Weed Week

I Gave My Dog CBD Oil To Calm Him Down and Help His Separation Anxiety

Spoiler alert: He's still a rowdy boy.

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The first time I heard about cannabis products for dogs was when a video of Permit Patty, the CEO of a pet cannabusiness, went viral after she called the cops on a young girl selling water. Since then, I've been intrigued by the idea of pets using drugs. So I decided to volunteer my own dog for a Weed Week assignment: I was going to see how he responded to cannabidiol (CBD). 

I adopted Bishop from Davidson County Animal Control last August when he was about a year old. Someone found him running around the Nashville streets and sent him off to the shelter. No one claimed him for a month, so I decided to make him a Davis after falling in love with his face online. Shortly after the adoption, I signed him up for basic training. We had some rough patches along the way, but he's been a different dog since his graduation and I worry a lot less when we leave the apartment together.

Bishop Davis after graduating the first level of behavior school.

It's when I leave him in the apartment that the problems begin.

Bishop is crate-trained, so I put him in his nook with some toys, treats, and calming music if I have to leave the apartment for a short period. If I anticipate a longer time away from home, I let him roam the apartment with toys, treats, and calming music. (I've read that crating a dog for too long can have detrimental effects on its mental state.) But each time I leave Bishop to roam free, I almost always hear clawing at the door and crying moments after I shut it.

When I come back, it always looks as though a tornado flew around the room. Bishop knocks down furniture and tears through books and papers. One time I returned to find that Bishop had managed to unlock the front door. While some of this could be chalked up to him being a puppy in need of some more training, I wondered if CBD could help him. CBD has only been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a therapy for two types of treatment-resistant epilepsy in children, but a growing body of research suggests it can treat anxiety as well. 

Perhaps it could even treat anxiety in a dog.

The prep: I reached out to Bishop's trainer and to Jason Amatucci of VA Hemp for some thoughts on my assignment.

"We have found that many pet owners that use CBD for their cats and dogs really love it and say it works for tackling problem behavior or just giving their pet a better sense of overall calm," Amatucci told me. This is comparable, he explained, to the way CBD can reduce anxiety in humans.

Amatucci noted that unlike CBD, THC is actually quite bad for pets. Should a pet mistakenly consume a product with THC in it, a vet can administer activated charcoal to the animal. He added that while CBD products have a trace of THC, it's "not at a level which would cause toxicity."

I also asked Bishop's trainer about using CBD products for pet anxiety since he knows my dog's temperament the best. Essentially, he told me that he's heard of other pet owners using it with success. And since he didn't say anything bad about using it, I decided to continue with the project.

I looked up local CBD shops in Nashville and found no shortage of retailers that carried pet-specific products. I decided to use an oil since it had more potency and could be delivered on a treat, and chose a formulation that apparently tastes like bacon.

Mmmm, bacon.

Day 1: I decided to take Bishop to the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival. I woke up early to go to Mass and came back just in time for Bishop's morning feeding. We had a few hours until we had to meet some friends at the festival.

I grabbed a hard treat and poured a dropper-full of CBD oil on top (the recommended dose was one dropper-full twice a day). I put the treat up to his nose. He sniffed it and turned away.

Lacing his treats.

Oh fudge, I thought.

Bishop will eat anything and everything, except medicine. Bishop is so anti-medicine that his vet once wished me luck when I said I didn't have anyone to help me pour his eye drops. This was after it took three of us to hold him down in her office so she could administer the first dose.

I mentally kicked myself for not considering this possibility and wondered what to do. Then it hit me that I still hadn't fed Bishop.

I had him sit and wait while I poured his food in a bowl. Then I placed the laced treat in the middle, hoping he would accidentally eat it.

The sucker ate it.

Later, I filled a backpack with water, a collapsible water bowl, and some training treats, and we made our way downtown to the festival.

On the drive, I wondered what I could expect for the day. Bishop doesn't bark often, but he can get pretty rowdy if the wrong type of dog passes by. Would the CBD reduce his tendency to lose his mind?

As I wondered this, Bishop was running across the backseat of the car to hang his head out of both windows. Apparently, the oil hadn't kicked in.

And honestly, it never really seemed like it did.

Bishop did well with the training treats, socialized with the other humans, and didn't make any attempts to eat food that didn't belong to him. He even let some of the bigger dogs (his favorite kind) sniff his butt.

The butt-sniffing was about to commence.

But none of this stopped him from freaking out when the wrong sort of dog passed by. He was so crazy that he started to jump on the girls we were hanging out with at the festival. I had to apologize several times and use some basic training tricks to get him to calm down.

The other girls eventually wanted to go up to the observation deck, so I said Bishop and I would take the stairs and meet them there. Halfway up, Bishop's back legs began to shake.

Oh no, I thought. I've poisoned him.

I didn't actually think that he was having a reaction to the CBD oil, but I always briefly entertain the craziest possibilities when it comes to animals (or babies) doing things that I don't understand. Following a water break and a quick trip to the bathroom, Bishop felt better. Then we tried to rejoin the girls, and Bishop's legs started to shake again.

