Dogs, like humans, can get stressed. Especially now, when they haven’t been exposed to as many things as before in the last 18 months. Things like visitors, more frequent and more prolonged car journeys, other dogs, as well as being alone, and even thunderstorms.
Stressors like this can trigger behaviours like barking, urinating inside, panting, passing, chewing.
There are several ways to address stress in dogs:
Let’s talk about the sprays first. There are hundreds of sprays on the market, and it’s not easy to choose. What helps one dog may not help another.
A pheromone is a chemical that an animal produces which changes the behaviour of another animal of the same species.
Some describe pheromones as behaviour-altering agents. Pheromones, unlike most other hormones, are ectohormones. They are secreted outside the body, and they influence the behaviour of another individual (1)
Specific pheromones, called appeasing pheromones, can sometimes help relieve stressed pets. These are naturally produced by the bitch after giving birth and when she nurses her puppies. This specific dog pheromone triggers an instinctive calming response.
Pheromone calming sprays contain synthetic pheromones that are meant to mimic natural dog or cat pheromones.
To understand how essential oils work in the body, we have to look at the sense of smell and olfactory system.
The olfactory system is organized in two patches of olfactory epithelium located high up in both nasal passages.
When a dog inhales odour molecules, they dissolve in the mucous in its nose. Mucus makes the volatile molecules water-soluble and helps them on their way to the receptors.
These receptors transform the messages into nerve impulses. Then the olfactory bulb, which is a bulb of neural tissue within the dog’s brain, directs them to various areas of the brain. And also influencing the limbic systems that support a variety of functions, including emotion, behaviour, and long-term memory.
Nerve impulses travel so fast that dogs’ behaviour after inhaling calming essential oils can change in seconds.
Dogs have another pathway how to “read” the smell. One is via the nose, as described earlier, and also via the mouth. In the nasal cavity just above the roof of the mouth (the hard palate) is an organ called the Vomeronasal organ. VNO is an “alternative” smelling system in most mammals.
When you spray your dog with Calming Floral Spray, did he start “grimacing”, puffing cheeks, or licking his lips? That’s the VNO working, and your dog is trying to get more of the smell/aroma in, more molecules, therefore, more information.
We have to remember our dogs’ behaviour, and ours as well is a very complex thing. Behaviour is how an animal or person behaves in response to a particular situation or stimulus.
Calming sprays are a brilliant aid, and they can help enormously. However, it’s so important to work on a dog’s coping skills as well.
How is your dog coping with stress? And what do you do?