In dogs, separation anxiety can be triggered by a stressful event and can also present itself in a variety of ways. Before shopping around for a solution, it’s important to consult with a vet or a behaviorist to rule out any underlying medical issues and understand what the most ideal options are for your pup. According to the veterinarian and creator of
The Balanced Pet Vet, Dr. Tori Counter, DVM, the best calming aids for dogs with separation anxiety can come in many forms, including collars, sprays, toys, and treats.
Whichever product you choose will depend on your situation and your pet's preferences, and you may need to do a bit of trial-and-error to figure out what approach is best. In fact, some owners may wind up combining a few products for the most optimal soothing because, as Dr. Counter notes, “Many dogs benefit from a multimodal approach to anxiety.”
For food-motivated dogs, treats with calming ingredients are a great option, since they are
proven to help relax animals. “L-theanine works well with l-tryptophan to synergistically decrease the stress of the animal,” Dr. Counter explains. Similarly, she adds that collars or sprays that contain a dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) may also be useful since the synthetic pheromones used “are inhaled through the nasal passage and produce a calming effect on the area of the dog’s brain that is connected to emotions and behavior.”
Dr. Counter stresses the importance of providing a dog with a “safe space” for them to retreat: “They need a place that they can go to if they feel vulnerable, nervous, or need to get away from the triggering event.” This could be as simple as a
calming dog bed designed for them to curl up against. The Humane Society also recommends leaving out dirty laundry with your scent for comfort — with that in mind, a dog bed insert you can stuff with used blankets or clothing could help, too.
Some pups may also benefit from a simple distraction. Mentally stimulating toys that require focus, chewing, and/or licking (such as treat-dispensing toys,
chew toys you can stuff with food, and lick mats) can be calming for some dogs, according to the ASPCA. Other dogs may enjoy a plush toy to snuggle with.
With all the above in mind, below you’ll find some of the best ways to calm an anxious dog below — all of which are pet-parent approved and found on Amazon.
1 These Calming Soft-Chew Dog Treats
soft chews are formulated to help calm a dog down. They contain ingredients that are well-known for their calming properties, like l-theanine, l-tryptophan, and melatonin. The manufacturer recommends no more than one chew per day for dogs up to 25 pounds. Beyond that, the dose doubles, triples, or even quadruples depending on the dog’s weight. One reviewer wrote: “These Finn Calming Aid chews have been great for my dog’s anxiety! He has a little bit of separation anxiety when I leave the house and gets nervous with loud noises like fireworks. These chews have helped him stay calm and mellow during times of high stress. He loves the flavor too!” 2 A Calming Dog Collar That Lasts For Weeks
Available in adjustable sizes for
puppies, small dogs, and medium/large dogs up to 110 pounds, this scentless Adaptil calming on-the-go-collar contains DAP, a synthetic version of a pheromone that calms dogs down when they breathe it in. This collar works for up to four weeks, continuously releasing pheromone.
The manufacturer recommends keeping it on 24/7 and only removing it for bathing and grooming. Please note that because the collar is heat-activated, submerging it in water is not recommended. This is also not a replacement for a regular collar and cannot be attached to a leash. Dogs with neck lesions should also avoid this product.
One reviewer wrote: “I was waiting for this to be a waste of money, but it ended up being a godsend. Had a problem with separation anxiety with one of my dogs. Last time I went out, she slept the whole time. Huge change in her actions. Would heartily recommend this product.” 3 This Calming Dog Bed With Comfy Bolsters
You may want to make this
Furhaven bolster dog bed part of your dog’s “safe space.” It’s designed with bolsters on three sizes that provide security and comfort, while the fourth side is open to allow the dog to easily climb in and out. The bed is available in different types of foam, including orthopedic foam, memory foam, and cool gel foam, and you can also select your choice of soft fabrics, including chenille and velvet, as well as a wide range of color and pattern options.
Available in sizes ranging from Small to Jumbo Plus to fit different dog breeds, this bed has more than 25,000 ratings on Amazon to date. It’s also easy to clean, since the zippered cover can be removed to machine-wash and air-dry.
