Trainer Tips–Lavender Oil & Dogs

12August 2015

Lavender Oil for your Dog:
Lavender is a naturally calming scent for both humans and dogs.  To use lavender for your dog, we must first “charge it up.”
Start “charging up the oil” at a time of day when your dog is normally more relaxed (near the end of the day, after a good exercise, when you’re cuddling on the couch).  Put one to two drops lavender oil in your hand and rub your hands together.  Take a moment to take a deep breath and make sure that your energy is also in a relaxed state (you can always take a deep inhale from your hands to have the oil work for you too).  When you are calm and ready, allow the dog to first sniff your scented hands.  Then slowly and calmly give your dog some slow relaxed petting and/or a massage.  Proven massage techniques include:  1) giving your dog a slow massage on the outside of the spine, starting near the head and working down towards the rear.  2) Ear slides (if your dog is okay with having his ears touched).  Start at the base of the ear and slowly massage outward towards the ear tip, then repeat.  3) Pet the dogs chest using a slow circular motion.
Different dogs enjoy different types of petting and massage.  Experiment to see what your dog enjoys most.  These sessions should last about 10-15 minutes.  If your dog is calm and relaxed, this is also a good time to baby talk your dog and tell them how much you love them and what a good dog they are.  Avoid any words or phrases that may cause excitement.
Be sure to “charge up the oil” every day for at least a week before using it as a tool for helping calm unwanted behaviors (examples below).

The point of this exercise is to associate the smell of lavender with a nice calm, relaxed state of mind.

Be sure that you are purchasing oils free from contaminants.  Be sure to only use therapeutic-grade Lavender Oil from a reputable company and verify the quality of the oil before use.  (For Maui, I recommend purchasing your Lavender Oil from Down to Earth in Kahului.)
Do not use a lot of Lavender oil.  A tiny dab will do just fine.  You do not need a lot to get the smell, and we do not want to have dogs licking excessive amounts of oil off themselves.  Use oil on your dog in moderation and with caution.  Be sure to avoid the eye and mouth areas.  

Why use Lavender Oil?
Lavender Oil is naturally soothing to the central nervous system in both humans & animals.  Many humans with anxiety-related issues use lavender oil to help calm themselves in stressful situations.  This oil may be used in a similar way for your dog.

Anxiety/ Fear/ Separation Anxiety:
If your dog suffers from anxious or nervous behaviors or has separation anxiety, Lavender oil could help.  You want to start using the oil as directed above, then you can use it in situations where your dog may become anxious or fearful.

For example, if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, start as directed above, then do the same ritual before leaving your dog for the day.  Remember to remain calm and relaxed (do NOT try and do this if you are rushing out the door).  Your mood must match what the lavender oil is trying to accomplish:  a calm state of mind.  It is also helpful for separation anxiety to leave the dog something to occupy them, such as a bone, Kong, lick mat, or snuffle mat.  This way the dog has something yummy to focus on instead of focusing on the fact that you are leaving.

Another example:  if your dog is frightened of guests:  start again as directed above, then bring back the scent of lavender right before guests come over and have them follow the “No touch, No talk, No eye contact” policy to further help relax your dog.  Dog’s that are fearful of guests will benefit greatly if the guests completely ignore the dog.  This helps take the pressure of the dog.

Have a dog that is afraid of car rides?  Start as directed above and then apply a drop of Lavender oil to your dog’s collar (or a bandana) before your next car trip.  Remember to remain calm yourself.  Keep the car ride short for the first few times.

If you have a dog that is high-energy who easily gets over-excited, Lavender Oil can be used to help calm their behavior.  Start as directed above then re-apply the scent before events that may excite your dog.  For example if you dog becomes very over-excited when guests arrive, apply the oil a few minutes before they arrive.  (Remember to remind your guest to follow the “No touch, No talk, No eye contact” policy until the dog fully calms down.  It is also helpful to exercise your dog beforehand so that they have less physical energy to use in a negative way).

Older Dogs/ Dogs with Physical Pain:
Lavender oil is also an excellent way to help dogs with joint and other types of physical pains.  Two of our dogs are getting into their “senior” years and are starting to show signs of joint pain.  We use lavender oil while massaging the areas of the dog that are aching and in pain.  This helps both relieve their joint pain and relaxes them at the same time.  We are associating the smell with relaxation and the relief of a nice massage.  Essential Oils have also been known to help reduce inflammation.  So next time you notice your dog is having a bad pain day, you can bring out the Lavender smell and pair it with a joint massage and it will help the dog both mentally and physically relax.

Allergies & Skin Conditions:
Lavender oil has also been known to help with dog allergies and skin conditions.  If your dog suffers from hot spots, try applying a few drops of diluted Lavender oil to that spot.  Start out small to be sure your pet does not have a bad reaction.  
If your dog suffers from allergies, try adding a Lavender oil diffuser near the pet’s main area.

Lavender Oil is also a natural repellent for fleas, ticks, and other insects.  Add a few drops of Lavender Oil to your dog’s shampoo and shake well.  Use as normal for bathing and your dog will have an added natural insect repellent, plus smell great!