Natural Stress Relief for Dogs
Last week one of the smoke alarms in our house malfunctioned. Because they are wired together, this caused all of them to go off at once. I wasn’t home at the time (I was teaching your classes!) My husband told me the story when I got home about an hour later.
He was unable to stop the beeping. At first, not knowing what the problem was, he got our daughter and the dogs outside. Well, he got one dog outside, the other panicked. Dolly is my sweet 11 yr old Lab- Collie-Hound Mix. She’s always been a “soft” personality. When the smoke alarms went off she panicked, backed herself into an interior bathroom, and got as far into a corner as a 70lb dog can squeeze herself. My husband was unable to coax her out.
Realizing there was not actually a fire, he quickly turned his attention to disabling the smoke alarms to stop the noise. When I got home an hour later, Dolly’s pupils were still as big as dimes, and she was panting heavily. I made her a peanut butter Kong and took her to her bed, where she finally fell asleep after finishing her Kong.
Two days later, I was making dinner in the oven and the timer went off. It was just a quiet beep. Dolly, who had been resting peacefully on the couch, jumped up and had a wild look in her eye for a moment. I quickly turned the timer off and reassured her all was ok. I got on Amazon and immediately ordered 2 refills for our Adaptil diffusers.
When a dog experiences a stressful event, the stress hormone Cortisol is released into their system. It can take a while for hormone levels to return to normal after a stressful event. When dogs experience multiple stressors in close proximity, or if a dog is constantly exposed to stressful things, cortisol levels remain high. This is called trigger stacking and it can cause our dogs to be more jumpy or reactive when something mildly distressing happens. I discuss this idea frequently with clients who are struggling with aggressive behaviors, reactivity or fear.
I ordered the Adaptil refills because the Adaptil products are supposed to help reduce stress for dogs. Adaptil is an artificial pheromone that imitates the way a dog smells after she has puppies. Research shows that this scent helps calm our dogs. I saw the effectiveness of this last year when my other dog was recovering from knee surgery and had high anxiety during her recovery (despite the cocktail of meds the vet sent home). Knowing that Dolly had a pretty traumatic event with the smoke detectors, and seeing that she was jumpy about the kitchen timer, I knew her Cortisol levels were probably still elevated. Using Adaptil for the next few weeks is something I can do to combat Dolly’s elevated stress levels and help her feel better.
The Adaptil products also come as a collar for your dog or a spray that you can use on blankets or in the car. They make a special collar for puppies. These products can help ease the transition to a new home for puppies as well as newly adopted adult dogs. It can help with mild distress during car rides, crate training, or even thunderstorms.
It’s good to have some natural stress relievers on hand to use when your dog has a bad experience or when you know there will be a stressful event such as a vet visit or out of town guests. There are so many good ones on the market, I couldn’t possibly list them all here. My go-to choices are Adaptil, Composure, L-Theanine and iCalm Music for Dogs. If you don’t have any of these in your “dog cabinet”, you can find them here to have on hand: