Spryte case study


An FES Certification Program case study presented by practitioner
Kamrin MacKnight

Editor’s note: This is an important case showing how fearful, tense, hyper-vigilant behavior can be transformed in a dog. The kinds of behavioral traits Spryte exhibited are especially predominant in dogs who have not developed good bonding and trust issues in puppyhood and early adulthood – this is likely the case with Spryte who was adopted at five months of age. This narrative has been edited for web presentation.

Goals: feel secure and comfortable in unknown situations and with unfamiliar people or dogs, bolster confidence, reduce reactivity, improve quality of life

Essences selected for Spryte


Healing crisis

Spryte begins to interact with Skye

Spryte acts joyful and relaxed

Spryte is an 8-year old mixed breed dog (most likely Border Collie/American Eskimo), who her family acquired as a rescue dog when she was about 5 months old. She has always been fearful of other dogs and people. She has been trained using only positive methods, which has helped. Spryte is energetic, very active, anxious, hyper-vigilant, fearful, over-reactive, and very smart. She also resource guards against other dogs. She has bitten the other dogs in her family, to the point where their noses bleed from the bites. She hangs on when she bites and acts as if she’s “lost it.” Her mom (Chris) described her as being tense all of the time. She has tight muscles all through her body (face, tail, etc.), and is constantly moving. She gets about 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at least once daily (usually twice). She has been on Prozac to reduce her reactivity threshold, but was still fearful and could not be left unattended with the puppy in the family. She was also still tense and anxious, even with the Prozac treatment.

Spryte used to attend freestyle classes with her mom and brother (Magic), but retired shortly after the puppy (Skye) came into their home. She would react to strange people in the room at classes by barking at them and was very vocal. She was afraid to approach strangers and until she got to know someone, she was very reserved. Even after someone became more familiar, she was still very standoffish. As indicated above, she is very reactive to other dogs.

The home environment is stable, relatively quiet, and dog-focused. The people enjoy doing activities with the dogs and being involved with them. It’s a very supportive environment for the dogs.

Chris did not really expect the essences to do anything for Spryte, so her reaction to Spryte’s progress was very gratifying. She was willing to give anything a try that would enhance Spryte’s quality of life and help her accept Skye (the puppy) into the family. Through the use of flower essences, Spryte has gained confidence, is no longer fearful of the world around her, she is able to participate in family hikes without reacting to people and dogs, and by the end of the essence therapy was happily playing with Skye.

Although Spryte’s people were unwilling to stop giving her Prozac, the changes observed in Spryte’s behavior and demeanor were striking. The changes in her emotional state now allow her to interact with Magic and Skye, as well as enjoy hikes and other activities with her family. Spryte’s life has been completely changed by the essences and she is now a happy dog.

Goals: feel secure and comfortable in unknown situations and with unfamiliar people or dogs, bolster confidence, reduce reactivity, improve quality of life

The healing program for Spryte had the goal of making her feel more secure and comfortable in unknown situations and around unfamiliar dogs and people, as well as around the other dogs in her family. We wanted to bolster her confidence, address the reactivity, and get her to the point where she enjoyed the company of Magic and Skye. Spryte’s people were unwilling to stop giving her Prozac, but were hopeful that the flower essences would help Spryte get to the point where she could be in the same room/area with Skye and not react. The Prozac helped take some of the edge off of Spryte’s reactivity, but it did not completely resolve the issues.

The overarching goal was to improve Spryte’s overall quality of life. Living in fear and reacting to every new dog/person in the environment was very stressful and Spryte was not a happy dog. In addition, we wanted to help her get to the point where she could happily enjoy activities with her family and get along well with the other dogs, particularly Skye.

Essences selected for Spryte

Based on the intake information and discussions with Chris essences were chosen that would help Spryte overcome her fear, reactivity, hyper-vigilance, resource guarding, defensiveness, and anxiety. We also wanted to increase her self-confidence/self-esteem, and overcome the need to dominate over the other dogs in her family. Mimulus, Impatiens, Star Thistle, Vine, and Oregon Grape were chosen for her.

Mimulus was selected to help Spryte overcome her fear of known things and everyday life. This was to address her hypersensitivity and anxiety. The hope was that by bringing courage into her lifeview she would be able to live a happier and more joyful life.

