How Do I Find A Calming Product For My Dog?
Say goodbye to car-ride panic 👋
Did you know that dogs can get anxiety just like people?
A lot of things can cause anxiety in dogs, such as thunderstorms, travel, vet visits and fireworks. And while it can be sad to see your dog so stressed out, there are tons of dog calming products you can buy to help him. But how can you find the best one for your dog?
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, and Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, to get some expert advice on how to find the best calming products for your dog.
- Best calming chew: Zesty Paws Calming Bites Soft Chews for Dogs
- Best calming dog collar: ADAPTIL Calming Collar for Dogs
- Best anxiety jacket: ThunderShirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket
- Best calming diffuser: ADAPTIL Dog Calming Pheromone Diffuser
- Best calming toy: Busy Buddy Calming Treat Dispenser Dog Toy
- Best calming mat: Paw 5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
- Best calming plush: SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy
- Best calming capsules: Vetoquinol Zylkene Calming Supplements for Medium Dogs
- Best calming food: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Calm Dry Dog Food
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs
How can you tell if your dog has anxiety? Some signs of anxiety in dogs include:
- Licking his lips
- Lethargy or hyperactivity
- Tucking his tail
- Flattening his ears
- Trying to escape or hide
Will dog calming products cure your dog’s anxiety?
Dog calming products probably won’t cure your dog’s anxiety, but they can help to manage the symptoms.
“There is unlikely to be a single product that will ‘cure’ your dog’s behavioral issue,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo. “Rather, these products should be viewed as tools you use alongside other methods when it comes to treating disorders, such as phobias and anxieties.”
The best way to help your dog’s anxiety is to get to the bottom of what’s causing it, which you can try to do with the help of your vet. Calming products should be used along with other therapies recommended by your vet.
“Behavioral disorders are notoriously difficult to address and resolve, and it is usually an ongoing process,” Dr. Simon said. “Work with your vet and a canine behaviorist to ensure you give your dog the best chance.”
Along with using calming products, you can also help manage symptoms by making sure your dog has an outlet for his stress, such as exercise.
“Dogs with anxiety need to make sure that their exercise needs are being met daily,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “Dogs who are bored or have too much energy develop anxiety and stress more often than pets who meet their daily exercise needs. I recommend exercising your dog for a minimum of one hour [per day] to help prevent anxiety. Exercise options can include walks, running, fetching a ball, swimming or chasing a lure.”
Benefits of calming products for dogs
Dog calming products can be super helpful to ease both your and your dog’s anxiety. They can be used on a daily basis if your dog has general anxiety or separation anxiety, or for specific situations, such as trips to the vet, thunderstorms or car rides.
“Calming products for dogs help reduce stress and anxiety while creating environmental enrichment to prevent boredom,” Dr. Burch said.
Types of dog calming products
There are tons of different types of dog calming products. The type of product that you decide on for your dog will depend on your dog’s individual needs and your vet’s recommendation.
Calming products for dogs include:
- Oral supplements and chews
- Compression jackets
- Pheromones (diffusers, collars)
- Prescription medications
- Interactive toys
- Dog food with calming supplements
How to find the best calming products
If your dog has anxiety, talk to your vet to find out what they recommend for your pup.
“Discuss with [your vet] which calming products they would advise for your dog, as each individual will have different needs,” Dr. Simon said.
You should also do some research on the products you’re getting for your dog to make sure they actually work and are safe for him.
“When choosing a calming product for your dog, I recommend looking for products developed by a veterinarian or verified by a veterinarian,” Dr. Burch said.
To help you find the best dog calming products, The Dodo rounded up some of our picks and veterinarian recommendations — so you and your dog can both relax.
These calming chewables contain Suntheanine, sensoril ashwagandha, chamomile, valerian root and L-tryptophan — pretty much everything your pup needs to keep him relaxed. They come in two yummy flavors, turkey and peanut butter, so your dog will think he’s getting a treat. One review from a dog parent said, “These have been great at helping my dog calm down and mellow out. She has pretty bad separation anxiety, so I have been giving them to her when I know I will be leaving the house for a few hours. She loves peanut butter, so getting her to take them is no problem. Will be keeping these in rotation for her!”
“Natural calming supplements contain ingredients such as L-tryptophan, lemon balm, melatonin and chamomile,” Dr. Simon said. “These supplements are generally safe, cost effective and available without prescription. There are many options available, including these tasty calming bites from Zesty Paws.”
A calming collar is a great option to keep your dog relaxed in any situation, since it will follow your dog wherever he goes. Your dog’s body heat activates the collar to release pheromones that help to calm his anxiety.
