CBD & Training Your Dog – A Comprehensive Guide (With Examples!)
CBD is one of the fastest growing parts of the canine industry. And it’s something that is not regulated. Not known much about, and. It’s something I think you deserve to know more about. And because you know, there’s a lot of questions.
The interest in CBD products from dog owners is something that’s growing really rapidly. And it’s totally understandable because it’s marketed as. Something that is potentially almost a cure-all. Which nothing ever is. So, seen as there isn’t much research into the product, and it gets thrown around a lot as a possible solution for everything from your dog’s anxiety to aggressive behavior.
The Investigation Begins…
So in order to find all of these answers, I’ve been trying CBD out with my three dogs in various formats. To see what actually the truth is behind all of this marketing and using my insight as a professional dog trainer to see the calming effect on our training session, on anxious dogs, on aggressive dogs and see
Let’s start this episode with what is CBD? CBD is an oil, a treat. Or an extract essentially that gets included in some. Things consumable by pets, in order to. Achieve a result, the results that CBD offers, typically, pain relief usually by our anti-inflammation. Like antiinflammatories rather,
Or anxiety relief, which sounds phenomenal. And when you’ve got dogs who are prone to anxiety or work with a lot of dogs who are prone to anxiety. It’s something that you sort of go. I need to look into this, which is why I did. So CBD stands for cannabidiol, the C canna, bi B, Diol, D. And it’s actually an extract from hemp.
The Legalities of CBD
And if it’s not an extract from hemp, it would be an extract from actual cannabis. And that is not legal in certain, certainly in the United States and in the UK from my research. But if you’re not in those locations and it’s not actually close to this time, it’s always worth double checking online.
And/or with your vet. And see what’s actually legal in your area. Because obviously. I’m doing this now in. February, 2022. And things change. So currently the status is, is that extracts of hemp are legal. However, they must contain zero or. There is usually a legal limit that there. That is an acceptable limit of T H C.
THC is Tetra hydro cannabidiol. And that is the actual psychoactive part of cannabis, which is what gives it its high. It’s also incredibly toxic to tout dogs.
And obviously we don’t want to be giving that to our pets. Do we?
I would always encourage you to make sure that whichever brand you’re looking into that you thoroughly researched them first because there is a huge problem in this sector of pet care because essentially. It’s not regulated properly. And you only have a company’s word too validate the product, or see whether it’s something that will work for you and your dog.
Now. The best way that I’ve found to do this is, by looking at the lab reports from certain companies. For example, I looked at the lab reports for the company that I chose. And approached to work with for this, investigation, which was, Austin and Kat who were very, very, good. There we go.
When looking at CBD brands for your dog:always check external Lab Reports!Ali Smith, Rebarkable
They essentially gave me a lot of guidance and a lot of, how to use it, what it is, what it does, why it does. And. That’s kind of what I want to share with you. That’s your, what.
Forms Of CBD
So CBD comes in a few forms. It comes in the oil that I just discussed We’ve got. And then we’ve got a few treats, treats a much harder to regulate because the recipe in itself and the mixing process essentially means that it’s going to be very hard to get a pure distribution throughout that recipe.
With that said, some recipes are better than others, and you may need to experiment to find the right one for you and your dog. For example, CBD treats from Honest Paws contain 40mg of Organic Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil (5 mg of that is CBD) in every 9g treat. On average, you should give 5mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of body weight (but build up to this please! Try the instructions below if you’re trying CBD for the first time.
Personally, I’ve been using the oil as preference. Because again, as I said, I have three large dogs. So mine is actually even the extra strength version because. Yeah, three large dogs. Even when you get the low concentrations means that you’re using quite a large volume of C of the, of the oil, which then gets quite expensive. So buying it or obtaining it in the extra strength means that you get that you don’t have to use as much. So it’s that one’s just for money saving purposes would be my tip there.