And that's how I learned that despite our hikes at Percy Warner Park, one of the highest points in Nashville, my dog is actually quite terrified of heights.

After Bishop and I got home, I made some dinner, fed him once again, and crocheted while we watched some movies. I chose not to give Bishop the second dose since he was pretty calm for the rest of the evening.

Day 2: Remembering what happened yesterday, I poured Bishop's food and placed another laced treat in the very middle. He ate it, but not before taking it out of the bowl to inspect it first. Then my own anxiety began to build up.

Just eat it already.

Today was Sunday Mass, which runs a whole heck of a lot longer than daily Mass. It was time to let Bishop roam the apartment alone with my poor, vulnerable books and furniture.

I got dressed for Mass and positioned the gates of his playpen in such a way that he'd have to grow human legs in order to reach the front door handle. I left some treats around the apartment, put on some calming nature sounds, and sweated bullets while I begged St. Francis and St. Roch to intercede on my behalf while I was gone.

Then I left. I didn't hear any scratching at the door or crying.

The Palm Sunday Mass was longer than usual. There was the distribution of the palm fronds, a long procession into the church, and the interactive Gospel reading was several pages long instead of several paragraphs. The homily also lasted a bit longer. While everything was beautiful and I left feeling assured about my spiritual life, it didn't stop me from worrying about my apartment as I drove home.

Once inside, I was thoroughly surprised that other than the barrier having been moved, the floor was clear of paper bits. I mentally prepared myself for the worst of it as I walked towards the main part of my apartment.

Where, it turns out, Bishop was relaxing in his crate.

He raised his head and his ears fell while he looked at me. He only does that when he knows he did something wrong.

I checked the rest of the living room, the dining area, the kitchen, my bedroom, and even the bathroom. I couldn't believe that everything was untouched. I secretly thanked the oil and the saints while continuing to look for whatever made Bishop's ears go droopy.

Then I noticed that the blanket I put over my Lovesac was knocked to the floor and there were remnants from Bishop's toy on top. Considering he is well aware that he's not supposed to be on there, I concluded that this was the worst of the offenses.

We spent the rest of the day doing some work and getting prepared for the Game of Thrones premiere. I opted against the second dose again because Bishop was otherwise calm.

What did I learn? At the end of the day, I don't know that the oil had much of an effect on Bishop.

He clearly suffers from some separation anxiety, and he can be aggressive with other dogs. As with humans, drugs can only fix so much of an animal's psychology. I'm also not sure what I can tell from just a couple of doses. I will admit to hoping that the CBD drops would essentially be a miracle cure. That, after just a dose or two, he wouldn't be a bad dog ever.

Clearly, CBD is not a miracle cure for rowdy boys.

Still, I'm open to using it again the next time I leave him home alone. After all, with the exception of the playpen and the beanbag, this was the first time Bishop didn't completely destroy the apartment.

So Bishop can go ahead and enjoy his CBD treats for several Sunday masses to come. As for his behavior when we go out, it looks like I'll be calling his trainer soon.

NEXT: Return of the Reefer-Crazed Killer

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  1. Zuri, you’re a good pal to Bishop. All the best.

  2. Zuri, I am happy that you do not crate your dog for long periods of time. And yes, the chewing up of things is puppy behavior and will get much less over time, if not completely disappear. It’s just like when you have a baby or a little kid. There are challenges, but if you really love the dog they’re worth it.

    People who crate their dogs all day are assholes. Don’t have a dog then. It is a sentient being.

    1. Yeah, puppies are rough on your stuff. Our dog just recently got over that phase. He cost me a fortune because he preferred my wife’s shoes and underwear to his chew toys. At least a grand in shoes, and several hundred in bras got chewed up.

      And no, I didn’t get rid of her even though it cost me so much money. The wife, I mean.

      1. Chortle!

        My dog preferred my shoes to my wife’s. But I generally blamed myself for that; it was always because I didn’t get them put up to a place he couldn’t get them. Same with anything little, like bras. Not that your wife’s bras are little…

        As for furniture, it’s much harder to protect that. But in my experience, dogs don’t go after that as much because they don’t smell good like shoes and bras.

  3. …I almost always hear clawing at the door and crying moments after I shut it.

    Bishop’s not here, man.

  4. CDB is the new hemp shopping bag: It’s trendy and you have to have to be invited to the right parties, but it’s not a miracle solution, it won’t cure cancer, and it won’t usher in world peace.

    1. Puppies are puppies. They’ll chew things up til about age 2. In the meantime, you teach them by letting them know 1) You’re the boss, and 2) You do not approve.

      Dogs are pack animals. After seeing me with my dog, I’ve had countless people ask me if I would train THEIR dog. I always decline saying, “When training a dog, the first thing you have to do is train the owner.” These are probably the truest words you’ll ever hear about training dogs.

