations. It can be used to help ease the anxiety of a veterinary visit, give comfort after a scary experience at the dog park, or for any other kind of stressful incident. I recommend keeping a bottle in your pocket or purse, as you never know when it might come in handy for you or your dog.
Flower essences: case studies
1. Camus – Rescue Remedy and Star of Bethlehem
Camus, a beautiful black Corgi, showed signs of anxiety during walks with his person, Kelley. He would bark and lunge whenever other dogs came near. Even at home, he would bark loudly at men, sometimes even nipping them.
I recommended positive reinforcement training techniques, and suggested that Kelley exchange Camus’ collar for a harness on walks. Flower essences were also an important part of his anxiety reduction program. His formula contained Five Flower Formula (also known as Rescue Remedy) and Star of Bethlehem, among others. Star of Bethlehem is excellent for grounding and calming, and helps animals feel safe.
Kelley reports that Camus has greatly improved, and she feels far more empowered when working with his behavior.
2. Sadie – Mimulus and Aspen
Riding in the car can trigger anxiety in some dogs. Many experience carsickness and anxiety as puppies, and outgrow it as they mature, but a few remain nervous of the car as adults, even if they no longer become carsick. They may show anxiety by barking or whining, shivering, or restlessly moving around. Flower essences can be very helpful in easing the stress of a car ride.
Samantha got in touch with me to see if anything could be done for her Norwich terrier, Sadie. Sadie was very nervous in the car, unable to settle, and flicked her tongue as if she were licking the air. I made a formula for her that included Mimulus, the Bach remedy for known fears. Mimulus helps with specific fears, such as a fear of men, hats, or other dogs.
I often combine this essence with Aspen, also from the Bach line of essences, for vague or unidentifiable fears. Aspen is very useful for the fear of loud noises, especially thunderstorms or fireworks, since dogs cannot understand the source of these frightening noises.
Samantha called me a few weeks later, happy to report that Sadie was now a happy camper in the car.
3. Peanut – Aspen, Cherry Plum and Rock Rose
Peanut was troubled by loud noises. Unfortunately, she lived in a rural area where one of the neighbors regularly used rifles for target practice. Her person, Pam, contacted me to see if there was anything I could recommend to help Peanut, who would cower in the bathroom when she heard the gunshots; if she happened to be outdoors at the time, she would run around in a wild panic.
I gave Peanut a formula with Aspen as well as Cherry Plum and Rock Rose. Cherry Plum is beneficial for restoring calm in panic-stricken animals, and who act wildly or self-destructively when frightened. Rock Rose is indicated for animals who are absolutely terrified and fear for their lives.
These essences were very helpful for Peanut, who is now considerably calmer about the loud noises. While she certainly doesn’t like them, she can now come out of the bathroom and be near Pam for comfort.
As the above examples show, many different circumstances can provoke anxiety in dogs. Fortunately, there are also many flower essences to help them feel better. They are a valuable addition to your home first aid kit, and are available at most health food stores. What a simple and effective way to help calm your canine!
How to use them
Flower essences can be given in a variety of ways, so try several and see what works best for your dog.
- One of the best ways is to give the drops by mouth. I recommend putting four drops of the essence in a small glass, and filling it with water. Then dip a treat in the water and offer it to your dog.
- Putting drops in his water bowl is also a great way to give flower essences on an ongoing basis.
- Another alternative is to put a few drops on your hands and stroke the remedy into the dog’s coat, particularly the ears.
- You might put drops on the pads of his paws as well.