As the name suggests, these are collars made to reduce anxiety and stress related behaviors – this can range from barking and separation anxiety, to over-excitedness, to panic during scary times like storms and even when going through the stress of moving to a new home.
Anti-anxiety collars have the same concept as other dog calming products like coats or spray pheromones – it’s just another option for you to consider depending on what suits your dog. A calming collar generally makes use of essential oils that are slowly diffused with the goal of creating, your guessed it: a calming effect!
Pheromones are also used in sprays and plug-in diffusers. Collars however give you a very portable option that you can use anywhere, anytime without hassles.
They have some notable benefits:
Portability: the collar can be packed up and taken anywhere with you
Fast and easy to put on: it doesn’t cause your dog any additional stress
Why would you want to use a calming collar on your dog?
Some dogs are stress heads – yours might be one of them. Most dogs don’t stress all the time (if so – see a doctor!) but it’s very common for dogs to stress in certain situations: thunderstorms, travel, fireworks, being left home alone; and the list goes on.
You probably have a good idea of the situations or events that cause your dog to become anxious. One option many people turn to to help during these times is to use a calming coat or a thunderjacket. Another option is a calming collar.
But it’s not just anxiety that these collars are designed to help with. Any sort of stress related behavior that you want to help minimize or control can benefit: this includes excessive barking, jumping, hyperactivity and general restlessness.
The idea is to gently encourage a dog into a calmer state, which puts you both in a better position for you to undertake reassurance and positive reinforcement so you can ultimately help improve your dog’s reactions and feeling during stressful occasions in future.
The main reasons, events and situations people want to try a canine calming collar include:
Other travel e.g. by airplane
Hyperactive behavior, e.g. jumping
Stress when around other dogs
Moving to a new home
Moving into or out of a shelter environment
How do they work?
Most of these collars contain very similar ingredients that include herbal extracts and essential oils which are known or believed to have a calming effect on some dogs. Most of the collars use a similar formula, with the goal of releasing a “maternal” pheromone: one that puppies are exposed to by their mother. Even with adult dogs this is thought to have a relaxing effect.
One of the most common ingredients you’ll come across being used in these collars is lavender.
The gentle diffusion of the ingredients is helped along by your dog’s body heat.
Pheremone collars are not designed to be used with a leash: this is a separate collar that is standalone only. If you want to attach a leash to a collar, use your dog’s regular collar alongside the calming collar.
Do dog calming collars really work to reduce anxiety?
Like any product made for anxiety and stress reduction in dogs, the results are variable across individuals. Some dogs react very positively to them (in other words, it calms them right down), while others seemingly have no chance in their behavior whatsoever. This is one of those areas where you simply do not know what the outcome will be until you try (thankfully anxiety collars aren’t a huge investment).
Certainly, some brands and products of these collars have a better reputation than others for working well. This generally comes down to the ingredients used, but it can also relate to the design of the collar: the way to ingredients are diffused can make a difference to the effectiveness. That’s why it’s important to weigh up the differences between the different dog calm collars available – and I’ve tried to make that fast and simple for you in the comparison table below, followed by reviews of each product.
Can a pheromone collar cause any side effects for dogs?
The worst that can happen with any reputable calming collar is that it simply won’t make any positive difference to your dog’s anxiety or stress related behaviors.
Because they start working as soon as you put it on, noticeable changes in behavior should happen relatively quickly but it’s still best to give it at least a month to evaluate results because every dog is different and you’ll still need to be taking the time and effort to support and encourage behavioral change in your dog – the collar is an aid to help the process along.
Virtually all of the pheremone collars reviewed in this guide come with the promise of no long term side effect risks.
A small percentage of dogs however have been reported to suffer from allergic reactions – effects such as vomiting for example. If your dog does have a reaction, simply stop using the collar and avoid pheremone based products.
Herbal calming collars are also available, providing another alternative to essential oils and these are also reviewed further down in this guide.
Dog Anxiety Collar Reviews
Read on to view individual reviews of every known canine calming collar on the market right now. Based on extensive research, I wanted to find out what real people’s experiences are with each collar, as well as the specifics of each product – in the hope it will help you to make the right decision for your dog.
The Adaptil calming dog collar is probably the most well known and popular brand of these collars. It claims to be clinically proven to reduce stress and anxiety.
The ingredient used in this collar is stated as DAP or dog appeasing pheromone. This indicates a propriety type blend.
The rated period of time that an Adaptil collar should last is 30 days, and unlike some of the other brands I cover here in this guide, this collar is recommended to be removed when your dog is bathing or swimming.
