We all know dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Working scent dogs are able to detect explosives, firearms, drugs and even scent out tumors in human patients. Dogs can smell when you are afraid, pregnant or feeling love for them.
The Olfactory System and Jacobson Organ work in parallel to communicate information to the dogs brain. We humans have the same systems but not nearly as good as theirs. The Olfactory Bulb makes up 1/3 of a dogs brain and transports information directly to the dogs emotional, memory and pleasure centers in the brain (Cortex region) much like it does ours. The difference here is in a dogs nasal cavity they have 125 million or more sensory cells (olfactory receptors) and we have 5-10 million. So they could for example can smell a teaspoon of sugar in in a million gallons of water (Alexandra Horowitz, a dog cognition researcher at Barnard College writes in her book "Inside of a Dog". ) From an evolutionary stand point their nose does what our eyes do. Where our brains have developed to be more "wired" to see and theirs have evolved heightened smell.
Additionally we both share the "Jacobson Organ" this is located inside the nasal cavity an opening in the upper part of the mouth. Jacobson Organ sensory cells respond to pheromones which are large molecules that do not have a detectable odor. This would be how a dog "knows" or can smell when someone is pregnant, when you are sad and crying, when you are mad, when you are afraid, when you are happy, when you are in love. They can detect the hormones we release with these feelings. Dogs are able to understand your feelings because they smell them. Being masters at observation and mapping. They associate your facial gestures, body positions etc with the smell. They make associations and learn from these associations.
Scent is arguably the most important part of a dogs world. This is one of the most important ways they "see" and understand the world. This is how they learn, if something or someone is safe or not safe? How they learn do I run from it or do I run toward it? This is the way they take information in, pair it with their surrounding, make associations and understand it.
Evidence supports essential oils affect mood and behavior and Oils have been shown to have many possible desirable effects such as reducing anxiety and inflammation, fighting infections by inhibiting bacteria, fungi and viruses. Oils can also affect mental states and memory. They contain biologically active and powerful compounds that when used correctly are an effective part of integrative medical care and behavior training. A small but growing number of qualified Veterinarians and Dog Trainers like myself are using Essential Oil as part of their treatment plans. While many studies have been conducted in Germany, Europe and Eastern Europe countries, American Veterinary Practitioners are working on collecting a growing body of evidence to support the use of essential oil use in animals.
As a practicing Behavior Dog Trainers I know scientific supported reward based training works quickly and effectively. Its humane, its easy and its fun! I also know that pairing all natural Essential oils blends specifically designed to promote calm in dogs helps me get through to help them learn. Essential Oils have a calming effect on the central nervous system and in particular the parasympathetic system. We don't need to use much and a little goes a long way to help calm dogs. Once calm and with the right reward based training methods they learn improved behaviors. Over the years I've been using oil blends (K9Aromatherapy.com) which I have found a profound calming effect on myself as well as the dog! A bonus we both stay calm.
We work with local Veterinarians who support the use of integrative medicine with our pets and a consultative approach to care. Dr. Brian Bourquin, DVM located in Boston, MA is one of our favorites as he practices treating not only the "whole" dog but also whenever possible natural methods. See more about him Dr. Kate and his practice at Boston Veterinary Clinic
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