There is a story behind every product I make and the same is true for my Calming Spray for Dogs – though, I should probably rename it since it works on large animals and humans, too.
One of my dogs has a pretty severe reaction to thunder storms and living in Calgary provides us with some pretty serious storms from time-to-time. Anyone who lives with a dog who has a storm phobia will know what I'm talking about when I say that my heart breaks every single time the weather changes. He's one of those dogs that can sense the change in pressure and that's his trigger. Often, he knows it's going to storm before we do and that's the hardest part. Thunder shirts do help him, but it has to be on before it storms – that's not always a luxury here – the weather can be pretty unpredictable some days. Reiki also helps him when the storms are really bad, but I wanted to do more, so we developed this calming spray just for him. When I say "we", it was him and I. He picked the oils that would go into the blend and it was up to me to blend it in an appealing way. I'm not going to lie... based on the essential oils he picked, I was certain the spray was going to smell like dirt. Sure, this may be appealing to dogs... but not to their owners, who also have to smell it. I had to get really creative in the blending of this one!
How does a dog "pick" their essential oils anyway? It's actually pretty simple. I made a list of all the calming essential oils available that were safe for dogs and humans, with as few contraindications as possible. This is very important to me and I will talk about that more later. Once I had my list, I gathered the oils and called Riley over to me. One by one, I would take the lid off a bottle and let him sniff it. If he turned and walked away, it was not for him. If he went in for a second sniff or tried to lick the bottle (don't worry, I didn't let him!), it was a contender.
Once I had separated the oils he liked from the ones he didn't, I had to decide how many drop of each oil would go into a bottle. The dilution ratio for this blend is pretty low, at about 1%, which makes it safe for almost everyone, plus, it uses pretty strong-smelling oils, so the low dilution rate keeps it from being too "heady". Believe me when I say blending can be super tricky! The main idea behind making a great blend is to ensure that 1) the essential oils blend well together, 2) you have a top, middle and base note and, 3) those notes are blended in a way that they are harmonious together and you have a nice balanced scent.
If you look at the list of essential oils used, most of them are base notes... and they're strong base notes that a lot of people don't like. The trick was to make sure there was enough top note to balance that all out, but not be too perfume-like that dogs wouldn't like it. Tricky, tricky! The end result is nice, calming and warm and can even be worn as a body perfume.
After I had the first test bottle made, I had to wait for a storm. Isn't that always the case? I did make sure he was used to the scent prior to storms so that it didn't become a storm trigger. I would spray it on his beds, on my pants and occasionally diffuse a little bit of it all while we were relaxing or otherwise having fun. The best ways to use this for Riley are to spray it on a Thunder shirt, then let him wear it or to diffuse it in the room he's hiding in. He's gone from panting, whale eye, drooling, high-pitched whine and shaking to a pretty low-level response of panting and staying in a bathroom. When I combine that with Reiki, he often just curls up beside me and sleeps. Please note though, if your pet has serious anxiety or over-the-top generalized anxiety, it is always best to consult your veterinarian regarding medication and work with a certified reward-based trainer.
The best part about this blend is that it's not only great for dogs, it works on humans, too. I do often wear it as a perfume when I'm going to be in a stressful situation. It can also be used in a variety of ways with animals. I always wear it when I'm going to be meeting and/or working with a fearful dog and I have often used it in class settings with excited dogs successfully.
Now, if you've made it this far, I'd like to talk about contraindications. This is important and something that is overlooked, a lot. A contraindication is a warning and it is 100% buyer beware (along with essential oil quality). There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet, especially about essential oils and their safety. For example most essential oils are not recommended for direct, undiluted application to your skin and if citrus oils are applied to your skin, you should avoid direct sun exposure for at least 12 to 24 hours because they can cause sunburn. There is a calming blend currently on the market for dogs with lemon essential oil in it and it's being sold for 4 times the amount that mine costs, but please, do not apply this to your dog unless they never go outside. I put a ton of research and testing into every product that I make and if there are any known contraindications for an essential oil, it is on the product packaging. Does it make R&D harder, yes, 100%, but is it worth it? Totally.
So, that's the story of my Calming Spray and a little education for the day! Hope you enjoyed.