Dog trainer uses natural oils to calm stressed pooches

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AROMATHERAPY oils are well known for their stress-relieving properties.

But while people have been indulging in the benefits of lavender, tea tree and chamomile for years, man's best friend is now able to enjoy their benefits too.

Dog trainer Lynn Aitchison has been using her aroma- therapy talents to help dogs at the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home (EDCH) after training in the unusual field last year.

She believes the techniques used help the dogs at the home, who are often troubled, become less stressed and anxious.

Mrs Aitchison, known as the "dog lady", lets the dogs choose their scent through sniffing different bottles until they find one they like.

The scent is then poured on to a cotton wool pad and clipped to the dog's cage so it is with them for several hours.

Mrs Aitchison, from Portobello, says the oils can have an almost immediate effect on a dog's behaviour.

Just last week, a nervous terrier was brought into the shelter, and was shaking all over.

Mrs Aitchison brought out some soothing oils and within five minutes, the shaking had stopped.

The 59-year-old said: "With people, you're massaging with aromatherapy oils but with dogs you don't touch them at all. It's purely making use of dogs' more sensitive sense of smell.

"A lot of the time when dogs are brought into the home, their behaviour can be a bit erratic and oils such as lavender and bergamot, which is a stabiliser, can help.

"Geranium, which is a security builder, can often help dogs deal with major upheavals.

"My own dog was attacked quite severely last year by dogs that came out of a house just along the road from me.

"She was petrified to walk past that location because she was convinced this dog was going to come and get her so I did aromatherapy with her.

"I definitely think that made all the difference to getting my dog relaxed when she was passing this house."

She added: "Members of the public could use this technique too if they have moved house or are getting an extension built and there's lots of noise and workmen going about."Mrs Aitchison, who is one of only two dog trainers in Scotland accredited by The Kennel Club, has also trained staff at the EDCH to use the oils to calm the dogs down if and when they need the techniques.

EDCH general manager, David Ewing, said: "Lynn's knowledge is invaluable to our staff, helping them to make our frightened dogs feel safe, making it easier for us to work with them, and preparing them for their new homes.

"Lynn is known as "the dog lady" and as well as sharing her knowledge on aroma- therapy, she spends much of the time during her weekly visits keeping the dogs up to scratch with basic skills, such as "sit" and "stay".

"Because she uses positive treat-reinforced methods, the long-term dogs now see her as "the sweetie lady" and promptly sit as soon as Lynn comes into sight."