Pheromones and Crazy Pets: The Lowdown

As most of you know, I have a neurotic beauty queen of a Dachshund, Zelda. I adore her, but she’s a loon. I cannot lie. The one thing that has helped her with her hyperactivity and dominance (a very spoiled, beloved 10-pound dog that tries to bite your nose off if you’re not giving her enough attention for two minutes is an issue) are three things I am NEVER without now: the Sentry Good Behavior Pheromone Collar, the Sentry Good Behavior Pheromone Calming Spray and the Sentry Stop That. (Full disclosure: yes, I work for the company that manufactures these, but this is honest-to-goodness, real advice from the owner of a psychotic pet!)

We put a collar on Zelda once a month. I’m a working single mom of three who isn’t really into writing everything on a calendar, so the way I know it’s time to change it is also very telling about how powerful it actually is: my boys (who at 13 and almost 14 are not usually phased by anything but middle school girls and food) start begging me to get another collar for Zelda. The pheromones wear out, and she gets all wacky again.

I use the spray on her dog bed and sometimes just in the air around where she spends time. It was the only thing that ever got her to even LOOK at the bed, and now she chooses to hang out there quite a bit. Before that she just clung to us all the time. The spray has helped Zelda calm down enough to get a little bit of independence and moderate her neediness. It also smells like lavender and chamomile, and being that she is very much a girly girl, I think she likes that. Okay, I don’t think she cares. But I like it!

Finally, the Stop That. Wow, did that change our entire family life. When Zelda came home to us, she was 1.5 and for the first year, we could have no visitors. She would completely go crazy and do this little thing we liked to call “Cujo-ing Out.” Yes, as in Cujo, the Stephen King movie. She is, as I mentioned, 10 pounds and stands about three inches off the ground (she has what is called dwarf legs, and yes, that is a thing) but she would zealously charge any ankle in her line of site that didn’t belong to a member of our family. She would bark without ceasing – even in another room – and the hair on her back went up and didn’t go back down until said visitor left the premises. Not exactly inviting, and we didn’t have too many people who wanted to visit us twice.

Then we started using the Stop That spray. It stopped her barking and charging immediately, but the best part was this: she would usually stop, then look a bit puzzled (as in, What the heck! Why did I just quiet down?) and then walk away for a while. After a bit of observation, she would then join the socializing! She let people pet her and hold her! Miracle! And now, we don’t have to use the Stop That very often. She has realized that she doesn’t have to be terrified. All of the training we did before the pheromone mist of the Stop That spray did not help her overcome her fear. So needless to say, we are all HUGE fans of pheromone products in my house. (PS. friends who are reading, its safe to return now!)

Now you’re saying, Sweet, Kelly! I want my neurotic (fill-in-blank-with-pet) – side note – does not work on middle school boys, FYI – to be less afraid and neurotic and naughty! But what are pheromones?

So glad you asked!

I had the chance a while back to interview Dr. John McGlone on behalf of Pet Health Central. He’s a professor and re­search scientist who has worked in animal behavior research for several decades. Dr. McGlone has done extensive research on the role of pheromones in the animal world and how those pheromones can be used to help pets overcome problem behaviors. The questions you have are exactly the questions I asked him. (No, I am not psychic and didn’t know you’d later want to know – I actually wanted to know!)

Pet Health Central: For those who are not familiar, can you explain what pheromones are?

Dr. McGlone: Pheromones are chemicals that animals produce and use to commu­nicate information. They travel through the air or in liquid form. They’re then received by another animal in special receptors made for this purpose. Animals respond to these pheromones all through their lives.

Pet Health Central: What’s new in the area of pheromone research and pet behavior?

Dr. McGlone: Years ago, we began to realize that if we understood how dogs and cats experienced their environments, we might be able to have a much greater impact on their misbehaviors. That research has yielded some truly useful results, especially in the area of pheromone therapies — using specifically chosen pheromones in ways that address specific behavior problems.

We’ve found that some of these phero­mones help pets reduce their anxiety and the problem behaviors that can result. Re­search has shown that specific pheromones are even able to change specific problem behaviors. Once the levels of stress are lowered, the underlying cause of the pet’s behavior is addressed. This helps lessen and in some cases eliminate the behavior.

Pet Health Central: What ways are pheromones being used in the SENTRY products?

Dr. McGlone: The patented pheromone in the collars and calming spray mimics the natural neonatal pheromone produced by mothers to calm their young and reduces stress in a new or stressful environment. In scientific studies, this pheromone has been proven to modify both the behaviors and physiology brought on by stress. In clinical testing, the pheromone even reduced pets’ elevated heart rates when exposed to noises and activities that create stress or fear.

The pheromone in the SENTRY Stop That! Spray mimics a natural pheromone that almost immediately calms and refo­cuses dogs to end their negative behav­ior by reducing their excitability. Unlike other noise-making products that are very temporary, the spray’s pheromone mist redirects the dog’s attention and behav­ior. The effect is longer lasting than noise alone and helps the dog not to re-engage in the negative behavior.

If you want to learn more, I encourage you to visit the Good Behavior pheromone product page.

You can also read another piece I wrote, about some fascinating conservation work being done with African Wild Dogs that actually incorporates the pheromone collars!

 

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