Impatiens was selected to help Spryte overcome her impatience, tension, and intolerance of other animals and people. It was also used to help overcome her hyperactivity and excitability when working, as well as her general irritability around other dogs. It was included to help her deal with the energy and presence of the puppy, Skye, in her family.  Spryte was not very patient with Skye and we hoped that Impatiens would help.

Star Thistle
Star Thistle was selected to help Spryte feel more inclusive and address her resource-guarding issues. By being able to allow other dogs near “her” resources and not feel threatened by them or worry that she would not have enough, she would be able to relax her vigilance and enjoy being around other dogs. Also, the hope was to help her feel more secure and self-confident. It is possible that the resource guarding developed while Spryte was a stray puppy, as she may have had to forage and fend for herself, (which would have been very difficult for a young puppy). 

Vine was selected to help Spryte overcome her need to dominate and help her get along better with Skye, as well as work with the Star Thistle on her resource-guarding issues. The need to be in control may be related to her time as a stray, as she may have had to defend resources from other animals and this carried over to her life with her family. 

Oregon Grape
Oregon Grape was selected to help Spryte accept Skye in the family and expect that good things would/could happen, even if Skye was around. Also it was thought to help with any issues associated with apparently being abandoned as a puppy. Because of her history as a stray puppy, this essence would help her in accepting the love of everyone in her family, including the puppy. Although she certainly knows her family loves her, it was felt that perhaps she was still a bit unsure and afraid that she might be abandoned again, through no fault of her own. In addition, the thought was that any paranoia surrounding what Skye might get that would detract from her could be helped by this essence.


Chris sent me a picture of herself and the three dogs when they were out on a hike.  In this picture, Spryte is the dog on the left, Magic is giving his mom kisses, and Skye is behind Magic. Spryte is exhibiting some of the classic signs of anxiety—lip-licking and slightly turning away. She is conflicted by Magic’s being so close and/or getting attention from Chris. The picture with Spryte and the ball also shows her intensity over items that she is focused on—notice the hard look in her eye and her rigidity, as well as her ear placement. This is definitely an example of a dog that would resource guard if challenged for the ball. 

Healing crisis

Chris had started giving Spryte the essences. She reported that she had been giving Spryte four drops in her breakfast and two drops in her dinner. After about a week, she noticed mild, but noticeable agitation and frenetic behavior by Spryte. As she was unsure what to do, she stopped giving her the drops. It was explained to Chris that Spryte may have been experiencing a healing crisis and to go ahead and start giving her the essences again, if she felt comfortable doing so. She said that she would and would report if she saw the same flare-up of anxiety. Subsequently, after starting on the essences again, no side-effects were noticed. Chris reported that Spryte seemed to gradually become calmer and more joyful, rather than nervous and tense. It seems that the Mimulus and Oregon Grape were working to help Spryte be more calm and not fearful or worried about her situation.

Spryte begins to interact with Skye

Chris reported that she had Spryte and Skye out in their backyard together. It is something that they hadn’t been able to do before. She reported that Spryte was relaxed and sunbathing, enjoying being outside with Chris and Spryte. She even came over to where Chris and Skye were lying on the lawn, walked calmly by Skye, gently head-butted Chris and plopped herself next to Skye and Chris, so that she could get a belly-rub. This is highly significant, given how vulnerable a dog is when their underside is exposed. Her muscle tone was completely relaxed, unlike the usual tenseness that she carried before starting the essences. Chris was totally amazed! It appeared that the effects of Vine, Star Thistle and Impatiens were coming to the fore. The lack of irritability and tolerance of Skye, particularly in such close proximity and so close to Chris (a major resource for the dogs), definitely pointed to the effects of Impatiens and Star Thistle. Vine is likely to also be contributing at this point, as Spryte did not feel the need to dominate Skye. 

Spryte acts joyful and relaxed

Chris reported that instead of Spryte’s normal frenetic greeting that she receives when she gets home from work, Spryte is now dancing around the house, cantering through the rooms, down the hall and back, with her tail and rear end making relaxed and happy wagging circles, tossing up her back feet while she runs, and then tucking her tail and racing around, as though inviting chase play. She is relaxed the entire time she is doing this and is smiling widely, with her tongue lolling out of her mouth (Chris said she was like a goofy Labrador). This was totally new behavior for her, as she has never acted this way in the 8 years that she’s been with her family. She also flirts with Magic now and comes to Chris for cuddles. Her muscles are relaxed and she’s the “picture of joy.” Chris said that she was more than amazed, she was stunned; she said it was like having a different dog.

