Practitioner Bulletin no. 17, January 1998

Happy new year!

The practitioner training course started in September 1991 at Mount Vernon, and the first practitioners were registered on 17th January 1992. Since then, the register has grown steadily, but its numbers are now increasing in leaps and bounds.

1997 was a fantastic year: the first people trained under the Bach International Education Programme joined the register, which grew by more than 25%, and Bach Centre-approved courses were launched in many new countries around the world, such as Japan, New Zealand and Canada.

All of us here and at BIEP are working hard to extend the education programme, including practitioner training and registration, as widely as possible. But to succeed we also need a dedicated and experienced team of trainers and co-ordinators, and the support of all practitioners, and we really do appreciate your hard work and enthusiasm very much indeed.

We hope that 1997 was as good to all of you as it was to us, and that 1998 will prove even better for all of us as we work together to move forward and make Dr Bach’s dream come true:

Everyone one of us is a healer, because every one of us at heart has a love for something, for our fellow-men, for animals, for nature, for beauty in some form, and we every one of us wish to protect and help it to increase.

Everyone of us also has sympathy with those in distress, and naturally so, because we have all been in distress ourselves at some time in our lives.

So that not only can we heal ourselves, but we have the great privilege of being able to help others to heal themselves, and the only qualifications necessary are love and sympathy.

– Dr Edward Bach, 1932

Talk to the animals

by Heather Simpson

As the animal behaviourist for a busy holistic veterinary practice, I have learnt over the past few years that the Bach remedies can be administered with excellent results to animals of all types and all ages. Companion animal behaviour counselling is a relatively new science, but pet owners are gradually realising that it is possible to modify the unwanted behaviour of their animals – and not so long ago, the only solutions to pet behaviour problems were re-homing or euthanasia.

Whereas a human counsellor selects remedies for her client by listening to her client’s problems and reading her client’s body language, as an animal behaviour counsellor, I have to get my information on the animal’s problem from a number of sources:

  • Clinical data from the referring veterinary surgeon: this information is vital because sometimes an animal’s unacceptable behaviour is a result of pain or trauma from recent surgical procedures, or of medication causing unwanted side-effects. So a thorough knowledge of all the diseases found in animals, as well as all the veterinary drugs and procedures used to treat them clinically, is an essential part of a professional behaviourist’s job.
  • Information from the owner: on the face of it, this would seem to be the most obvious source of details about the animal (and of course, most times it is). But an animal behaviour counsellor’s job is often complicated by the fact that not everyone in the family sees the pet’s problem in the same way. A typical example would be where the wife wants to get rid of the dog because it makes a mess in the house and chews furniture, and the husband wants to keep the dog and therefore makes excuses on the dog’s behalf throughout the consultation
  • Information from the animal: an animal’s behaviour towards me at the surgery or at its stableyard can communicate more about the root cause of a problem than any human input could ever give. For instance, a rabbit that bites a child can be quickly interpreted by a mother as being aggressive, whereas its solitary life, immobile posture, flattened ears and quivering nose suggests terror at being picked up by the child. Biting is pure defence from the rabbit’s perspective.

This is where an animal behaviourist’s academic and practical training should come in to its own. To have prescribed Holly as a remedy for an “aggressive” rabbit would not solve either the owner’s problem or save the rabbit from euthanasia. It is my job to help the owners learn to read their animal’s body language and to understand the human-animal relationship from the perspective of the animal in question. This will make it possible to select the correct remedies and strategies for changing the unwanted behaviour.

In this hypothetical example, I would explain that rabbits are prey animals and highly social. A solitary rabbit in a hutch in the garden does not have any opportunity to live out a normal existence of burrowing and breeding, and will have a heightened sense of fear and isolation. From a rabbit’s point of view, in the wild, it would only be lifted up off the ground as it was about to be eaten by bird of prey or carnivore.

So we need to be mindful of the rabbit’s feelings/emotions. I might give Mimulus for fear of being picked up, and Cherry Plum for resorting to biting in blind panic when it was at its most disorientated, and did not realise that it literally was biting the hand that feeds. Sometimes Rock Rose can be indicated for this state of fear too.

In addition to suggesting remedies, I would assist the client by providing a daily program designed to desensitise the rabbit to fear of being picked up. Where appropriate, I would try to persuade the client to consider making the rabbit’s life a happier one by providing it with a more interesting cage with natural “furniture” that a rabbit would encounter in the wild – this is what behaviourists refer to as “environmental enrichment”.