It has zero change because I have actually tried the lower concentrations on, on my dogs. And it doesn’t vary between the extra strength and the regular strength. So long as you follow the appropriate dosages on the packaging and on the bottle. Speaking of proper dosages and things.
When we’re looking at how to use these things and how to bring CBD into our dogs lives. I will always suggest that you do it slowly. I would pick very, very calm days. To start because you want to get a baseline. Not all dogs are going to react to this the same. It’s really important that you do your own tests essentially, because, because it’s not regulated because you don’t know how it’s going to go.
Or even how your dog is going to handle it. For example, Indie doesn’t do that well on a full dose of CBD. It’s not the effects, any of his internal systems, but it absolutely affects his behavior. In a negative way.
Problems CBD is meant to help with
Fear of loud noises,
In the past decade it’s become the best things since sliced bread … and other pet parents pretty much refer to it as snake oil! But that all depends on how you include this in resolving your behavior problems and as a part of your training process.
*This can also mask normal inflammatory response that may need veterinary input and might be something you want to avoid without talking to a vet.
By the way, if you have issues with car rides, try this.
Benefits of CBD Oil
ProsCalming effectsAnti-inflammatory effectsIncreases tolerancePain reliefRelaxationConsCan mask issuesToo much increases anxietyIndustry isn’t regulatedAffects dogs differently
CBD dog treats or oil?
Personally, I’m a fan of the oil because then I can use it flexibly.
The main difference here is whether the CBD is evenly distributed through the treat batch… otherwise controlling dosage becomes way harder. Remember too, if you want treats, you can make your own cbd oil treats!
Suggested CBD Oil Products
Austin & Kat – CBD chews
We love these for random moments that I just want them to chill a smidge. This is what I go for for a surprise guest or similar if they’re having a rough, or rambunctious day and I instinctively know they’re going to bounce over Grandma… Check PriceAustin & Kat – Extra Strength CBD oilThis is our big event sort of CBD, this is what most of our tests were done with. This is perfect for fireworks, for big stress events, y’know? This is what we use it for – and love it for.Check PriceHonest Paws Calm tinctureThis is a product that we use in a similar way to the austin and kat, but it’s definitely going to be better for smaller dogs and single-dog homes.Check Price
How To Introduce CBD
Step 1 – Pick a down time
Pick a time that is naturally low stress (aka, don’t test it in a dog park…).
The way I would always recommend to introduce this is to work up slowly. Look at the maximum dosage that you’re meant to give your dog, whatever the guideline says on the box, on the packaging or similar. And start off at a fraction of that.
For example, if it says that you’re meant to use up to a single millilitre, within a day, then maybe give them an eighth of a milliliter and see how they do see how that changes their behavior. See if it changes their behavior at all, because it might not, but we want to make sure that their insides are okay with it, that their behavior doesn’t change. Adversely. And we want to see that it has the desired effect. Ideally.
Compare to your dogs ‘normal’ behavior and see if there is any difference.
Step 2 – Find the Sweetspot with Dosage.
The maximum dosage suggested on the product might not always be the right measurement, and I’ve found that usually, going all the way to the top end, actually has a negative effect on calm behavior…
Pick a similarly good time to test where your dog isn’t encountering stress, and increase the dosage in small increments.
Your sweetspot is where your dog can still listen, respond and react appropriately, but they should have an increased tolerance and patience.
For us, it was a case that I found that his sweet spot was about half of the recommended dosage. Which worked really well for him whenever I needed to do it, but I will get into the situations where I’ve used it a little bit later. Whereas with the hounds, they thrived about three quarters of the dose that they were meant to have. So just because that says a recommended dosage does not make that dosage, that your dog should receive.
Please do test it. Please do look at it and please do monitor your dog’s behavior from a baseline and to decide whether this is the most productive way of using the product.
3 – Add in ‘issues’
And once you’ve run those tests, you can then either use it sort of intermittently for a spontaneous event. So, if something happens that’s beyond your control and your training, isn’t quite where you need it to be. This is a great time to take advantage of the CBD because essentially it creates.