One reviewer wrote: “My dog really enjoys relaxing in this particular bed. She has several other beds in various rooms from other brands however she prefers this one over all the others now. I love that it has zippers to remove the memory foam in order to wash the bed itself. The foam hasn’t lost its firmness thus far [and] the shape of the bed is very unique.” 4 A Calming Spray With DAP For Dogs
If your dog might be tempted to chew on a calming collar or you’d prefer to use a calming aid more intermittently, this
Adaptil calming spray is a great choice. It contains a 2% concentration of DAP to help destress and calm dogs. Because the spray also contains alcohol, It's important to avoid spraying a dog directly. Rather, the manufacturer recommends using the spray on your dog’s bedding or on a bandana ahead of a stressful event and waiting at least 10 minutes for the spray to soak in before allowing your dog access to the object. The spray will last around four to five hours and can be reapplied as needed. One reviewer wrote: “This spray calms my dog down when I leave for work or go somewhere for a few hours, I spray it on his bed and blanket and he lays in it while I’m gone. I’ve noticed he gets less anxious when I use it rather than when I don’t.” 5 These Calming Dental Sticks For Dogs
Zesty Paws calming dental sticks are a two-in-one chew, providing your dog with calming ingredients like l-theanine, hemp extract, and melatonin while also freshening their breath. The manufacturer recommends a daily serving of half a stick for dogs up to 25 pounds, one stick for dogs 25 to 50 pounds, and two sticks per day for dogs over 50 pounds in weight. One reviewer wrote: “My dog has to be in his kennel when we aren’t home, will just go potty, if we’re not here. I put him in his kennel with his calming treat and now he runs to his kennel knowing he’ll get his treat. He [loves] it.” 6 Editor’s Pick: A Classic Chew Toy For Dogs
Wesley Salazar, Associate Commerce Editor at Bustle, always has multiple
KONG toys in rotation for her foster dogs. She explains, “These chew toys are popular for a reason — they’re actually great! I always have one Classic KONG and one Extreme KONG on hand to accommodate different chewing styles.” Made of a hardy rubber material, they can be a good fit for dogs who are food-motivated or like to chew when they’re anxious. Try stuffing them with peanut butter, kibble, and/or your dog’s favorite treats. One reviewer wrote: “This is an excellent toy to keep your dog busy and engaged, and it is quite indestructible. I have a [pitbull] and he hasn’t made a dent in it. He did figure out how to get the treats pretty quickly, though. I have read some people put the treats in and then some peanut butter and freeze it. I will try this next.” 7 This Calming Plush Dog Toy
If your dog doesn't already have a “lovey” or a soft comforting toy, this
Charming Pet plush toy is an especially great option for dogs with separation anxiety. Not only does it crinkle, rattle, and squeak, but it has a shaker inside of it that releases a calming lavender scent when rattled. Keep in mind that while this toy has nylon seams to help prevent ripping, it's not chew-proof, so it may not be appropriate for dogs who are extreme chewers. One reviewer wrote: “I have a [miniature pinscher] and the toy is about as big as her she loves to nibble on it and [...] use it as a pillow [and] the lavender [scent] calms her down and helps her sleep.” 8 A Dog Bed Liner You Can Stuff With Used Blankets
When you’re away, familiar smells can provide comfort to your pup — but it isn’t always convenient to have dirty laundry sitting around. Instead, try stuffing soft items with your scent, like dirty blankets or clothes, into
Molly mutt’s dog bed insert to soothe your dog when they’re home alone. The stuff sack comes in a different size options to fit inside a range of dog bed covers. One reviewer wrote: “I wish I had known about these beds years ago! Yes, you stuff it yourself, but it's very easy to do. And... It's perfect for separation anxiety. It's really well made and a brilliant idea.” 9 The Budget-Friendly Pack Of Lick Mats
Hyper Pet IQ treat mats don’t just reward your dog with a treat — the act of licking can boost endorphins, helping to alleviate their anxiety, too. Just smear a spreadable treat like peanut butter or yogurt into the grooves of the four quadrants. As a bonus, it comes in a pack of two — plus you can throw them in the dishwasher after use. (As with any new toy or tool, make sure to monitor your pet with the treat mats until you’re sure they won’t chew them up.) One reviewer wrote: “I never thought something so simple could be so amazing for my dogs. I have a 4 year old boxer and a 1 year old pit bull and these lick mats keep them entertained longer than any other toy I’ve ever bought. My boxer will just keep licking the mat even after all the treats are gone and I can notice a difference in it reducing his anxiety. Best $15 I ever spent!!!” 10 A Wobbling Lick-Mat Bowl
A level up to a treat mat,
LickiMat’s Wobble makes your dog work harder to lick every last bit of a spreadable snack from the bowl. It “wobbles” or moves around as your dog attempts to lick treats from the textured inner surface, providing them with a welcome distraction. As a plus, the bowl is made of a dishwasher-safe silicone material to make cleanup between uses a cinch. One reviewer wrote: “My 9 yr old dog is given either peanut butter or plain yogurt daily. If he does not eat before we leave home he will not touch again until we return home due to his separation anxiety. Using this bowl he now will finish his snack while we are gone and we have found giving him this bowl with snack during storms calms him down.” 11 This Treat-Dispensing Toy StarMark’s treat-dispensing toy is hollow on the inside and designed to be filled with kibble or treats. As your dog paws at the toy, it dispenses treats — and the more it moves around, the more treats your dog will receive. And with more than 20,000 ratings to date, the Bob-A-Lot has surely been put to the test.
Some reviewers have noted that their dogs have chewed right through the toy to reach what’s inside it — so if you have a super chewer at home, give
Kong’s Wobbler toy a try instead. One reviewer wrote: “My dog loves this toy. He’s only 1 and suffering from separation anxiety so this keeps him busy while I run quick errands. It’s super durable and doesn’t make sounds even on hardwood floors.” 12 The Plug-In DAP Diffuser
If you’re looking for a continuous way to release DAP into your home,
ADAPTIL’s diffuser kit is an option to try. It comes with everything you need to get started, including the diffuser head and one vial. And it’s easy to set up: Plug it into a room and the diffuser will emit the pheromones into the air for up to one month, at which point you can swap in a refill. One diffuser can reach up to 700 square feet. One reviewer wrote: “I was pretty iffy about this, but it really seems to be working for my 13 year old Shih Tzu! She's not barking as much when we aren't home and her appetite has drastically improved. I now think that she was ridden with anxiety instead of just being a picky eater because she’s eating much more in this calmer state.” Expert: Dr. Tori Counter, DVM, veterinarian and creator of The Balanced Pet Vet
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This article was originally published on
June 20, 2020