Probiotics Helped My Nervous Dog Calm Down
Here at Renown Health, probiotics are a big deal. Our Prosentials brand was a long time in the making and balances seven different probiotic strains to achieve the most effective “workforce” of bacteria that are good for your gut.
In addition to doing our best to start out well, we stay on top of natural health research. Especially any studies that involve ingredients we use in our products. That’s what I was doing a few weeks ago, when I thought… “dog!”
Prosentials is balanced to focus on digestion, constipation, and healthy gut flora, but one of the strains in it has other uses, too, and I was about to test it at home.
That’s because early last fall, my husband and I adopted our dog, Sally, thinking she was some variation of a shepherd-husky-possibly lab mix. Those are all breeds we have owned and loved. We felt we knew what to expect and how to handle it. A bit of time with Sally quickly revealed she was not typical of a shepherd or a husky, and certainly not a lab. It took us several weeks to discover her true breed and why she had certain problems.
At first, we thought, “well, shelter dogs… you know.” They can have bad experiences.
When we adopted her, Sally had been part of a two-week summer camp my friend, Teena, runs. In each session, the campers, who are ages 8-13, each choose a rescue dog to pair off. The kids learn how to brush and bathe the dogs, check teeth and ears, trim nails, and walk them nicely on a leash. The dogs learn to sit, stay, come, settle, and be Good Dogs. The dogs and campers hop on a bus several times a week and go on outings to stores, city streets, and restaurants. They play and swim together at the dog beach and in the camp pool. At the end of each day, every camper takes his or her dog home to introduce them to indoor family living. (Except Sally!) At the end of camp, when the dogs are up for adoption, the kids are involved in assessing potential owners.
Everything about it is a new experience for many of these dogs. Last summer most of the camp dogs were Satos, street dogs rescued from Puerto Rico. Satos are fairly small, cute and naturally friendly. Sally was different. She came from an Alabama county animal shelter. Before that, her rescuers believe she lived in the wild. She was bigger. She was aloof. She didn’t like most other dogs. She didn’t like strangers giving her pats or coming too close.
And of course, I fell in love when I saw her on a visit. Somehow Sally liked me right away, too. The next day my husband went to see her and got an even more enthusiastic welcome much to everyone’s surprise. The rescue group director had been trying desperately to find a home for Sally, even a foster home, but she just didn’t warm up to anyone. She was the camp dog nobody wanted to adopt. Only one family had taken an interest, but she didn’t get along with their current family dog. Weeks went by, and Sally was still an orphan with no place to go. Until we said, “wow, can we really have her?!”
Once we got Sally home, she was fun to walk on a leash, as long as we didn’t meet another dog. I worked on sit, stay, and come. Her camper had not managed to get that done. Sally, unlike the sweet little Satos, isn’t eager to please just anyone she meets. By all reports, she essentially dragged the poor kid around for two weeks and never went home with him because of her problems getting along with other dogs. So she spent several rainy nights back at camp, alone in a building with a tin roof. She still hates rain. Not thunder, not lightening. Rain.
After Sally came home with us, I worked with her on meeting other dogs calmly. She could be aggressive, but it never escalated past a growl. At last, I thought she’d done well enough and met enough other dogs nicely that it was time to try a doggie play group under professional guidance.
Sally tolerated the greeter dog OK. But when the team tried to bring her to the play group, Sally slammed on the brakes, tucked tail, and refused to budge. There was no way in Hades my dog was going through that scary door where all those other mutts were running loose. Not happening.
Soon after that, we discovered that Sally is a Carolina dog. Not a husky-shepherd mix of any sort. Aloofness, being shy with strangers, and indifference toward other dogs is a breed trait. The play group incident revealed her aggression was really about fear.
By the time we figured that out, we had all bonded—even the cat—and Sally was family.
I thought possibly, slowly, with a lot of work, I could improve her dog-to-dog skills to make life easier for her. Progress was abysmally slow.
Then one day I was reviewing the ingredients in Prosentials for any new scientific data and found that one component, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, is used to ease anxiety in humans and mice. It’s also used to treat nervous horses. Some vets give it to dogs for digestive problems and dermatitis.
Probiotic supplements are usually formulated, like Prosentials, to address digestive problems. But several strains of these friendly bacteria can also affect mood, mental focus, resistance to colds, and a host of other issues. So why not doggy nervousness?
Worth a try, right?
Within two days of beginning her on probiotics, Sally was noticeably calmer. She still doesn’t like rain very much, but she’s not panicked by it anymore. She’s also doing well with most other dogs. And even when the hackles rise, she’s not growling.
One day last week, as we were walking, four loose dogs ran up and surrounded her with no problem. Sally was nervous, but she handled it well.
What’s more, except for one mysterious hole in a good white shirt, she hasn’t chewed anything forbidden lately.
We’ve put in a lot of work, to be sure. Bought the best food. Even tried the thunder shirt. But because of the rapid and significant change, I am sure that the probiotics are the biggest reason Sally is doing so well now. It was startling how quickly we saw the change happen.
Sally is a new dog. She could probably succeed in a lot of different families now.
Not that we’d give her up. Sally’s a good girl.
And I’m an even bigger fan of probiotics.