A calming collar for dogs uses pheromones to soothe their nerves.
Studies show that a calming collar eases separation anxiety in dogs.
The Adaptil Calming Collar for Dogs is one of the best on the market.
It's possible to make your own calming collar.
If your dog gets scared and wants to holler,
A calming collar for dogs is worth the dollar.
They're confident and walking taller,
Donning their bling, looking like a baller.
A calming collar for dogs makes dogs more confident because they aren't as anxious when they're exposed to new situations. Put one on before going to the dog park. They're also more relaxed when they're home alone, and it soothes them during thunderstorms, fireworks, or other loud noises.
Before getting one of these calming collars, understand what they are and how they work.
What Is a Calming Collar?
A calming collar isn't just a pretty necklace for your dog. It has a specific function for a dog that suffers from different types of anxiety. Most calming collars emit pheromones that relieve your dog's stress naturally. Since your dog is wearing the collar, these scents are with them wherever they go.
There are pheromones of different types that transmit information in various situations. Some signal reproductive status while some carry a message of warning to other animals. The pheromones in a calming collar are a soothing kind of message.
Tabitha Kucera, RVT, CCBC, KPA-CTP, is a veterinary technician with over ten years of experience working in veterinary medicine. In a 2022 article on The Spruce Pets, she writes about Adaptil collars for dogs. "Adaptil, formerly known as DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) is a synthetic version of the canine appeasing pheromone," Kucera explains. "After giving birth, a female dog will secrete these pheromone compounds around her mammary glands and it is nature’s way of comforting the puppies."
What's better than comfort from your mother? When a puppy is first born, they don't have their eyes open yet, so the sense of smell is important during this stage of development. That strong bond stays with them and they recognize that familiar scent.
Even adult dogs experience anxiety triggered by things like separation from their owners, strangers, thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises, entering a new home, or a trip to the vet. In any of these cases, a dog needs comfort and reassurance and a calming collar provides that.
Do They Work?
Given the popularity of these collars, you might assume that they are effective. After all, some owners claim they work for their dogs. However, it's always best to seek out research-based results.
In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers Young-Mee Kim, et al. studied 43 hospitalized dogs that experienced separation anxiety-related symptoms. They exposed the dogs to DAP within 30 minutes of their owners leaving them to attempt to alleviate their symptoms. They found an overall improvement in the separation-related signs in the DAP-treated group.
These research findings are encouraging, but remember that not every solution works for every dog. Moreover, any remedy for anxiety is best coupled with other forms of treatment like behavior modification, desensitization of anxiety triggers, and mental stimulation.
Dogs get bored and sometimes anxious when they're separated from their owners. Toys and puzzle games give them the mental stimulation they need to distract them from their anxiety. Some dogs also feel that they must have a job to do and these puzzles fulfill that need.
The Best Calming Dog Collar
There are many different brands of calming collars with synthetic pheromones or natural essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and eucalyptus. Reviewers all have their opinions, but Adaptil very often comes out or near the top.
The Retrievist of the American Kennel Club reviewed a list of the best calming collar for dogs in 2022 and the Adaptil Adjustable Calming Dog Collar is their choice for best overall.
Their reviewers say, "From perhaps the biggest name in canine calming products, this is the first calming dog collar we'd recommend to anybody. It uses a pheromone that delivers comforting messages to dogs to try to help them calm down and keeps working continuously for up to four weeks."
This collar is also in the top 20 best sellers in Amazon's category of "Dog Relaxants" and it comes up twice (size small and medium/large) on Best Product Reviews. It also comes up as numbers five and 10 (again, for two different sizes) on MSN's Best Products UK list of the top 10 best calming collars for dogs.
Most companies advertise that the collars begin working within one hour and they last up to 30 days. Remember that every dog is different and every situation is unique. What works for one dog may not be as effective for another dog. Some collars are purportedly waterproof while for some, the recommendation is to remove them when bathing, etc.
As of March 2023, the Adaptil Calming Collar is $21.99 on Amazon. If you don't want this much of an added expense, there are other options. The Sentry Calming Collar isn't ranked as high but it's still listed in the top 100 dog relaxants. It is only $11.69 for one collar and says that it releases pheromones for 30 days as well.
DIY Calming Collar
Perhaps you need a calming dog collar but don't want to spend money on an expensive collar that needs replacing regularly as the effects wear off. By making your own, you transform any collar -- or harness, for that matter -- into a calming collar. You may find different versions on Pinterest.