Note that there is also an Adaptil collar made by Comfort Zone, this is the same formula, with Comfort Zone combining with Adaptil.
Most pheromone collars have a life of about one month, while the Beaphar stands out in this area with it being rated to last 6 weeks before needing replacement.
The formula used in this collar is standard though: Valerian and Lavender essential oils are diffused slowly and gradually to bring about relaxation and reduced stress.
The company says that it should start working within just an hour of putting it on your dog – so you might get some idea if the collar is making a difference after the first day of use.
This isn’t always the case though and as with all the other collars in this guide, it can take a few weeks to see more noticeable effects.
This collar makes use of lavender oil and other essential oils which are slowly released to provide a soothing effect and act as a behavioral support tool.
The collar is rated to last up to 30 days before running out of the oils and it’s a one size fits all collar (up to 20″ neck) that can be cut down for smaller dogs. This collar can be left on when your dog is swimming or bathing.
The ingredients in the Calm Paws collar are:
Any potential issues?
Some people might find the scent of this collar a little overpowering when first taking it out of the packaging – so much so that you might not feel comfortable using it right away.
Some dogs are sensitive to lavender which can lead to the collar having the opposite effect as intended
This pheromone collar is made for use on both adult dogs and puppies, and lasts for 30 days during which time pheromones are gently released consisting of a blend of lavender and chamomile.
The collar fits neck sizes a little larger than some other brands: up to 23 inches.
The company claims that the pheromones used in the Petarmor collar are made to replicate pheromones that are produced by nursing dogs to keep their puppies reassured and the theory is that even adult dogs still react positively to these pheromones – it’s difficult to prove if this is indeed the case of course.
Opinions and experiences with the PetArmor collar are relatively black and white – many are reporting excellent results with their dogs seemingly a lot calmer when wearing it, while some people have noted no change in behavior.
The NurtureCalm canine calming collar is made by Meridian Animal Health.
There is little information about this company available, and they do not seem to have an official website. If you’re someone who likes to know exactly who you’re buying your dog products from, this is something to keep in mind. However it is claimed to be a US based company that has been around since 2008.
This collar is rated to last for up to 30 days and can fit on to both puppies and very large dogs with a neck size up to 28″.
The percentage of pheromones as a percentage of the overall active ingredients is at a relatively high level in the NurtureCalm collar compared with some other brands: 2% (update: the latest version of this collar has reduced the pheremones down to 0.02%), with the remainder being inert ingredients – that is, ingredients that have no effect.
Probably the most well known of all brands of anti-anxiety dog collars it the Sentry collar.
Although I don’t have any official statistics, I’d go so far as to say that this is by far the most popular and most purchased collar of the bunch. Sentry is a well known brand name in the pet industry, and has trust attached to it.
So how good is their calming dog collar and is it any different from the others?
Sentry also makes use of well known ingredients chamomile and lavender, with a life of 30 days – putting it in line with most other similar collars.
While the collar starts taking instant effect once its on, the company does note that it can take up to two weeks to have a full effect on behavior or even up to a month in some cases: so if you’re trying the Sentry out, have patience and let time runs its course while you continue to undertake other forms of behavioral and stress reduction training.
Sentry also uses a standard low dosage of active ingredient pheremones: 0.02% of the total formula, with the rest being inert/inactive ingredients.
Sergeant’s Vetscription Settle Down
This collar claims to use a proprietary “SettleDown” pheromone technology. It makes use of the fragrances of lavender and chamomile; the latter of which is known to have calming properties (even humans use it to relieve anxiety).
23″ neck size is the largest a dog can be to use this collar – putting it in the mid-range compared with other products. For smaller dogs, simply cut the collar down to the right size.
When taking the collar out of the packaging, there is a powder type residue which some people have shown concern about – this is simply part of the product; the collar itself is quite waxy and it seems that the powder acts as a sort of protection for the collar surface. The scent is relatively strong and noticeable on the Sergeant’s collar, even after it’s been in use for some time. It’s a lavender type scent and your like or dislike of it will simply depend on your individual preference.
A very low dosage of pheromones is used in the Sergeant’s Vetscription collar: just 0.02% of active ingredient is used.
Herbal Calming Collars for Dogs
As an alternative to diffusing pheromone collars, as all of the above products are, there are also some different types of collars available: fancy looking collars that are both made for comfort and make use of natural herbs. This provides an alternative option if you prefer not to use pheromones, or have had no success with them.
Instead of pheromones, these collars make use of aromatherapy through the use of dried herbs. Essential oils aren’t used in these collars, and this is the main reason people choose them – some dogs have adverse reactions to essential oils, while some people simply don’t feel comfortable using them.
