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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spryte begins to interact with Skye
Spryte acts joyful and relaxed
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 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)!
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.
P.O. Box 459, Nevada City, CA 95959
800-736-9222 (US & Canada)
tel: 530-265-9163 fax: 530-265-0584
Copyright © by the Flower Essence Society.
All rights reserved.