Achieving Dog Zen
By Dr. Annette Richmond, DVM
A calm dog is a happy dog. Understanding what might truly be excitability or hyperactivity versus an energetic animal can be difficult to differentiate. Hyperactivity may be seen in puppies that have difficulty concentrating and focusing on an owner or trainer. This disorder can also include dogs that seem unusually restless when there is no unusual stimulus or who have abnormal behaviors like fly biting or tail chasing on a regular basis. These behaviors can show up during specific events, such as being with strangers, on a leash, or in a training environment. These extreme behaviors may require a trip to your veterinarian to rule out a physical problem that needs to be addressed with medical intervention. For some dogs, a few simple changes and interventions can help them feel more calm and serene.
Very often hyperactivity in a dog is due to inadequate exercise. Therefore, changing the dog’s lifestyle to incorporate more exercise is an easy first step in creating a calm dog.
The next most common source of hyperactivity is a poor quality diet containing grains, artificial color and flavors, or preservatives. These ingredients can be true allergens to many dogs, and the body may exhibit this as hyperactivity. The healthiest diet for a dog is a grain-free raw diet or a high-quality, all natural commercial dog food.
Herbs and Supplements
There are many natural remedies that can help calm a dog. The natural treatments are familiar supplements and herbs also used for humans to help soothe over-excited nerves, reduce anxiety, and induce sleep. Tryptophan, Valerian, Skullcap, and Chamomile are a few that are used to achieve this tranquil effect. Flower essence remedies and homeopathic treatments in certain combinations can also have an excellent calming effect. Lavender oil that is applied carefully in small amounts to the skin or used as a spray in a room or on bedding can help to relax a hyperactive dog. Speak with your veterinary holistic practitioner for dosage information.
A bored dog can become a destructive or hyperactive dog. Providing mental stimulation such as bones, dog puzzles, Kongs filled with treats, slow-feed bowls, and even music can help calm an excited dog’s’ nerves when she’s left alone.
Along with oral supplements, physical touch can help soothe over-excited nerves and help reduce anxiety. Massage, which can be paired with Reiki energy work, is an excellent modality to help this disorder as it soothes the nervous system. Another touch therapy is the ‘Thunder Shirt’ and similar products, which have become popular. These specialized shirts or wraps that dogs wear can help to reduce hyperactivity and anxiety in a dog by applying gentle constant pressure all around the torso.
All of these remedies are useful tools for helping your dog achieve his Zen state. The calming effects help dogs to focus (or refocus) their energy in a more constructive direction, allowing training or everyday activities to be more effective for them and more enjoyable for their caretakers.