Again this week, the calming effects of Oregon Grape and Mimulus, as well as Star Thistle are coming through in Spryte’s behavior. The Mimulus is helping her be confident and not fearful. Rather, Spryte is now joyful—an amazing difference. Oregon Grape and Star Thistle are likely helping her fit in more comfortably with the family as a whole.

Spryte is now even more relaxed, calm and contented with life. She is completely relaxed around Skye and is not guarding or acting out against her. Subsequently, Chris reported that they were able to remove all of the baby gates in their house. Now, Spryte and Skye are free to interact with each other (under supervision). Dealing with baby gates to keep dogs separated can be tedious and interferes with normal day-to-day life. Moving them around to accommodate the movements of the dogs to ensure that they’re separated, yet everyone gets the attention they need/deserve gets tiresome. All three dogs now have the run of the house and yard (under supervision). All three dogs are also in the kitchen when they prepare meals, too. She also reported that her husband was amazed when he was able to sit on the couch and have Spryte on one side and Skye on the other, both on their backs, getting tummy rubs. Chris did report one instance of mild resource-guarding when her husband was sitting on the couch eating ice cream. Spryte growled at Skye, who was sitting on the floor next to the couch. Chris said “timeout” in an unemotional way and gently walked Spryte to the bathroom, where she sat for a minute or two to get herself together. That was the only incident that occurred since Spryte started the essences. Spryte made progress around other dogs as well, and accepted play with them. She also began to share resources with Skye.

The changes exhibited by Spryte during the time that she was being given the essences certainly highlight the powerful effects that the essences can have on ingrained, well-rehearsed emotional and behavioral patterns stored over a long time period. I also know that the essences made a significant difference in the quality of life for everyone in Spryte’s family. Now, the two other dogs do not have to risk being bitten by Spryte and everyone can coexist in peace and truly enjoy each other. Without the changes in Spryte, this would likely not have happened and the family may have been relegated to keeping the dogs separated when they were in more confined spaces, etc. The process that Spryte underwent, including the initial healing crisis was gradual, but striking. 

The pictures taken after Spryte had undergone essence therapy highlight the changes and show a happy, confident dog, who is now able to enjoy her life and family to the fullest extent. Although dogs do live in the present and don’t worry about the past or future, it must have been very exhausting for Spryte to be on guard, with tense muscles most of the time. Being able to relax and be confident that she doesn’t need to guard resources and know with certainty that her family is there for her and she will not be abandoned represents a major change in outlook. This shines through in her demeanor and attitude. The soft eyes and relaxed body in the pictures demonstrate the changes in Spryte fairly well. Chris says that the first picture is one of her favorites, as it shows the softness in Spryte’s being that really wasn’t there before. The second picture shows a happy, contented dog (she’s almost smiling)!

About Kamrin MacKnight

Kamrin MacKnight is an FES certified practitioner, as well as an animal communicator, dog trainer, Usui Reiki and Violet Flame Reiki Master, and shamanic practitioner. She routinely utilizes flower essences and other tools to assist animals and their human companions. In addition to working with wild animals, Kamrin uses flower essences and other tools to help animals and their people work through behavioral issues that cause tension between them. In addition to a Ph.D. in Microbiology (UC Berkeley) and a J.D. (Santa Clara University Law), Kamrin earned her Diploma of Advanced Canine Nutrition and Fitness, and Diploma of Canine Behavior Science and Technology, both with Distinction, from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. While she is a practicing biotechnology patent attorney, Kamrin is also an advocate for the use of flower essences and alternative modalities for animals and humans. She is a full member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and is involved with various other dog-related organizations. She promotes positive reinforcement training methods for all species, building strong bonds of empathy and understanding between people and their animals, and increasing acceptance of the use of flower essences and other healing modalities in "mainstream" animal training and pet ownership.



[ About FES | Online Repertory |Class Offerings | Research & Case Studies | Interviews and Articles]
[ What's New | Publications | Membership | Find a Practitioner | Members' Pages | Home ]


P.O. Box 459, Nevada City, CA  95959
800-736-9222 (US & Canada)
tel: 530-265-9163    fax: 530-265-0584

E-mail: mail@flowersociety.org

Copyright © by the Flower Essence Society.
All rights reserved.