If dogs could read the science and go shopping, they’d order probiotics, too. Especially if they were nervous.
Now she waits patiently each night when I crack open a capsule and add it to her evening treat.
This sweet calm Sally is a success discovered at the end of a “what if…” question.
When I came across an article that alerted me to the use of probiotics to calm nervous race horses, I checked the safety for dogs, looked at my nervous, aloof, sometimes aggressive rescue dog and thought… why not?
To spoil the punch line, this is a success story. Probiotics could be a lifeline for some dogs and the people who love them.
Definitely Not a Lab
The rescue group told us Sally was a shepherd-husky-possibly lab mix. Those are all breeds we have owned and loved. We were sure we could handle her issues. But they went deeper than we thought. Her dog-to-dog reactions had already landed her on one daycare no-fly list.
A bit of time with Sally quickly revealed she was not typical of a shepherd or a husky. She certainly was not a lab. We didn’t discover she was a Carolina dog for months. It explained a lot.
But at first, we thought, “well, shelter dogs… you know. They have it rough. We’ll just give her time, protection, relearning, and extra love”.
She needed it. When we adopted her, Sally had come out of a two-week summer day camp that my friend Teena runs. In each session, campers, ages 8-13, each choose a rescue dog, then they care for it and train it.
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 for Sally. She didn’t get along with her camper’s home dogs. She also didn’t learn much, unlike all the other dogs.
At the end of camp, when the dogs are up for adoption, the kids are involved in assessing potential owners. In Sally’s 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’d come from a county animal shelter in Alabama. She looks a little like a white German Shepherd. Rescuers believed she had always lived in the wild. Our home may have been her first indoor experience at somewhere around 8 months old. 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.
Once we got Sally home, she was fun to walk on a leash and learned to do it well, as long as we didn’t meet another dog. She wasn’t a cuddler or leaner. She took herself to bed every night—in a different room. She was also terrified of rain probably because when her camper left her behind each night, she endured near-daily rainstorms, usually alone, in a building with a tin roof. But somehow, she was starting to belong.
We worked on place, sit, stay, and come with great results coming fast. But we still had a problem with friendliness to other dogs. She hated the beagles next door. She growled when other dogs came close.
Almost Ready for Company… Not
So, twice a day, I took her for long walks to work on meeting other dogs calmly. It took weeks, but eventually she was handling well. She even managed nicely the day four off-leash dogs ran out from nowhere and surrounded her. She seemed ready to try a well-run doggie play group under professional guidance.
It was a total fail.
Sally was polite with the greeter dog. But when the team tried to introduce her to a playgroup, Sally slammed on the brakes, tucked tail, and turned into an anchor that wasn’t budging. There was no way in Hades my dog was going through that scary gate where all those other mutts were running loose.
Soon after that, we discovered that Sally is a Carolina dog, which explained a lot. Aloofness, being shy with strangers, and indifference toward other dogs are breed traits. The playgroup incident had also made it clear that at least one reason for her aggression was fear.
It’s a rare dog that cannot be trained and helped along. And Sally was clearly smart and inclined to obey. In fact, it took only two weeks of training to get her to go to her spot on command or to hold a stay for 10 minutes no matter what. She came on command beautifully. She’s the most polite dog we have ever known. She was friendly with us, but not interested in other people, and still did not like other dogs except for one labradoodle puppy down the street.
Then we tried probiotics.
The Probiotic Turnaround Was So Fast It Amazed Me
Sally changed so rapidly, I had no doubt the probiotics were the reason. Within two days, she was noticeably calmer around other dogs. She was less nervous the night it rained. She seemed to improve every day after that.
Today, Sally is an exceedingly calm, well-behaved dog. She remains a Carolina dog who would rather stick to her own family and prefers to sleep near you, but not cuddle
She even plays with dog pals these days.
Sally’s still not a goofy love-everybody-in-the-world lab. But she could probably succeed in a lot of different families now.
Not that we’d give her up. Sally’s a good girl now.
And I’m an even bigger fan of probiotics