Day Four: Products to Help

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So far this week, we’ve talked about lots of ways to make the holidays less stressful for your dog: making time for games, heading off some potential problems at the pass, and being more thoughtful about your holiday traditions.

Just in case those aren’t enough, today I’m going to post about some more direct remedies. With anything on this list, make sure that you try them well in advance of when they’re really needed. Some may not help your dog, and some may cause unforeseen problems. This list is arranged roughly by intensity.

No list of anti-stress aids would be complete without a mention of Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Depending on your perspective, this is either fakery of the highest order or very refined alternative medicine. I have some. I’ve used it. I can’t say that I’ve seen a difference of any kind, but some people do. At worst, it’s very harmless when given as indicated and easy to administer. It comes in several formulations, including a pet-specific one–be careful not to buy the chewables, which contain xylitol.

Aromatherapy for dogs is another fairly benign solution. Does it work? Maybe, says Patricia McConnell. There are LOTS of pet-specific products on the market, and I haven’t tried any of them. Be mindful that your dog’s nose is a lot more sensitive than yours, especially if you’re using scented products in a small area, like your dog’s crate.

The Thundershirt is riding quite a wave of popularity right now. This one I’ve tried, and it does help Silas to some extent. Results, obviously, will vary dog to dog. Don’t want to spend so much money? Try the DIY T-Touch compression wrap. It’s very important that you put the wrap or shirt on before the dog is stressed, and that you periodically use it in low-stress situations. Otherwise the dog learns to associate the shirt with Bad Things Happening.

I think of DAP as an amped-up aromatherapy. Our experience with DAP was a little weird–the diffusers made no difference at all, but the collar was a miracle. Until one day, it wasn’t. After about three months, we either got a dud collar or Silas got used to it. If your house has open architecture or your dog has worse problems away from home, try the collar or the spray. If your dog spends most of his time in an enclosed room, if you have multiple dogs, or if your dog does a lot of swimming, you’re better off with the diffuser. DAP was actually recommended by my behaviorist, who did caution that the results are widely variable.

Last, but by no means least, there’s always prescription medication for dogs who really need it. Talk to your veterinarian or find a veterinary behaviorist.

Do you have a favorite stress remedy that’s not on the list?

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(The fine print for the whole series: Don’t trust anyone on the internet for advice about serious training issues. If your dog has a history of biting, separation anxiety, extreme fear, resource guarding, or generalized anxiety, please get professional help.)

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12 thoughts on “Day Four: Products to Help

  1. We have tried all of these things, including the Composure treats and I can’t say I’ve noticed a huge difference, but I keep putting those Rescue Remedy drops in Ruby’s water and spraying her beds with lavender anyway. I had a defective DAP diffuser that overheated and filled my house with the relaxing scent of…burning plastic…so I’ve been reluctant to use that again but would like to give the spray or collars a try. I haven’t done a whole lot with the Thundershirt, I had her wear it once on a walk to see if it would have an effect on her reactivity and I really didn’t see it. I plan to try it for our next long car ride, another place she feels that it’s The World Against Ruby.

    The most effective tool for us has been, surprisingly, the Through A Dog’s Ear CDs. If Ruby seems to be getting restless or overanxious in the house, I can put her piano music on and generally she will calm down and curl up in her bed.

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    1. Oh, yes, the music is great. Can’t believe I forgot that one! I also like to go to youtube, search for a soothing classical composer like Brahms or Chopin or somebody and play videos for Silas. (All my personal collection of classical is clash-y modern stuff.) Sometimes the official Dog’s Ear CDs get a little repetitive for me. I think the biggest thing with Silas is that it gives him something to listen to besides the noises outside.

      We really got good results from the collar for a while. The behaviorist said it was about 50/50.

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  2. Don’t laugh – but when I fostered Linus last year – to decrease his anxiety when I would take Blueberry out for a walk and leave him in his crate – I would either throw in a DVD (Stargate SG-1 really seemed to soothe him) or else I put on classical music. He’d shut right up, curl into a ball and go to sleep. Now, was he like that the whole time we were gone? I have no idea – but I do know it settled him down while he was watching us go out the door.

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    1. We do use the TV or music a good bit. The only thing with the TV is to be aware of what you’re putting on–some dogs will react to other dogs or to doorbell sounds. So a DVD is a great choice. I used to leave Silas with Turner Classic Movies, before d*****d Comcast took it off our (free, or I wouldn’t have it) cable plan, because the old movie sound effects aren’t very realistic and they don’t run commercials.

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  3. I find that Honey works her stress out by chewing on her Nylabone. I put toys away when a new foster dog comes to the house, but when I’m around the supervise, I give everyone a nylabone. It helps to work out the tension.

    I got the idea watching my husband bite his nails. 🙂

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  4. We used DAP and ThunderTreats during the cat training process, and I’m not sure how effective either were just because I didn’t have a control to compare to. The one thing that works well with Lucas IF we can get it going before triggers start piling up is an ear massage. It’s supposed to help release relaxing endorphins. Obviously, if he’s already in the middle of a freak-out, it’s not effective to start rubbing his ears (mid-freak-out we can’t even touch him really), but if we can get him in that calm state before a trigger, it seems to really help.

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  5. We’ve tried rescue remedy. She went from practically seizing when ever a firework went off this last 4th of july to shaking uncontrollably. Definitely a step down, but one step when there are a whole host of steps needed really isn’t good enough. I’ll be trying a thundershirt next.

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  6. We’ve been considering a DAP diffuser. Right now, we’re trying Calming Chews and/or melatonin, along with constant Harry Potter audiobooks or the TV playing (Music doesn’t seem to do it for them.) We’re waiting on an anxiety wrap that we’ll be reviewing. I do hope that it will help too.

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  7. We’re lucky enough not to have to deal with serious anxiety, so any stress is met with distraction (often a raw bone) or exercise – either taking them out for a walk or just working on some training in the house. But this is a good list showing the other options that are out there!

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  8. Rescue Remedy made Storm very sick. $600 to the er vet sick. 😦 We used it at a show to make her less stressy. I think that combined with the high-fat treats gave her pancreatitis. Hasn’t had it since.

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