      Bottom line: Dogs have to have a “pack” leader. If you’re not it, then they are. If they are, they’ll do whatever they damned well please. If you are, then you can do something like, toss your dog a chicken leg, let them start chomping on it, tell them to fetch the chicken leg, tell them to give it to you (and they will), tell them they’re a good dog and give it back and they’ll go back to chowing down.

      When you reach that point, you’ve achieved the right owner-dog balance. If you can’t do it – your dog is in charge and YOU are the bitch.

  5. I gave some to my dog
    When he began to beg

    …sorry, I have that running through my head for some reason.

  6. Some dogs like another pet, such as a cat or -here it is- another dog. Maybe an older abandoned mellow small dog from the shelter? Maybe you have a senior neighbor that has a dog that can come walk him. If all fails try the unthinkable- dog daycare one day a week or so to really socialize.

  7. >>>It’s when I leave him in the apartment that the problems begin.

    yeah (friendly-like) you had a dog free to roam the streets and now he’s locked up (posh walls are still walls). walk him. a lot. more than once a day. likely he will behave better across the board.

    1. This. He was probably so mellow after the day of walking because he was given an outlet for his energy.

  8. Congratulations! You’ve shown that placebo’s don’t work on animals. This is a great article. Too bad nobody who needs it will read or understand the implications.

    The upshot is this – any time people claim that one substance cures or treats dozens and dozens of different conditions, you can bet that it isn’t true. Just because it has a couple of beneficial effects, don’t fall for the nonsense being spun that goes way beyond any available evidence. And always be skeptical of things that are susceptible to the placebo effect – things like chronic pain, anxiety, fatigue…

    1. Cyanide cures all that.

  9. Now that you gave him an oil change, don’t forget to change your dog’s air filter, check his tires and change his coolant.

  10. Give him THC treats. That will mellow him out but good.

  11. I wanted to respond to your comment:
    “I’m also not sure what I can tell from just a couple of doses. I will admit to hoping that the CBD drops would essentially be a miracle cure. That, after just a dose or two, he wouldn’t be a bad dog ever.”

    As far as the efficacy of CBD oil goes it doesn’t happen overnight. It works on the parasympathetic nerve, slowing the heart rate, lowering the blood pressure, and regulating digestion to rebalance your nervous system, especially after your sympathetic nervous system experiences a “fight or flight” situation.

    From what you wrote it does sound like your dog was benefitting from even the first day. It would be interesting to hear how he is responding to this cbd protocol after 30 days. Don’t give up.

  12. Reading the other comments, exercise is also important. I only run my dog about 2-3 times a week (sometimes more). Generally, the short runs are 8 miles, though we also run an 11 mile course and the longest I’ve had her on was 18 miles. People always think that will wear her out, or “make her sleep”, but the truth is, the distance doesn’t seem to bother her at all. We’re now closing in on 9,200 miles – about 1000 miles a year. I give her pretty much anything she wants to eat – but she’ll never even eat a full bowl of food. Last vet checkup, the (new) vet was surprised. Heart rate was under 100 bpm. The vet told me most dogs are over 200.
    Now at 11 (could be as old as 14 – she’s a “rescue”), we still hit 8 miles 2-4 times a week… but down from 10-12 mph to about 8-10.
    Beyond the first year, I never had any trouble with her damaging anything.
    When I give her a bath, I remove her collar and leave it tub side. Later when she’s dried off, I tell her to go get the collar so I can put it back on. Once, it was taking far too long for her to return. I went to investigate. Turns out the collar was partly wrapped around a shampoo bottle and she was trying to very carefully pull it out without upsetting the bottle. Turns out this is typical behavior for her.
    Good doggie.

  13. Since then, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of pets using drugs

    This is the first time I’ve ever had any interest in having a pet (at least of the non-human kind)

  14. Holy crap! Dogs don’t CBD oil. They don’t need xanax. They need decent training and that’s it. As a professional behaviorist for 15 years, anxiety is one of the easiest things to treat in a dog even separation anxiety. If your trainer can’t help you, find another trainer and don’t worry about supplements.Dogs are not people and they don’t have emotional problems; they have enabling owners.

  15. Holy crap! Dogs don’t need CBD oil. They don’t need xanax. They need decent training and that’s it. As a professional behaviorist for 15 years, anxiety is one of the easiest things to treat in a dog even separation anxiety. If your trainer can’t help you, find another trainer and don’t worry about supplements.Dogs are not people and they don’t have emotional problems; they have enabling owners.

  16. […] a recent Reason article,  Zuri Davis, shared her experience with using CBD oil for her dog, Bishop,  to […]

  17. My dog is anxious or unsettled about car rides. He also is very scared of thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. Where to buy the best quality calming CBD treats for my dog?

    1. I have an extremely anxious, reactive dog I’m working a lot with. I use CBD calming treats and I’m working with a trainer who is good with reactive, anxious dogs. I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to walk Winston without him barking and lunging and things that frighten him. The only place where I was able to purchase high quality CBD treats https://bit.ly/2Aemdnk They are selling CBD products for humans too, so quality is very high. Great price on hard to find treats that my dog loves, plus very quick shipping.

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