Nervousness in the Car
A client asked for some help for her dog, who was an extremely nervous passenger in the car. She would shiver and lick the air repeatedly. This licking or tongue flicking is often a sign of nervousness in dogs. It can also be seen as a calming sign between dogs to slow things down when a playmate is getting a little too rough.
Mimulus Flower Essence
There are quite a few things that can be done to help dogs who are nervous in the car, but one of the easiest things to try is to offer Mimulus flower essence. This essence is from the Bach line of flower essences and has the advantage of being easy to find. Many health food stores now carry the Bach line of essences. Simply put a drop on a small treat and offer to your dog. If you are concerned about the alcohol content in the essence (the brandy acts as a preservative) you have a few options to reduce the amount. One possibility is to put a few drops of essence in a small cup, fill with water, and dunk the treat before offering. I tend to prepare a baggie with a tablespoon of water, a drop of essence, and a handful of small treats. Shake it up and offer treats as often as needed to help calm your animal. You can also put drops in a misting bottle with water and mist around the animal every few minutes.
Behavioral Modification for Car Anxiety
Flower essences can be a great help for anxiety, but they may not be the whole picture. Most behavior challenges require a comprehensive approach. Depending on the level of fear, a gradual introduction to the frightening situation is best. Give lots of positive reinforcement and treats, and never push your animal further than they are comfortable. If you see any sign of stress, whether it be tongue flicking, panting or any other sign of anxiety, slow down the process and go back a step. For a dog extremely worried about the car you may just sit in the car with the dog for a few minutes at a time. When the dog is calm and happy about that, maybe turn on the engine and idle for a few minutes. The important thing is to take it slowly and develop positive associations with the formerly fearful situation. It may seem like a long process, but you will be surprised how quickly things can turn around if you keep at it.
Another helpful item for fearful dogs is a Thundershirt. It is a snug fitting garment that helps the dog feel safe and contained. As the name indicates, it can be used for storm related anxiety, but helps ease any kind of stress. It is important to introduce the Thundershirt to the dog gently, and apart from the stressful situation, so he can become accustomed to wearing it.
The good news is my client’s dog responded really well to the Mimulus flower essence, so she didn’t need to try any other techniques. She now travels in the car easily and is a content passenger.
I am happy to offer consultation and custom essence formula creation over the telephone or Skype for you and your pet! Please get in touch and we can discuss your needs.