Whilst I have used a pet rabbit as an example, the broad approach remains the same regardless of the animal being treated. The table below shows the basic behaviour of different species, from which a behaviourist will begin to analyse unusual or abnormal behaviour in an individual animal. For example, horses in general are unlikely to need Vine as a type remedy because of their instinctive prey-orientated behaviour. Domineering characteristics are not part of their usual behaviour. Only by thoroughly understanding normal behaviour, can we begin to treat an animal with the remedies for behaviour that we find abnormal to us or distressing for the animal.

AnimalTypeOffensive strategyDefensive strategy
DogPredator – social, territorialNumerous phases of aggression from staring to bitingNumerous phases of submission from tail wagging to urination
CatPredator – social, territorialFlight-avoidanceFights back only when cornered
HorsePrey animal – social, nomadicFlight-avoidanceKicking, biting etc. when threatened
Hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, etc.Prey animals – most social, very few solitary, some territorialFlight-avoidanceImmobility, hiding, kicking, biting etc.

This process is, I believe, comparable to Dr. Bach’s analysis of humans according to type and mood. Our pet animals can be categorised too, by indications of type and mood, and according to a given situation. At the veterinary practice where I am based we have had occasion to use each of the 38 remedies at one stage or another (not all at once, though!). This suggests that animals have a complex depth and range of behaviour patterns and emotions comparable to that of humans – a notion with which I fully concur.

Dosage – the last word?

Many beginners to the Bach remedies are used to buying strong drugs, issued with dire warnings of the dangers of taking too much or too little of them. For such people the very simplicity of the dosage instructions for the remedies can be a problem. But even experienced users are not immune from the occasional bout of confusion, and we have had a couple of requests from practitioners for clarification on the why’s and wherefores of dosage. So here it is – and we hope this intervention doesn’t just make things more confusing!

First, the recommended minimum dosage is four drops from a treatment bottle, taken four times a day. This is the dosage that we at the Centre always recommend to callers.

Taking four drops four times a day is of course equivalent to taking 16 drops per day, which can be thought of as the minimum daily dose. This leads to the question: can I take my daily dose of remedies in two doses of eight drops, or one of sixteen?

The answer is that if someone finds it absolutely impossible to take the daily minimum in four equal doses, then two doses of eight drops or one dose of 16 drops will at least make sure that the daily 16 drops are taken. But it is not as effective as taking the remedy four times a day.

Similarly taking eight doses of two drops, or sixteen of one drop, will not be as effective because each single dose is too weak. In practice, then, we rarely if ever need to recommend anything to clients other than the standard four drops four times a day.

What if your client is going to be at work all day and can’t take the remedies with him? Should we be recommending two lots of eight drops? The answer in general is ‘no’, because the drops can still be spaced out at intervals, for example four drops on first getting up, four drops an hour later on leaving for work, four drops on coming home and four drops before bed. This is still better than giving two lots of eight drops.

Beyond the daily dose (16 drops in 24 hours), taking more of the remedy at one time makes no difference. So four doses of eight, 16, 32, or 5,000,000 drops is no more effective than four doses of four drops. The way to get through acute crises is not to take more remedy at one go, but to take the four drop dose more often.

Similarly, the amount of water or other liquid that the dose is diluted into is not relevant as long as all the liquid is drunk at one go. So for example you could give a horse four drops from a treatment bottle mixed into a large bucket of water, and as long as the horse is drinking four buckets of water a day then it will be getting its daily dose (four buckets, with four drops in each, equals 16 drops). Of course, this is not ideal, since each single dose (each drink that the horse has from the bucket) will probably contain less than four drops. That is why the normal recommendation for animals is to put ten drops of crisis formula stock in a bucket of water for larger animals, and four stock drops of any single remedies. The aim is to ensure that the animal gets at least the four drop dose each time it takes a drink.

Why do we insist so much on the ‘four drops four times a day’ formula? The answer is that it has been found over time to be an effective dosage for everybody. Not only that, but if we all give out the same instructions to our clients the confusion over dosage should lessen. So even if you feel that your client should take the remedies more frequently, it is probably better to give your instructions as ‘four drops four times a day, or more frequently if you want to’, rather than specifying, say, eight doses in a day.

The postbag is now open for correspondence, so if anything is not clear please write to the usual address!

In the next issue…

  • The remedy-making season starts again
  • Your letters

…and much, much more!

Thank you to everyone who has submitted articles or written to us with information to share. Please keep it coming – we enjoy hearing from you and what you have to say is always of interest to fellow practitioners.

Change of address

Please remember to tell us if you are moving. We don’t want to lose you!

And finally…

If there is anything that you would like to see in the Bulletin, and it isn’t here already, tell us. Even better, write it yourself and send it in! – All the best, Judy and Stefan.


This archive material has been edited to remove some out-of-date advice and information.