Fighting Fear with Flowers: How to Calm Your Anxious Pooch the Natural Way

Fighting Fear with Flowers: How to Calm Your Anxious Pooch the Natural Way

AnxietyAnxiety is a natural instinct in dogs that often results from a feeling of fear toward a potential threat.

Anxiety

can occur at the onslaught of a loud noise, the approach of a stranger, or when new situations are presented – moving to a new house or visiting a place they’ve never been before, for instance. Regardless of the cause, prolonged anxiety can lead to health problems, so being aware of a few prevention techniques for your nervous pup can help ensure he lives a long, stress-free life.

Cause and Effect

It is estimated that anxiety effects around 30% of dogs in North America. While illness can play a role in contributing to the development of anxiety, more often it results from a terrible experience or trauma that instills a certain type of fear into the dog, or lack of socialization at a young age resulting in habitual fears or nervous tendencies. For example, if a dog has a history of abandonment, excessive moving or neglect, separation anxiety may be the outcome. Symptoms of anxiety in dogs vary from inappropriate behaviour such as elimination in the house, chewing, and excessive barking or whining, to fear-based behaviours like trembling, hiding, or trying to escape the situation altogether.

As with people, long-term stress can cause illness in dogs and shorten their lifespan. If a dog is frequently put in stressful situations, chronic stress hormones are repeatedly released, which can lead to numerous health issues and even PTSD. This explains why some dogs are recurrently frightened by fireworks, thunderstorms, and why others panic when you leave the house. Anxiety in a dog can be dangerous to the people around him, too. If your dog responds to a threat with a fear based response such as aggression, it creates consequences for the future because he’s likely to resort to the same response. This can ultimately lead to a dog who responds with aggression to anything that presents a threat, including something as innocent as someone approaching his food, putting children and other animals at risk.

Importance of Socialization

Socialization

Dogs are most likely to develop anxiety before the age of three. If you get your dog before this point, there are several preventative measures you can take to keep him from becoming a nervous Nelly. Socialization is crucial – as early as possible, expose your pup to car rides, people, various animals, and any other situations that may be stress-inducing in the future. The time between 4-12 weeks of age is when puppies begin developing social skills through play with their littermates, so this is the period of development when socialization is most significant. Handle your puppy regularly and set up playdates with other dogs you know, but don’t overstimulate at signs of fear, as this can have the opposite effect. Use your instincts and move slowly through areas of nervousness and hesitancy, and positively reinforce behaviours such as sharing, calm responses to new interactions, and overcoming mild fears.

Integrative Stress Busters

If your dog shows signs of anxious behaviour despite numerous preventative efforts, don’t fret! In most cases, anxiety can be treated and even cured. There is a wide variety of holistic treatment products and techniques that have been proven to work, either on their own or in combination with behaviour modification plans. Different levels of anxiety display different symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. For mild to moderate anxiety, try playing gentle piano music, giving your pooch a soothing massage, or heading outside for some exercise. If none of these methods are successful in alleviating his anxiety, herbal remedies are an innovative method that often work wonders.

Floral FixesLifeFORCE Essential Oil Room Diffuser

Aromatherapy has been shown to lessen symptoms of anxiety in dogs. Gentle and wonderful for general well-being, the trend of using essential oils for our canine companions is on the rise. When searching for the right scent for your dog, look for pet-friendly oils that boast comforting and relaxing properties to encourage a mellow mood and help him unwind. Lavender oil is known worldwide for its soothing and calming properties. Extracted through steam distillation from the flowers of the lavender plant, the resulting oils are both fragrant and effective in curing many ailments in dogs and humans alike. Green mandarin extract is native to China, where the mandarin fruit was commonly given as gifts to royalty. Extracted by cold compression of the peels, essence of green mandarin is frequently used in settling nervous afflictions and disturbances.

In the early 1900s, research and findings of English physician Dr. Edward Bach revealed the link between stress, emotions and illness. When treating people, he found that flower essences helped them overcome their illnesses by addressing the underlying emotional factors. This connection is based on Dr. Bach’s idea that negative emotional states can suppress the healing process. Although Dr. Bach developed his flower essences for people, they have been used on animals for many years by both owners and health professionals alike because they are safe, easy to administer, and provide multiple benefits. “Flower essences consist of dilute tinctures made from flowers,” says Kathleen Aspenns, wellness practitioner and former veterinary technician. “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, so they are safe for pets.” Today, the gentle, non-toxic remedies play a huge role within integrative veterinary practices. “Flower essences work primarily on the mental and emotional levels, helping to balance and soothe,” Aspenns adds. “Animals really enjoy these gentle remedies, and respond quickly and positively to them.”

Happy Dog

Conventional medications for canine anxiety can cause harmful side effects, and attempting to resolve the problem with punishment or neglect only serves to frighten a dog more. Gentle, unobtrusive herbal remedies such as flower essences, on the other hand, can improve the overall well-being of your dog, calm him down, and allow him to lead a peaceful, happy life without the risk of adverse reactions. No matter what holistic remedy you decide to use on your dog, pick something he enjoys. While some dogs may not respond to music or might be too wiggly for massage to have an effect, others may reap the benefits. Likewise, while some chronic fear might be alleviated with a bit more exercise, others might prefer to skip the 3-mile jog for a relaxing aromatherapy-induced nap. Experiment with different methods to determine what works best for your pooch, and watch his tension gradually melt away!

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