For you and me, holidays are a cause for celebration. Take New Year’s Eve, for example: The end of the old year and the ushering in of the new year (and the symbolic fresh start it represents) often fills us with joy, hope, and optimism. The 4th of July’s fireworks, parades, and the celebration of our country’s independence are all exciting. Halloween, with the costumes and the candy, is another favorite for lots of people. But for our dogs, maybe not so much. The constantly ringing doorbell on Halloween…the fireworks (both big and small) going off on the 4th…the break in routine and hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year’s…all of these can and do stress our dogs out. And it’s not just the holidays that can cause stress in dogs. Trips to the vet, the groomer, being left alone, thunderstorms, and a myriad of other things can send our furry friends into a nervous, jittery, frenetic state. They can get stressed—what most people refer to as anxiety. Now, just to be clear, if your dog is experiencing true, extreme anxiety, you should talk to your vet, as that’s a medical issue. But stress—the kind most dogs experience in the situations I mention here—can often be significantly eased or even eliminated with the use of high-quality essential oils (I use Young Living oils for my family and my dogs). And, given all the stress-inducers out there, I wanted to share some easy ways you can naturally and effectively calm your dog.
When it comes to using essential oils to help reduce your dog’s stress/anxiety, you have a bunch of different options. Feel free to use any of the oils I mention below (or experiment with other oils). They can be used alone or paired up with other oils—it’s fun to try different combos to see which works best for your pet. Remember, though, some oils can be harmful to cats, so if you have feline friends, do your research before using essential oils around them.
One of my favorite oils to use for promoting calm and relaxation is lavender. Pairing it with cedarwood kicks up the calming effects even more. Frankincense is another of my go-tos. Chamomile, orange, lemon, sandalwood, rose, and bergamot are also great choices. Young Living’s Valor, Valor II, Joy, Clarity, and Jasmine can be very uplifting while simultaneously easing stress. Oils such as Young Living’s Valerian, Vetiver, Peace & Calming, Ylang Ylang, and Acceptance are grounding and calming at the same time.
To use the oils, you can diffuse them in a room (add a few drops of your chosen oil(s), along with distilled water, to your diffuser, and let it run for a few hours). You can also rub a few drops of oils on your hands and gently massage your dog: the scent of the oil, coupled with a short, calm, focused bonding session with your dog, will relax and calm both of you. Some people also like to dab a few drops of their chosen oil(s) on the back of their dog’s collar, or lightly mist their dog’s bedding with the oils. If you decide to go that route, it’s easy to make a spray (which you can also lightly spritz on your dog—taking care to avoid their eyes, nose, and ears, of course).
To make a spray, I often put 2 or 3 ounces of distilled water or organic witch hazel (available on Amazon) in a dark blue or amber glass bottle. Then, I add a few drops of my chosen oil or oils (such as lavender and cedarwood, or frankincense) to the water or witch hazel. I shake the bottle to blend it, and voilà: a homemade essential oil blend you can easily use as needed.
So there you have it: a safe, effective, easy way to ease your dog’s stress. You can use the oils as often as you want, and as an added bonus, they’ll help ease your stress too!
-By Kristin Clark, MA, CSAN