If you’re a dog owner and wish there were some special way to turn an ordinary toy into a special doggy treat with the addition of an herb, good news! Dogs are nearly as crazy for anise seed as cats are for catnip.
Anise is a plant that’s sometimes known as fennel (although technically fennel is a different plant) and put in absinthe. It’s best known as what makes licorice taste like licorice. Anise is what it’s called when it’s put into tea and skin cream, and the lures that hunting and racing dogs chase across fields.
Anise seed extract is what coats nearly any nonliving thing that dogs are expected to chase. Hunting dogs will follow a bundle of anise seeds dragged over the ground for hours. It’s also often used to coat the “rabbit” at dog tracks. Occasionally, it’s sprinkled on dog toys, though not as a matter of course; while catnip tends to make cats mellow, anise seed extract revs dogs up and gets them hyper. Not all dogs respond to it to the same degree, but owners don’t appreciate a toy that always makes their dogs go nuts.
Apparently pranksters used to sprinkle anise seed on themselves to get other people’s dogs to come bounding over, or on a friend to get that friend to be mobbed by dogs. That’s not so smart a move, for obvious reasons. It’s also important to give dogs only a moderate amount of anise at any one time. And the ASPCA warns that a great deal of anise seed extract can rile up a dog’s stomach or slightly depress its nervous system. A sprinkle or two in a dog treat or on a favorite toy, however, doesn’t do a dog any harm. So head over to the spice section, or to a store that sells scented oils, if you want to give your dog a fun afternoon.