Anxiety in dogs is something most pet parents have experienced. Whether it’s a new puppy coming to terms with life without Mum and their littermates, seeing their owner leave for work for the first time or even moving house (and we all know how stressful that is!), all dogs will experience some anxiety at some stage of their lives.
This is perfectly normal!
However, some dogs can be more sensitive than others when dealing with changed circumstances and can struggle to regain their confidence and relax.
Anxiety often manifests through behaviours, such as:
- constant barking
- excessive licking
- destruction (clothes, shoes, doorframes, upholstery)
- toileting indoors
- aggression towards other people and animals
What’s important to note is many of these behaviours can occur when you aren’t around: because of course they’re happy when you’re there!
However, if you happen across the aftermath, don’t get upset with them - you may have a dog who's suffering from anxiety and it’s you they’re looking to for help.
We'd love to say there is... but there's no magic solution for curing anxiety in dogs.
Long-term training, desensitization, conditioning and positive reinforcement are still the best tools we have to build a psychologically contented and balanced canine companion.
We could (and might one day!) write hundreds of pages around this subject. So it goes without saying that these are the first ports of call.
However, where do you turn when you need just that little bit of extra help?
Many vets are too quick to prescribe medication, which we believe is an absolute last resort.
As you're probably aware, we would much rather try holistic, natural approaches before any sort of medication. And a recent scientific study has come through with some amazing results.
Mother Nature Can Help? Makes Scents!
(Pardon the pun!)
Most of us are aware that a dog’s sense of smell is up to 10,000 times better than ours. What has been less researched is how various different smells can affect their mood and behaviour.
In a new UK study, researchers exposed kennelled dogs to a variety of scents and monitored how they responded. By ‘kennelled’, we mean dogs in rescue and rehoming shelters - perhaps the highest-stress situation an unfortunate pup can find themselves in. Our friends at the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, who provide amazing care and are deserving of any support, may be interested in this one.
So what did they do?
The researchers exposed the dogs to six olfactory conditions for 2 hours per day for 3 consecutive days, following a fixed order and with a 2-day break between each. The 6 conditions were:
- Cloth control (neutral)
- Odour control (neutral)
What did they find out?
- Vanilla, valerian, coconut and ginger reduce activity and vocalisations (barking and whining) in kenneled dogs
- Coconut and ginger increase sleeping behaviour
In fact, the researchers rated these effects as ‘significant’, meaning they made a real, measurable difference!
In the context of a rescue and rehoming shelter, exposure to these scents means a reduction in stress levels and a reduction in behaviours that could be seen as undesirable by potential adopters, in turn potentially increasing the chance that the dog can find a forever home.
(In saying that, we believe people shouldn't place too much judgement on a dog in a shelter situation - it’s an incredibly anxious and unfamiliar position for them to be in. Spend some time with them, take them out for a walk, play, get to know their true nature before deciding).
These findings also have practical application for use at home!
If your dog has a tendency towards anxiety and stress, try these:
- Grate a little Ginger and place under their bedding or place some Vanilla in an essential oil diffuser
- Sprinkle some Valerian Root tea over their food (note: avoid this for pregnant dogs)
So, while there's no substitute for consistent training to build confidence and resilience in your dog, if you do need a little help - rather than turning to medications try something a little more natural first!
It just makes scents right?
(Sorry, couldn't help ourselves!)
#happierhealthierdogs #sydneydogsandcatshome #rescuedismyfavouritebreed