By themselves, flower essences are an amazing tool for dog behavior improvement. With these time-tested tips for success, you can get even better results.
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.
This article outlines 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!
Give Flower Essences Consistently
Flower essences change behavior by balancing emotions and shifting emotional perspective.
To do that, flower remedies must be given regularly and consistently.
If your dog only gets flower essences haphazardly, now and again when the thought occurs, itâ€™s unlikely youâ€™ll see any real results.
Ideally, start your dog on flower essences during a time when it’s easy to be consistent. Avoid starting out when your work schedule is erratic, or life has you going 10 directions at once.
Keeping your dog’s flower essence blend somewhere easily seen and handy will also help you be consistent.
I keep mine 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 on the couch. Or on the desk or table where you work.
If you’re on the go with your dog, consider having multiple bottles of your dog’s flower essences to help with consistency. I like to keep an extra bottle of my dogâ€™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 clientâ€™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 dogâ€™s flower essence blend every day!
Balancing Takes Time: Be Patient
The balancing effects of flower essences take time to begin and time to build in your dog, so patience pays off with this therapy.
Change brought about by flower essences will often start in an area of behavior where it’s relatively easy for the dog to improve. These are sometimes odd, â€œout in left fieldâ€ areas of behavior.
As an example, with my Belgian Sheepdog, Sidra, I tried my Confidence Plus formula in the hope of helping her become more confident in formal obedience training.
But the first noticeable change I saw in her was “out in left field”: after years of fastidiously avoiding getting her toes wet on walks and runs, Sid starting happily splashing through puddles!
This was not exactly the kind of behavior change I was looking or hoping for. After all, she was my only dog whose paws rarely needed wiping before coming in! But this odd behavior change was an early sign that she was loosening up and gaining some general confidence.
The moral of this story is to be patient, and pay attention to any new behaviors, not just the ones you have set your sights on. They are generally signs that the flower essences are beginning to work, down deep, on your dog’s attitude and behavior.
For more detail on this area of flower essences, see my article on what to expect when giving them to animals.
Trying flower essences to help with trialing, showing, or a particular occasion?
The effects of flower essences take time to begin and build. And those improved responses will be new to your dog – and you.
You may need to adapt your responses, your training and routine to your dogâ€™s new outlook. That doesnâ€™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 were trying any new tool.
Give Flower Essences Time to Work Below the Surface
Flower essences take from a few days to a couple of weeks (on average) to begin making inroads into your dogâ€™s attitude and behavior.
You can think of this like a seed getting ready to germinate. On the surface, it doesn’t look like much of anything is happening, but great things are going on inside.
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 avoid “poking and prodding at the soil” (so to speak). Which just means that I like to keep the dog away from difficult situations that may trigger the unwanted reactions the flower essences are working to address.
To help with this, I generally give the dog about a two week break; kind of a vacation from stress. This seems to help give some room for that under-the-surface work to do its thing.
I realize that not everyone will find it practical or possible to give their dog that kind of break. But if you can, I do believe it helps prepare the way for positive change.
Jump Start Behavior Improvement with a Fresh Start
When youâ€™ve finished the two week break just mentioned, it’s time to start working with your dog’s problem issue again. But – and this is a big but -Â donâ€™t just jump back into worst-case scenarios.Â Instead, try for a fresh start.
Train smart.Â Make sure to set your dog up to succeed, even if that means going back to Kindergarten (i.e., asking for super-simple, easy-to-achieve behaviors to build up your dog’s confidence and reliability).
Begin in places and situations that make it easy for the dog to react positively. This includes places, situations in which you are relaxed.
Keep your training sessions short and highly successful. There is no such thing as too easy at this point.
I tell clients that their dogâ€™s reaction to these new training sessions should be “Whew! Really? Just that? No problem!”.
Building on success is easy. Building on failure is not! Train smart and help your dog build on success.
Change is Hard – Reward Effort
By the time most people try flower essences for a dog behavior problem, they are facing the challenge of behavior strongly rooted in habit.
Getting rid of old habits and replacing them with new ones is hard work! Be prepared to help your dog work through and get past behaviors rooted in habit.
A big part of this is to get yourself in the mindset to sincerely praise and reward *efforts* at doing better.
That is, don’t only praise and reward your dog for doing in right, but for trying and making progress toward doing it right. She needs to know her efforts are meaningful.
If your dog responds even a little more moderately in her problem situation, give her some sincere love and appreciation.
With flower essences on the one hand, and meaningful appreciation of effort on the other, you should start to see her behavior improve steadily.
Help Your Dog Learn Better Responses (i.e. Train the Dog)
Like any other therapy, medication, or supplement, flower essences will work best to improve dog behavior if used with a training and behavior program that teaches your dog better ways to respond in problem situations.
This really simply means: to get optimal results, train your dog at the same time as giving flower essences.
I think it’s fair to question whether it’s 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?
Train your dog; practice new and better responses; learn to read your dog and help him through difficulties. It will not only help your dog behave better, it will improve your understanding of one another, and create a rock-solid bond that you can’t get any other way.
Engage in Lateral Training (i.e. Make Haste Slowly)
Making 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.
So don’t rush. Try not to pressure your dog or yourself.
While you donâ€™t want to get stuck in any one spot behaviorally, you donâ€™t want to be constantly pushing your dog to move up and up and up – making each session or every day more difficult than the last.
That kind of pressure can overwhelm all the good the flower essences are accomplishing.
I like to â€œhang outâ€ on training plateaus for awhile at each level. This “lateral training” allows your dog to generalize new behaviors, and lets him get used what it feels like being there.
Once heâ€™s comfortable in that new level of behavior, he can more confidently move on when you offer a slightly bigger challenge.
If youâ€™re using flower essences, youâ€™re obviously interested in holistic therapies for your dog. So it makes sense to take an overall holistic approach to his behavioral health.
Donâ€™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.
Reduce or eliminate those stressors where you can. Your dogâ€™s long-term behavioral wellness may depend on it.
Life changes all of us, dogs included. All our experiences – good and bad -Â shape and evolve our reactions and emotional needs and ability to cope.
Because dogs of all ages, temperaments, and issues grow, change, and occasionally backslide, it’s important to re-evaluate your dog’s flower essence needs periodically.
A setback or return of an old behavior isn’t always a matter of going back to a blend that worked beautifully months or years ago.
Watch for transitions and noteworthy events that may affect your dog’s emotional state. Keep a behavior log if that helps you (it does me). You’ll find you’re that much more ready to adapt when life throws changes your dog’s way.
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 is a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant who’s logged many thousands of hours training dogs and teaching owners since 1990. Flower essences have been part of her work with canine behavior since 1994. (Bio)