Flower essences are an amazing tool for dog behavior improvement. While they work well by themselves, I have found, in my 25 years of using them, that certain "best practices" seem to help the process along. These are my personal tips for success when using flower essences with dogs. They are not written in stone; just what I have found works well. I hope you find it helpful!
1) Be Consistent
Flower essences change behavior by balancing emotions and shifting emotional perspective. To do that, flower remedies must be given regularly. If given haphazardly, now and again when the thought occurs, it’s unlikely you’ll see any real results. (Sorry, but that’s just how they work.)
I recommend that you start your dog on the essences during a time you know you can be consistent. Avoid starting out when your work schedule is erratic, or life has you going 10 directions at once.
Another tip for consistency is to keep the bottle somewhere handy, easily seen and noticed. For me, that’s on the edge of the kitchen counter, where I pass by many times a day. For you, it might be on an end table next to your favorite spot to sit on the couch. Or on the desk or table where you work.
Multiple bottles can be helpful for consistency, too. I like to keep an extra bottle of my dog’s formula in my training bag for when we head into town for training sessions. Some people keep an extra in their purse or glove compartment. One client’s dog spends time between two homes and a daycare, so they keep a bottle in each locale, rather than trying to remember to take the dog’s flower essence blend every day!
2) Be Patient
The effects of flower essences take time to begin and time to build, so patience pays off with this therapy. Change will often start in an area that’s relatively easy for the dog, sometimes odd, “out in left field” areas.
With my Belgian Sheepdog, Sidra, I tried my Confidence Plus formula with the hope of helping her become more confident in her formal obedience training. The first noticeable change I saw, however, was her suddenly being willing to splash through puddles! (An activity she had fastidiously avoided the 5 years she’d lived with me). This was not something I was looking or hoping for (after all, she was my only dog whose paws rarely needed wiping before coming in!), but it was an early hint that she was loosening up.
Moral of the story? Be patient, and pay attention to any new behaviors, not just the ones you have set your sights on. These are generally signs the formula is working.
Trying a formula to help with trialing or showing? The effects take time to begin and build. And those new, improved responses? Improvement means change. You may need to adapt your responses, your training and show routine to your dog’s new outlook. That doesn’t happen overnight! My suggestion, when trying a flower essence blend to help with show or trial situations, is to give the formula time to work, then practice in a variety of settings before showing. Just like you would if you weren’t using them!
3) Allow For “Below the Surface” Work
Flower essences take from a few days to a couple of weeks (on average) to begin making inroads into your dog’s attitude and behavior. You can think of this like a seed getting ready to germinate. It may not look like anything’s happening, but great things are going on in there. Similarly, that time before you see improvement in your dog is when subtle changes are taking place below the surface, unseen.
During this important time, I find it helpful to keep the dog away from difficult situations that may trigger unwanted reactions. I generally set aside two full weeks, kind of a “stress vacation” for the dog. It’s not 100% necessary, and not everyone will find it practical or possible. But if you can, I do believe it helps prepare the way for positive change.
4) Start Fresh
By the time most people try flower essences, they are facing the challenge of behavior strongly rooted in habit. Train smart. Make sure to set your dog up to succeed, even if that means going back to Kindergarten.
When you’ve finished the two weeks “stress vacation” and start working with the problem behavior again, start fresh. Don’t just jump back into worst-case scenarios. Begin in places and situations that make it easy for the dog to react positively. Keep training sessions short and highly successful. There is no such thing as too easy at this point. I tell clients that their dog’s reaction to training sessions should be "Whew! Really? Just that? No problem!". Building on success is easy. Building on failure is not!
5) Reward Effort
Get yourself in the mindset to sincerely praise and reward *efforts* at doing better. If your dog responds even a little more moderately in her problem situation, tell her you appreciate it. Let her know her efforts are meaningful. With flower essences on the one hand, and meaningful appreciation of effort on the other, you should start to see her behavior improve steadily.
6) Help Your Dog Learn Better Responses
Like any other therapy, medication, or supplement, flower essences will work best to improve dog behavior if used with a training/behavior program that teaches your dog better ways to respond in problem situations. Is it realistic to expect deeply ingrained, long-standing negative behaviors to be fixed with flower essences alone? I've seen it done, but why fight an uphill battle if you don't have to?
7) Engage in Lateral Training
Don't rush. Making slow, steady forward progress will get you to your goal faster than leaping around, going too far, too fast, then getting set back for weeks or months at a time. While you don’t want to get stuck in one spot behaviorally, you don’t want to constantly move up and up and up - making each session or every day more difficult than the last. I prefer to “hang out” on training plateaus for awhile at each level. This "lateral training" allows your dog to generalize the new behavior, and lets him get used what it feels like being there. Once he’s comfortable in that new level of behavior, he can more confidently move on when you offer a slightly bigger challenge.
8) Re-Evaluate Regularly
Dogs change and their emotional needs change. As I write this, I have a young dog that needed some remedial socialization when I got him. Because of his age and adaptability, he changes very quickly. Making a small bottle of his flower essence blend helps me remember to re-evaluate his progress frequently. All dogs, regardless of age or issue, should be expected to grow, change, and occasionally backslide. Keep your eyes open for these transitions.
9) Eliminate Stressors
If you’re using flower essences, you’re obviously interested in holistic therapies for your dog. So it makes sense to take an overall holistic approach to his behavioral health. Don’t neglect to look at reasons why your dog may be responding the way he does.
Especially if your dog's behavior seems resistant to change, but even if you simply want to help make things as easy for him as possible, take stock of his health, comfort, diet, and lifestyle to see if there are aspects that could be causing him stress. Eliminate or reduce those stressors where you can. Your dog’s long-term behavioral wellness may depend on it.
Many of these tips will strike you as common sense - because they are! And if you can't use them all, don't worry. Flower remedies will still balance and improve in the face of "life challenges". But removing those challenges, or even reducing them, will certainly help the behavior-balancing process be smoother, faster, and more long lasting.
Julie Cantrell BSc CDBC
Owner, Aldaron Essences LLC