“Products which release dog appeasing pheromone (DAP), such as the Adaptil collar or plug-ins, can be useful,” Dr. Simon said. “DAP is a synthetic pheromone that mimics the chemical a mother dog releases while nursing her pups. It is especially useful for separation anxiety and noise phobias, and can be used for dogs of all ages.”
A ThunderShirt is basically a compression shirt for dogs. It can be used for any stressful situation, such as car rides, trips to the vet and fireworks. One review from a dog parent said, “Both [my dog] and myself are getting a full night's sleep now during rain, wind, thunder and lightning storms!!! This is the BEST product ever!!!”
“I recommend the ThunderShirt by ThunderWorks as the best calming jacket,” Dr. Burch said. “Like swaddling a baby or using a weighted blanket, a compression jacket will apply gentle and constant pressure to your dog's torso. The gentle pressure releases the calming hormone oxytocin and endorphins.”
Another awesome pheromone calming option is a diffuser that releases dog pheromones. Put the diffuser in the room where your dog spends most of his time, such as where his bed is located, to keep him relaxed.
“I recommend using Adaptil Calm pheromone diffusers and collars,” Dr. Burch said. “The pheromones used are synthetic hormones that mimic the ones produced by mother dogs to calm their young. Having this pheromone available for your dog to smell and stimulate the olfactory system can reduce anxiety.”
A lot of dogs will use chewing as a form of self-soothing. So to avoid your pup chewing on your furniture, you can give your pup an interactive chew toy to help with his anxiety. The toy can be filled with treats or food to keep your pup engaged until he gets to the treats.
“Offer your dog unique chew toys with sensory nubs, especially if they love to chew,” Dr. Burch said. “Many dogs will use chewing as a form of self-soothing during an anxious time. The nubs also give an additional benefit in aiding in dental cleaning and health. The specific toy with which most dogs find the most entertainment is the Busy Buddy Calming Toy.”
Snuffle mats are interactive toys that require your dog to sniff around and find treats hidden in the mat. The fabric mimics grass or plants to stimulate natural foraging instincts in your dog. Hunting around the mat for food and treats provides mental stimulation for your pup and keeps him busy, and active and engaged dogs are less likely to become anxious.
“I recommend using lick mats or snuffle mats for dogs during a meal or treat time,” Dr. Burch said. “Using toys that allow your dog to repetitively lick or use their nose to find their food will create a soothing feeling. If these products are used during a potentially scary event, your dog will positively associate it with the event instead of anxiety and fear.”
This toy received The Dodo’s Paw of Approval! It’s a stuffed puppy that comes with a heating pad and a battery-powered heartbeat simulator to create a comforting feeling for your dog. It’s also machine-washable and comes with extra batteries. And it comes in a bunch of different colors, so you can pick one to match your pup. The toy helped calm anxiety and whining in two out of three of The Dodo’s dog judges! (The third dog loved the toy for playing, so you can always use it for that too, since playing is another way to keep anxious dogs distracted.)
Dr. Burch recommends Zylkene as a natural dog calming product. This product is clinically proven to relieve stress without any drowsy side effects. It contains alpha-casozepine, which is a natural protein found in cow’s milk that promotes relaxation in babies and has a similar effect on dogs. It’s also lactose-free, so it’s great for dogs who are lactose intolerant or have sensitive stomachs. It comes in a capsule, so you can give the whole thing to your dog, or if he’s picky, you can break it open and mix it in with his food.
“I recommend looking for products containing L-theanine, magnolia, philodendron extracts, whey protein concentrate, thiamine or alpha-casozepine,” Dr. Burch said. “Depending on the supplement used, it may take up to six weeks to see the full effect.”
This dog food is a complete and balanced dog food that has the nutrients your pup needs to stay healthy, plus it contains calming ingredients alpha-casozepine, L-tryptophan and nicotinamide (vitamin B). You need approval from your vet to buy this type of food, so talk to your vet if you’re interested in trying it out for your dog.
“Some food manufacturers are now making dog foods aimed at anxious dogs,” Dr. Simon said. “Fed daily, they may help your dog to stay calm in stressful situations. We would not expect an immediate or obvious effect, but long-term, there may be some impact from feeding a food such as this. Royal Canin Calm is one example of a complete dog food aimed at those who need some help staying calm.”
If your dog has severe anxiety, your vet might also suggest prescription medication.
“[These products] may not be strong enough for those with moderate to severe anxiety issues,” Dr. Simon said. “For these individuals, prescription anxiolytics [medications to reduce anxiety] such as Fluoxetine are probably more appropriate.”
So if your dog has anxiety, don’t worry! These products can help manage it — and if not, your vet has other ways to help. Talk to your vet to find out what they recommend for your pup and to figure out the underlying cause of his stress.