You need a nylon collar, a strip of cotton material cut to fit on the collar, a bottle of pure, all-natural lavender or chamomile oil, and a sewing machine. To make the calming collar, sew the material onto the collar, add drops of herbal oil to the cotton material, and then allow it to dry or "air out" before putting the collar on your dog.
It's important that you choose a nylon collar and not a leather one. Unless you have an industrial sewing machine, you may have difficulty trying to puncture the leather. Even with nylon material, go slow to avoid breaking the needle.
Add just a few drops of the oil at first to make sure the scent isn't overwhelming. Add more later if you feel it isn't enough. Remember to remove the collar before bathing your dog as the scent may get washed off by the shampoo.
One of the benefits of this method is that you keep adding more oil once the effects have worn off rather than buying a new collar every time. You also control the amount of oil yourself so the scent isn't overwhelming for a more sensitive nose or use more if it's not enough. The other advantage is the ability to add that cotton material to any collar or harness.
The disadvantage is that commercial collars have access to other oils and pheromones that are unavailable to you. If the lavender or chamomile scents don't work, you must seek out other options.
Are There Side Effects?
Since most calming collars employ pheromones that are naturally occurring anyway, they're safe for your dog. If you choose a collar that uses other scents or oils, make sure that your dog is not allergic to these substances. If you see that your dog has any allergic reaction or skin rash, remove the collar immediately and seek a consultation from your veterinarian. Tell them what you used and see if they have a safe alternative that they recommend.
Your dog may be able to slip out of a regular calming collar or they may be allergic to the material or chemicals used. If for whatever reason, a calming collar does not work for your dog, other options are available to help with their anxiety.
Calming Dog Bed
A calming dog bed gives your dog a place of retreat when they're feeling anxious. Whether at night or while you're gone during the day, they go to their bed for comfort. Your dog sinks into the plush material and faux fur lining of the calming dog bed while the bolstered sides support and surround them.
Some dogs exhibit symptoms of anxiety when they're in their bed at night, separated from their owners. A calming dog bed gives them the support they feel when they're next to you. If left alone during the day, they have a place they go to for comfort and security when they're feeling nervous.
Perhaps your dog responds to scents, but the collar is irritating or they have a reaction to the material. Calming Inserts provide those relaxing aromatics without coming in contact with the dog's skin/fur. You use these in conjunction with Calming Dog's beds, blankets, and carriers.
The inserts are valerian oil-based combined with other natural essential oils that induce a sense of relaxation. There are special pockets in Calming Dog's beds, blankets, and carriers that house these inserts to keep them in place as they do their job.
Some dogs have an aversion to certain smells, so a calming collar doesn't work for them. There are a variety of calming chews with natural ingredients like tryptophan, L-theanine, and chamomile. Instead of inhaling the scents, these chews enter your dog's bloodstream after they ingest them.
Like the collars, these chews contain natural ingredients that aren't harmful to your dog. They also taste good so it's easy to get your dog to eat them. They take roughly the same amount of time as the collars to have an effect.
The scents emitted by a calming collar work to a certain extent, but your dog may need physical reassurance to calm them. A calming wrap, like a ThunderShirt, holds them snuggly for as long as they wear it. If you know that an upcoming event causes stress, fit them with one of these wraps so they feel supported and endure the scary situation.
The disadvantage of the calming wrap is that it is much more cumbersome to fit on than the collar which simply snaps around their neck. With some practice and patience, your dog will get used to wearing the wrap.
A dog that has a head that is narrower than their neck -- a whippet, greyhound, or saluki, for instance -- easily slips out of their collar. A martingale collar works well in this situation. They're also good for a dog of any breed that suffers from anxiety because when a dog gets scared, they do anything to escape the situation, including slipping out of their collars.
The Humane Society of the United States describes the martingale collar:
"The martingale consists of a length of material with a metal ring at each end. A separate loop of material passes through the two rings. The leash attaches to a ring on this loop. When your dog tries to back out of the martingale, the collar tightens around their neck."
Martingale collars fit comfortably around the dog's neck until they try to escape. They are adjustable and do not tighten past the width of the dog's neck. Martingale collars, when properly adjusted, don't cut off the dog's airway as opposed to choke collars. The Humane Society says that this collar is the most humane option for dogs that tend to slip out of their collars.
A Day Late and a Collar Short
If you adopt a rescue dog or you start to notice signs that your dog has anxiety, get them a calming dog collar. It's better to prevent their anxiety rather than deal with treating it afterward. There is scientific research behind the pheromones used in these unique devices.
The pheromones and natural scents in these collars aren't likely to harm your dog but check with your vet anyway for their recommendations. There are alternatives if the collar doesn't work, but whatever you choose, try to ease your dog's anxiety with these suggestions.