Over the years I have tried a lot of things to help Bailey with her wide spectrum of fears. Triggers such as dogs, skates, moving objects etc. have mainly been conquered through positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning. She’s come such a long way and I am very proud of her, but the one thing we’re still battling on every day basis is her noise-sensitivity.
She gets triggered by loud noises all the time - we live in the city and that’s something I just can’t control. The situation has given us both some gray hair, but we’re coping with it through learning about new ways to keep her calm.
For last year’s New Year’s Eve we have tried the anti-stress wrap and it worked amazingly. I was very impressed and I may even buy the famous Thunder Shirt this year. We are also big lovers of music and use it in our every day life to calm Bailey down whenever she is feeling nervous or upset. I’m still surprised by how well she responds to it and how much it calms her down.
However, some recent changes in our life and environment have encouraged me to look for more ways to help her.
First, we have a huge (and loud!) construction site in our backyard at the moment. We also got two new dogs this year, which means more noise in the house - either occasional barking or just the sound of them running up and down the hallway. These are the things that upset Bailey every single time. She just hates loud noises, no matter how irrational the fear. I recently read an article titled A Dog That Is Afraid of Loud Noises Is Afraid of Everything and it gave me a lot to think about. Noises are something I can’t control and they are all around us.
I can’t approach this with counterconditioning, because I can’t possibly isolate the noises that make her react - and even if I could, there will always be new ones to conquer. Aside from the anti-stress wrap and music, I felt like I was missing something.
Enter essential oils! They were recently recommended to me and I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, but I was definitely open to trying something new.
I’m happy to report that after two full months of testing, I’m seeing so many positive results! To be honest, the change was apparent the first time I used them and it only got better since then.
So far I have only tried two scents: lavender and baldrian (valerian). I’m open to trying more or maybe even mixing them, but this has worked incredibly well for us and I am very satisfied with the results!
We tested this scent by putting a few drops of lavender essential oil into an essential oil diffuser that I found at home - it’s a tiny bowl of water that stands over a candle. If you love crafting, you can DIY a variety of essential oil diffusers. I mainly used this aroma in the afternoons and over the weekends, when everybody is at home and the household is a little louder than usual. (The construction site doesn’t stop on the weekends either).
I noticed that Bailey is much more calm and less prone to reacting when I use this essential oil. Even if there is a sudden loud noise, she’ll only lift her head, maybe silently growl a little bit, but totally keeps her cool. No loud outbursts!
I was absolutely in awe. I tested the oil during a thunderstorm as well and outside of a couple short barks when the thunder was loud, she was totally fine. The final test was a couple of weeks ago when my home country Slovenia won the European Championship in basketball (woohoo!) and people celebrated with fireworks. I generally don’t follow sports, so on the night when we got into the finals I didn’t even know there was a game - I wasn’t prepared for the fireworks and Bailey had a really hard time. On the night of the finals I did prepare though. I lit up my essential oil diffuser, put in lavender and the evening passed so peacefully I almost couldn’t believe it. A few short barks here and there, but other than that she was surprisingly calm.
This essential oil is now a part of our every day life. If we have guests coming over or if there is something loud going on in the neighborhood, I know I can count on lavender oil to keep Bailey calm. I am so very thankful for this discovery!
The success of lavender essential oil within the house had me wondering if I could bring them outside somehow. How cool would it be to have them on walks with us! I stumbled upon an essential oil collar in one of the local pet stores and decided to give it a try. It was 100% natural and infused with baldrian.
It had a really strong aroma. I left it out of the package for a couple of days to wear off a little bit, but without much luck. When I put it onto Bailey she absolutely hated it, so I took it off after a couple of minutes and decided to try a different approach. I didn’t know if it’s the scent that’s bothering her or just the fact that it’s on her, so I cut the collar in two identical pieces and placed one in Bailey’s crate and the other one in Chilly’s - he gets a little jumpy sometimes during thunderstorms or if new people are in the house, so I figured it would be fun to try.
They both seemed to respond to it super well. Bailey spent a lot of the time in her crate by her own accord, as did Chilly. I started leaving these collars with them every time I left the house and even though they generally don’t mind being alone, they displayed calmer behaviors upon my return than usual. I am super happy with this arrangement!
Maybe in combination with lavender, the two aromas are the winning thing for us. I’ll buy baldrian essential oil as well, to test it in a diffusor, because the cut up collar is starting to lose its scent. I also have yet to figure out a way to bring essential oils on our walks. Maybe I’ll DIY a collar and infuse it with just a few drops or make an essential oil bracelet for myself and wear it when I’m out with Bailey.
Needless to say, the discovery of essential oils has changed our lives.
Bailey is so much calmer and there have been some very unexpected benefits for Chilly and myself as well. He’s less jumpy when he’s scared (or excited) and my own anxiety is almost nonexistent when lavender is in the air! I also struggle with insomnia and I noticed that on the days when we used lavender oil I actually had no trouble sleeping at all. These oils have been an overall success!
At this moment, we are still only at the beginning of our essential oil journey - I want to learn even more about how essential oils can help dogs and share the knowledge with you as I go on.
If you have a fearful dog, I encourage you to give essential oils a try and see how they work out for you! Already tried them? Please comment below and share your experience!
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