Poorly Socialised Dog - How Can Essential Oils Help?

Poor Socialisation - Fear of other Dogs

This lovely boy had a somewhat tricky start in his early life, and due to poor socialisation during early development, now exhibits fear and anxiety around other dogs.

In the past year he has benefited enormously from professional help regarding socialisation & training, and from being in a very loving home.

So how can zoopharmacognosy help, in addition to such great support?

How Essential Oils can help Anxious Animals

Well first …  the science bit:   Even if we’re not sure what exactly happened in the early part of his life, we know enough to believe that aspects of it would have been very stressful.  Chronic stress at any stage in life can cause an imbalance of neurological activity.   So … it’s always worth offering extracts that might help with this.   If they are not relevant, they will simply be ignored.

A number of essential oils contain compounds that have known neurologically calming effects (Thumthimthed et al /Waggas, 2007).   They affect the brain in different ways:   for example some might inhibit glutamate (excitory) some might boost GABA (inhibitory, helps calm) and so on.   But which of these are appropriate for this dog?  


As always, the answer is … there isn't one answer.    There are patterns, but each animal is different and it is much easier - and is much more likely to be effective - if all of the small number of oils in this group are offered to the animal to self-select, rather than try to assume which might be best.  

This boy selected Valerian Root and Vetiver - he wanted to both inhale them and also to lick a couple of drops of each directly from my hand.

Although these did calm him down, he didn't properly engage in the session until I offered him rose hydrosol.


After a few minutes inhaling this he sat down, fully engaged with softly blinking eyes and I then offered him a range of extracts I thought most likely to be appropriate for him given what I knew of his history.

He selected only a few:  Rose Otto, Neroli, Jasmine and (to a lesser degree) Linden Blossom.   After a short time, he lay down on the floor, his eyes continuing to "soft-blink" and then closing fully.

To the astonishment of his owner he remained like this for about an hour, almost motionless.  During that time at one point Yarrow was also offered (to support deeper processing). 

I watched his response carefully - moving his head away from the bottle even slightly would have indicated that this extract was not wanted … but instead he moved his head to align his nose directly with the bottle of Yarrow (shown in photo).

Regular offering of appropriate essential oils can really help your dog


When he finally “came to”, he was sweetly tactile, leaning up against me for extra body contact.  His owner will be continuing to offer him the extracts over the next couple of weeks:  a session is rarely a one-hit “magic wand”(although that does happen sometimes).   

But more often, it’s having regular access for a week or two, to whichever key extracts the animal selected during the session, that can really make the difference.   



In this case, helping to support both immediate challenges ( anxious behaviours) and encourage really deep, prolonged periods of “processing” (like relaxation - but different!), leading to a happier, more balanced animal.



Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis L.) effects on neurotransmitter contents:  Waggas, A.M., (2007). Daily Dose effect of Valerian root extract on some Neurotransmitter contents in different Brain areas of male Albino Rats.  Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, 14 (2) 201-214;  [Online] Available at:  http://www.kau.edu.sa/Files/0009057/Researches/24531_24773.pdf

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) sedative effects:  Thumthimthed, S.,  Thisayakorn, K. et al.  (date not shown). Vetiver Oil and Its Sedative Effect.  [Online]. Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=