This exercise is about creating a "Zen Zone" for yourself and your dog. Originally introduced by DVM Behaviorist Dr. Voith this particular protocol was designed Dr. Karen Overall also a DVM Behaviorist. Used in Behavior Modification Training Plans it is a wonderful way to reduce your dog (and your) stress. If I'm working with an especially stressed dog I will prepare the bedding by spraying one of my three handcrafted calming blends, and maybe even light a candle and play soundscape music. Ancillary calming tools are helpful in providing a calm environment. This way I start to relax and dissipate out only calming hormones which help relax my dog to start the process.
As you may know without knowing we condition behavior unwanted or otherwise all of the time ( i.e. jumping on us models jumping on other people, barking at us for attention models barking at all people this way). In some cases just seeing their person elicits a state of high arousal for some dogs. A dogs guardian may for example rough play with their dog all the time without using a toy to interact. They may rough play without working impulse control exercises in between for breaks (sit, wait). So the dog becomes conditioned - see guardian = play and excitement shoots up quickly ...OH BOY MY PERSONs HOME! and off they go.
How we feel has a direct affected on our dogs. As some of you may know all mammals have the ability to take in large molecules ( i.e. cortisol, the stress hormone or oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone) through the Vermonasal Organ (just under the palette of the mouth located between mouth and nose). This organ allows for mammals to take in and identify the hormone thereby understanding how another individual is feeling at any given moment. You can imagine if you don't have the ability to speak the same language but need to know if another animal was friend or foe how useful being able to smell their feelings would be.
Every day life is packed full of pressure and I'm sure we are all in agreement reducing our stress levels every now and again is good practice. So why not practice with our dogs? Plan a date with your dog or include a relaxation session as an exercise instead of or after exercise. This relaxation protocol is so useful for stressed dogs, those experiencing separation anxiety, isolation distress or ones who have come home from a rambunctious day at daycare. You can do this in the comfort of your home any time. Its probably best to practice in the evening between 7-9M when your dogs cortisol level is lowest and they are at their most relaxed state naturally. But of course you can practice anytime!
The beauty of this is you can practice anytime. Start with your dog seated. If s/he offers you a down instead of sitting, this is fine. If s/he starts in a sit and shifts to a down this is a sign of relaxation! Walk through the protocol, calmly and methodically. You can go through each Day consecutively or stay at any given Day for as long as you like.
Warm Up (use to practice a solid sit)
Day 1: Dog's Task
Day 2: Dog's Task
Day 3: Dog's Task
Day 4: Dog's Task
Day 7: Dog's Task
NatureNose.com product Mello Mist is a very special blend made specifically for dogs exhibiting mild stress, fear and anxiety. I call it Nature "nose" because Nature does know that using essential oils and flower essence from plants is best to heal the body. Essential Oils are from plants. They are alive they are not synthetic. And dogs olfactory receptors (their nose and sense of smell) is integral to how they "see the world". It is important to how the take information in and understand the world around them.
Olfactory Therapy is a new concept I've been practicing and term I've been using. I don't think I came up with it but rather that Integrative Veterinarians have possibly used it. It is the systematic use of specific and safe Essential Oil blends that affect the mind, nervous system and immune system. Combined with behavior modification for dogs using Olfactory Therapy helps reduce anxiety, fear and aggression.
Many clients over the years were asking for a natural solution instead of synthetic chemicals to help reduce anxiety in their fearful pets. Through careful study of the science that supports Aromatherapy for small animals combined with Applied Behavior Analysis I found a solution that works. Trainers and my clients become less stressed, less fearful as do their dogs and as a result the dogs gain trust and confidence.
The use of scent or Olfaction and the Jacobson Organ in dogs, is arguably the most important part of their being. So powerful and important is the ability to scent in dogs that we can use it to safely change their emotional state. Over the years I have successfully used Reward Based Behavior Training methods supported by Science and in conjunction with the application of our essential oil blends to help dogs reduce anxiety and improve unwanted behaviors.
Essential oils are easily recognized and identified by the body because they are made of similar compounds that we are made of. Its nature! They are active and live natural chemicals that can be used and then broken down and eliminated by the body. Only specific Essential Oils are safe for dogs so make sure to work with a Small Animal Aromatherapy Practitioner versed in taking a history, evaluating and matching specific needs to safe oils for your dog. There is ample evidence of the many benefits of Essential Oils to improve circulation, the immune system and change physiological and emotional modality (state of mind). As for reducing anxiety in dogs I'm working with. Even with years of experience understanding stress signals and managing high risk dogs does not mean I can control their emotions. Its only through chemical changes that this can be done. For example classical conditioning, pairing food or something good with something scary can change that experience to something pleasant. So too can acupressure change the chemical and physiological changes. Petting a dog reduces anxiety because feel good hormones are released (in both people and dogs) when we touch.
Essential oils allow us to, from a distance, change the physiological which affects then the emotional state by reducing stress. If an animal (dog) is less stressed they are more receptive to a trainers skilled gentle behavior modification training. We apply anti anxiety EO blends as an exercise to desensitize our dogs making positive associations with things, places and individuals (people or dogs) who may be frightening to them. I'm a fan of starting naturally first to reduce anxiety in our dogs and combining safe anti anxiety blends with reward based behavior modification training techniques. BAT by Grisha Stewart teaches a great system, Emma Parsons has a great book Click To Calm and there are tons of conditioning exercises by other wonderful teachers including Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Dr. Ian Dunbar, Sue Sternberg and Pia Silvani.
When using NatureNose Mello Mist product specially formulated to reduce anxiety in conjunction with a Positive Reinforcement Training Treatment Plan many trainers have observed a reduction in dogs stress levels and improved learned behavior. For dogs exhibiting extreme stress, which may or may not include physical harm we recommend consulting a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Behaviorist (http://www.dacvb.org).
More information on buying this product at NatureNose.com or call BostonK9Concierge at 617-464-1005
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