We’ve all seen the posts from our Facebook friends:
“Fido is shaking and panting! He hates thunderstorms!”
“Boo Boo won’t come out from under the bed. She hates thunderstorms!”
“Our neighbors lit off fireworks. Our Lab, Murphy, went berserk and tore up our couch!”
Many friends swear by Thundershirt, which uses gentle, constant pressure to calm your dog. Others say it doesn’t have much effect on their dog.
I discovered an alternative while surfing online, just in time to order some for the July 4 fireworks (Stuart, our Jack Russell, is quite anxious when it comes to fireworks and thunderstorms).
The product is called Canine Calm, and it’s a spray mist made of all natural ingredients, including pure essential oils such as lavender, tangerine and geranium.
The maker of Canine Calm, Earth Heart, is running a “buy one get one free” special right now. Those ordering via earthheartinc.com/ by July 1 can type ShareTheCalm into the promotion code area and get a second bottle free. The idea is to give the second bottle to a friend with a fireworks-phobic dog. (I know a few).
Vicki Rae Thorne, Earth Heart founder, assured me those ordering by July 1 will receive it in time for the fireworks. I ordered Monday and it was shipped out the same day. I plan to give it a try with Stuart since we’re expecting thunderstorms later this week.
Thorne, based in Dundee, Ill., recommends misting your fingertips with Canine Calm and then applying it to your dog’s ear tips. One or both ear tips is fine, she said.
“There are a lot of blood vessels in the ears, and applying the mist there allows you to get it into the bloodstream quickly,” Thorne said in a phone interview. “It also keeps you from overwhelming their sense of smell. It’s a very diluted solution so as not to overwhelm a dog and it can be applied as often as needed to any size dog.”
It also can be sprayed into your car or dog crate for traveling, even if you’re only headed to the vet or the groomer’s. Thorne told me her product has a 90 percent-plus success rate. She said the reason it may not appear to work on some dogs is simply because the owner isn’t using enough, or isn’t using it often enough.
“Sometimes a little dog might need just one spray, or it might need four,” she said. “Sometimes, a big dog might need one spray, or it might need six or eight. It depends on the individual dog — the size, the age, the health, the level of anxiety.”
Thorne also recommends spraying a bit of the mist on yourself (it won’t stain or leave a residue) and being around your dog during a normal, calm period when first trying it.
“Spritz your shirt or your hand and hang out with your dog,” Thorne said. “You can then see how your dog responds to the scent. If your dog starts to relax even more in a calm non-stressful situation, you’ll have an indication of how long it takes to take effect. You’ll also bond the dog with the scent. It will be a comforting scent to them when you go to use it again.”
She said it typically takes 10 to 20 minutes for Canine Calm to have an effect. Try using it the moment your dog starts behaving anxiously because of an impending thunderstorm, Thorne said.
“Your dog’s behavior changes when there’s a thunderstorm coming,” she said. “They might pant, pace, whimper or hide. You can apply it right at that moment, and they’ll quiet down before the storm hits.”
Because it’s made of essential oils, Canine Calm is safe for you and your dog.
“I started my company working in aroma therapy in 1992,” she said. “At the time, I had a 5-year-old and I was pregnant with my second child. I started working with pure essential oils, which are very concentrated, and I needed to be sure they were safe, with me being pregnant and with a 5-year-old. Our main goal since the beginning is that everything has to be family friendly.”
Canine Calm may not be for everyone wearing fur, Thorne said.
“It can be used in limited capacity with cats,” she said. “A cat’s skin is different from a dog’s. It’s physiology is different. It is OK for occasional use with extremely diluted products. If a cat freaks out when you’re trying to put it in a cage to take to the vet once or twice a year, spraying Canine Calm on a blanket in the cat carrier will help reduce stress. One spritz is going to help a cat a lot more than stressing it out. I don’t recommend it for cats on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hurt them to be around it or to use it with them a couple times a year.”
Thorne said she has had customers who told her Canine Calm did nothing to ease their dog’s anxiety.
“Some people use it in combination with a Thundershirt or herbal remedy,” Thorne said. “Some say it didn’t work at all. At $11.98 a bottle, that’s about two cents per spray, so it can be one of the least expensive things you do for your dog. If it works for you, it’s a very low investment.”
Canine Calm is in about 200 retail stores now, although none in Michigan at the moment. Thorne didn’t even take it to the retail market until a few years ago, and said it’s “flying off the shelves” in the Chicago area.
“I have been working with aromatherapy, massage oils and body care products since 1992,” Thorne said. “About 12 years ago, a kennel owner took a class from me and asked if I could help in calming down her dogs. That’s when Canine Calm was born, to use in her kennels. After about two years she came in and said her customers wanted to take it home with them, that they loved how calm their dogs were when they picked them up from the kennel.
“So, we came up with the mist, and it started selling locally and was spreading by word of mouth. It got picked up by a distributor and I bought my first ad about 2 1/2 years ago. It has started to take off.”