To me, it, it can bridge training. And it can mean that you don’t lose training and it can mean that you can keep progressing as opposed to not,
4 – Use It In Practice.
This is when I would then start using it as a part of your training, and this way you know for sure that you’re getting the best effect out of the CBD and using it correctly.
Or, you can, of course use it in a more continued fashion that more continued fashion can be, for pain management. It can be for pain relief. It can be for genuine behavioral problems.
However, if you are looking at longer term usage of CBD. I would always consult your vet.
I should also say I am not a vet. I am a trainer. This is my personal insight into this. It’s not necessarily a medical guide. If you do want more information, please do talk to your vet. Please do talk to them. As long as you’ve got a fantastic responsible vet who is doing their research, you will get a great reliable opinion.
It should also be obvious, but…. whether you have an old dog, or a young dog, CBD should never replace prescription medication without consulting your vet.
Training, regardless of where and when, is imperative. CBD will not fix the majority of problems. From loose lead to puppy biting, you cannot make up for training with medication and I would never expect to see CBD used with puppy training.
When Not To Use CBD.
There are a few things to be aware of when we do look at CBD, there is, there are a few instances where CBD is not an appropriate choice for your dog. And largely that is if they’ve already got internal problems. So if they’ve got organ issues if their kidneys aren’t functioning, right. If their liver is not quite operating how it should. These are the times that you should just be not considering CBD in the slightest.
If they’re taking any preexisting medication again, probably not for you.
Or if they’re struggling with things like dehydration.
Then, I don’t want to see you using CBD with puppies for ‘normal puppy behavior’, it’s not okay, it’s not a way to stave off destructive behaviors, or to nerf your elements of your dog breed and their needs. Meet their needs first!!
It’s also good to note that CBD can actually increase anxiety. It can cause diarrhea. It can mosque pain very much in a similar way to. If you’ve ever tweaked your back or something like that, you take some painkillers and go, oh, I’m okay. Now. And then you do something and you make it worse. Pain is there for a reason, and it often stops us from hurting ourselves more or doing more damage to something that’s already damaged.
So. If that is the case with your dog then it could mask more pain and create more problems. So that’s a very good thing to be aware of.
Obviously do not exceed the recommended dosages, do not go overboard on that start low workup and. Focus on your dog’s wellbeing, not on anything else. And speaking of that, CBD is absolutely not. And I really do mean this.
CBD Cannot Replace Training.
CBD is not a replacement for training (positive reinforcement training at that, please). Under no circumstances. Should you be medicating a dog before trying to adjust their behavior with training. Okay. Especially not self-medicating your dog.
That’s not an acceptable way to deal with the problem, because it’s not going to deal with the problem. It’s just going to cover it up for a little while. Yeah, please. Don’t do it. Not worth it. I promise you if you need help with anything like that. Give me a shout and we’ll book in a bark day or similar, and we will get you and your dog through whatever it is that they need to get through.
Potentially with the aid of CBD, but probably not. So. Yeah, it’s a very, like most tools in the industry. If you use it right. It works really well. But if you try and use a collar to. pull sled, it’s going to cause problems for you and your dog.
So let’s have a quick chat about how I’ve used it, what experiences I’ve had with it. And I’m, I’m talking the good and the bad here.
Lucy’s showing off her goat-like nature by standing on things that are taller than her – she’s a show off, huh?
Test: Lucy & Her Baseline…
Let’s start with the one of the bad times. Cause I like to do the bad stuff first because I feel like it gives you guys a really good insight into. The process and that there are potentially drawbacks.
So I was using CBD with Lucy. I’m testing it out with her and seeing how it would go and finding that, that sweet spot that I talked about. And it turns out. I must’ve given her the wrong dose at the wrong time.
And this is why I say it’s really important to do it when your dog is at a normal. So at a general I’m happy peaceful, I’m not stressed about anything state. Because I clearly caught Lucy when she was slightly more stressed. Than I thought she was. And as a result, it actually spiked her anxiety.
