Training an adopted dog with entrenched behaviors is never easy. They are anxious about new spaces, new humans, and new routines, and they bring months or years of instincts and unknown history to their new homes. While there is no substitute for quality bonding time and positive reinforcement, there are tools to help ease the transition—and CBD has certainly helped Bodie, our four-year-old Australian Shepherd mix, settle into our lives.
As first-time dog owners, we wanted Bodie to integrate seamlessly within a few short weeks of joining our family. We quickly discovered, however, that the border collie in him tried to herd everything that moved, the Aussie wouldn’t leave our sides, and the cattle dog wanted nothing more than to run all day long. He panicked when we left him alone, he started at any sudden noise, and he spent most of his time at doggy day care chasing his tail in circles. With so much uncontrolled anxiety, he was difficult to train and, honestly, difficult to enjoy.
Bodie’s breed mix and lived experience required 1,000 percent more attention than we were expecting. We tried to be proactive about addressing the problem—a quick look at our Google history would reveal “border collie” “anxiety” and “energy solution” as top search terms—and we tested everything we read.
The day care staff, who likely were as exasperated as we felt, suggested CBD oil as a next step, and our veterinarian agreed. CBD is becoming more widely accepted as a natural alternative for aiding sleep, lessening anxiety, and even managing epilepsy and chronic pain. The non-psychoactive compound is also thought to be safe and effective for treating similar conditions in animals as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.
The evidence in favor of using CBD oil for pets is largely anecdotal, with owners and vets alike reporting that hemp-based supplements may reduce pain and anxiety in dogs and cats. But more studies are on the horizon! Researchers at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital are running clinical trials to assess the impact of CBD on certain canine health conditions like epilepsy and arthritis.
We gave Bodie his first few doses in the form of treats containing just 2 mg of CBD each. He ate two in the morning and two in the evening, but we noticed no real change in his behavior over the course of nearly a week. We concluded that he probably required a higher dose, and since we didn’t want to feed him so many high-calorie treats in one sitting, we switched to CBD oil to mix into his food.
Bodie spent the evening moving slowly, struggling with depth perception—he stared at his bed before plopping down on the floor next to it—and acting disoriented. Even though CBD doesn’t provide a high the way THC will, it does come with some risks with higher doses.
We quickly dialed in the correct amount for his size and anxiety level. He now gets between 5 and 10 mg of CBD, depending on who is feeding him, twice a day. It’s still a strong dose, but it’s within a safe range and doesn’t affect his ability to function.
A few months later, we still see the subtle effect of CBD on Bodie’s behavior, and although it isn’t a miracle cure for his idiosyncrasies, it takes the edge off so he can focus on his training, relax after exercise, and interact with us, our friends, and the day care staff in a calm and measured manner. He still dislikes the coffee grinder and would prefer never to be left alone, but he can direct his attention to a task for longer and is content to spend most evenings cuddling rather than bouncing off walls. With a combination of exercise, positive reinforcement, and the right dose of CBD, we are seeing the results we have been hoping for since Day 1.