It actually made her worse. And it’s really good to know these things because. There was a very fine balance to be struck. Essentially you can learn from my errors and that’s a good thing.
So, yeah. Take away from that one, make sure they’re at a normal before you use this. So don’t use it when your dog is already stressed and you’re walking into the vet’s office. That’s not going to work, use it when they’re at a calm point in the day and then build them up through the event, not in any other way.
Test: Shelby & Fireworks
So, and a good example of that was how I used it with Shelby. For, July 4th.
So. My being British and living in America caused this moment of pure ignorance. I can’t say it in a better way. That when we came round to July 4th, my very first in the us last year. I had no idea that it was going to be as many fireworks as there was.
I knew Shelby had a problem and I knew that she was scared of the loud noises. And I had been working with her through this.
However, I thought there was going to be a couple. I had no idea that there was a local display. And. Yeah, consequently, my training wasn’t quite where I would have hoped it would be come the night of July 4th. And. That was when I first started really, really testing with CBD, because I was like, I want something that’s going to bridge this and push us through this, as opposed to me losing all this training that we’ve done with Shelby.
This was one of the ways we kept Shelby calm for her night of fireworks! If you want to know more about the part CBD played in Shelby’s fireworks success, check out A Masterclass In Fireworks Success – For Shelby’s Fear-Free 4th Of July!
With a little bit of help from Austin and Kat, bless them. We got Shelby through it. Shelby. Shelby nailed it. Shelby is pretty much now through her fear of fireworks. We’ve not really had any incidents since, because I didn’t lose any progress through that night. And the way we did that was two, two or three days before the event we started Shelby on a very low dose. Okay. Because this, this thing kind of eliminates the, the element of trigger stacking or general increases in stress.
We started a very low dose, two, three days before. And I would put it in with mealtime. So they’d get a dose at, in the morning and a dose in the evening.
And it would be a case that. It’d be a very low dose to start. Slightly higher dose and slightly higher until I brought it up to the maximum. And I think she was on the maximum for about 24 hours prior to fireworks. But that was to cover anybody who was going to be letting all fireworks early and making sure that that didn’t add into Shelby stress levels.
So I used it there and, and bridged her through that gap or that potentially problematic area. And it worked a treat. And then I weaned her off it on the other side, and it was all very simple, very easy. And she had no issues. We had a very peaceful fireworks night. Which I wasn’t expecting. So I was very pleasantly surprised.
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Indie on a hike with us when we had guests, he’s also wearing his perfect fit harness here, demonstrating a wonderful durability.
Test: Indie & Guests
Another example of where it’s gone wrong would be with Indie. When I got him to a too high, a dose for him. So, as I said earlier, there is a bit of a sweet spot for your dog. And how much CBD that they will thrive on. So we had guests over and essentially I wanted to make sure that the dogs were just a smidge easier because the guest. One of the guests we had was older, was less able, and I didn’t want my three large dogs who cumulatively weigh more than.
More than most people, causing more damage, than they needed to given that we’ve not seen a huge amount of guests since COVID happened. And actually since I’ve been in the states, so, whilst they were on lead and whilst they’ve been trained for these things, it was just a. A fail-safe and an opportunity for me to test. So we did. Naturally.
And what that led to was me finding the Indie, couldn’t. Indie was actually less able to focus on higher dosages of CBD, which meant that all my training with him, all my ability to direct him, change him. And. Rely on his cues. Kind of went out of the window. So. Yeah, there’s a sweet spot. Find it for your dog. And I found that his. His anxiety decreased and his behaviour remained the same. At a lower level. Of CBD. So. Good to know, and it was something I found out for, for the usages.
Test: Indie & meeting new dogs
Indie was a reactive dog, so meeting new dogs is something that is still done with caution and must be done in a ‘proper’ way (see here for more info on that by the way!). So, I’ve tested it with him by using him with a stooge dog and introducing Indie to a new furry friend and seeing how it compares. And what I seen was improved behaviour and a quicker settle time with the new dog.
Test: Indie & The Plane Ride
So, yeah, let’s, let’s talk about Indie again, actually, because the other time I used, CBD was with Indie when we did our flight to America. This was CBD that I bought in the UK. It’s not the same as the Austin and kat stuff, but it was my first real look into CBD because I had, again, another situation that.
Whilst I could do a certain amount. That final little piece was going to be missing. So for Indie and the plane ride, I made huge efforts. To desensitize plane noises inside the cabin and outside the cabin. To desensitize the airport itself to desensitize the volume of a plane in actuality. And to do every process that I possibly could.
The only thing that I couldn’t do was mock up the situation within the cabin. Because that’s a pretty unique situation. I mean, we did public transport. We made sure that we’d done things in that area, but I feel like an actual plane cabin. Is quite unique and, Yeah, wasn’t something I could really mock up that. Well, so the first flight that we took, I knew could be a problem and I didn’t want it to become a problem because.
The flight from the UK to the US is eight hours long. And if I had a very stressed German shepherd on a plane for that long. That’s not very good for anybody. And whilst I was quite certain that it wasn’t going to go that way.
Indie the german shepherd on the plane to America, long haul flights are tough on dogs – but sometimes it’s worth it – If you want to read more about his journey here check it out International Travel With Your Dog & 8 Tips To Get It Right!
Indie’s these great in human situations in anything human. He excels.
But there’s always the time that it goes wrong and I’d spoken to the vet and the vet had sort of said, there’s no, we can’t actually medicate him. So, you know, we, we can’t give him Xanax or anything like that, because it will actually interfere with his ability to respond to turbulence. And that was something I’d never considered. But, instead I went for something that would just try and bring him down. We tried valerian root and things like that previously and had, had very minimal success with it. I’d not noticed any real difference in Indie and his behavior whilst using valerian root.
So I tested out some CBD before we left, made sure he was fine on it and then used it for the plane. Again, it, where that one was because it was a shorter period that we to get through and I didn’t think it was going to be as much of a problem as it, as the fireworks would be for Shelby. We did. I think it was about a quarter dose, for breakfast. And then half a dose before we got on the plane. And then we went onto the plane and he was absolutely fine throughout.
And we didn’t actually bother giving him a second dose on the plane, despite the eight hour trip.
So. From my experience that worked really, really well. It was a case that.
He became just that little pinch, more relaxed. And I know that he settled very, very quickly on the plane. Which was awesome. Whether we can totally attribute that, attribute that to CBD. I can’t exactly say, but. I don’t think it hindered any situation.
So the point of all of these examples is that you can use it as a bridge. You can use it as a five or 10%. But you cannot use it as a replacement for training.
Natural urges? Also something that doesn’t really get impacted by CBD.
The Last Thing With CBD & Dog Training
That’s how I’ve found that CBD works the very best and when coupled with training, it does make things easier. And if you do need any help with any of this, please just let me know. I’m always happy to talk about these things. I’m always happy to go through these things with you because.
There’s not a whole lot of information out there and it gets very confused, very, very easily. Because it’s quite complicated. And having had firsthand experience of it. And being a trainer with good insight into dogs, I would like to think. We’ve definitely seen some great results.
It’s something I can help you with and whether we have a quick chat on Instagram or we book it a full bark day to look at your problems. We can do that. That’s something we can do. And. I am totally confident that we can get you through whatever it is with your dog that you’re struggling with.
Again, I would advise if you’re looking at this as a long-term solution that you do talk to a Vet however, if it is a bridging training activity, Or you would look at it in that context. That’s certainly something that I can help you with.
CBD isn’t without potential side effects, but it can also help if you introduce it correctly and use it for the right situations (like stressful situations!). Always discuss with your veterinary team about it’s short term use or if you’re thinking about introducing it for everyday life, or with your trainer or behaviorist as part of a behavior modification plan.