Can you make your own (DIY) dog calming collar?
With the relatively low cost of anti-anxiety dog collars, it’s not likely that many people would consider making their own. But if you have your reasons for wanting to give DIY a go – perhaps you just want to be absolutely certain of what it’s made from – then you can take inspiration from some of the natural ingredients used in the collars I’ve reviewed above in this guide suc as lavender.
Causes of Dog Anxiety – Do These Situations Stress Your Dog Out?
Any dog can become anxious about any situation – at any time!
With each dog having his or her own distinct personality, life history, and often sadly, negative past experiences, we can never really predict what might make our dog stressed or nervous and when it will be triggered. This is particularly the case if you’ve only just got a new dog, or have only had her for a short period of time and are still not yet familiar with her reactions to certain situations or environments.
But there are definitely particular times, places, events and situations that continually top the list when it comes to creating anxiety, and these are things that most dogs will face at some point in their lives.
Learning how your dog reacts in certain situations can help you to take actions to reduce that stress next time the event happens, by taking action to minimize and ideally completely eliminate stressful feelings and as a result, having a much more calm, comfortable, healthier, quieter, and happier dog no matter what’s going on around her, or where you might be.
In The Car
Amongst all of the anxiety-causing situations a dog faces, fireworks has to be the most terrifying.
There aren’t many dogs out there who don’t react in some way to fireworks. Some hide, others bark, many panic and try to escape; sometimes injuring themselves in the process.
You might be one of the lucky ones who has a dog who sleeps through fireworks completely oblivious to it all – but for most dog owners, a firework event is a stressful time. Days when we expect fireworks to go off, like New Years Eve and other celebrations during the year, allow us to prepare in advance.
But there might be other times when people, in the neighborhood let off their own backyard fireworks and crackers, catching you off guard. Having a contingency plan in place that allows you to quickly calm a highly anxious dog will prevent both you and your canine from stress.
Even the most normally calm and chilled out of dogs can turn into an anxious mess during a thunderstorm. If there’s one occasion that comes up the most when it comes to stress-inducing canine behavior: it’s a storm. It’s no coincidence that the famous Thunderjacket was given that name – they were originally designed to help with the overwhelmingly common problem of storm fearfulness in dogs.
We know that vets are good people and only want to treat our dogs with the utmost care – but dogs don’t know this!
The vet, particularly a new one, is just another stranger to a dog. A stranger, in a strange place that has many strange smells. And a stranger that touches your dog in scary ways (from the perspective of a pooch) – what’s not to be scared of?
Not many dogs like going to the vet – although some are the total opposite and absolutely love it! Once a dog becomes comfortable with your vet, there’s a good chance their anxiety will naturally decrease when you walk them through the door. Good veterinarians are well versed in the ways of reducing stress in the animals they see, with many going to great lengths to make the visits as comfortable as possible. But regardless of the measures taken, some dogs will still be in a heightened state of anxiety for one reason or another.
Obviously, being at the vet gives you the opportunity to discuss anxiety related problems and to gain some advice and recommendations straight from the source. This is important. Your vet will want to know about your dog’s life history, and whether this stress behavior is limited to being at the vet, or whether it occurs at other places and times as well.
There’s such a huge gap between the quality of dog boarding facilities out there, that if you don’t do your research before deciding on one it can have a negative impact on your dog’s behavior for weeks, and even many months down the track. The best of the best dog boarding places know how to relax an anxious dog, and they make a great effort to ensure that nervous dogs are catered for on a very individual basis.
At the other end of the spectrum are low cost, essentially kennel style boarding facilities that are little more than prisons for dogs. While these are often alluring price-wise for people on a strict budget, the problems they can cause in a dog can’t be underestimated. Highly stressful boarding experiences can turn even the calmest dog into a nervous wreck, while those already suffering with anxiety can see their condition worsen.
So it goes without saying: if you’re planning a vacation or have another reason to put your dog into boarding, whether it be for a day or a month, actually going to the place, speaking to the staff and importantly: looking at the exact facilities where your dog would be kept is really vital. Quality boarding places for dogs and other animals have nothing to hide, and most will advertise that they allow inspections prior to booking.
Walking on Leash
What should be a fun activity – going for a walk – can be not so fun for those dogs who become anxious on a leash.
New Environment or New Home
Going to a new home is an exciting, yet often stressful time for any dog but it’s adult dogs who are most susceptible to anxiety behaviors when moving to a new environment.
And more so, those adopted from shelters and other rescue situations are more likely to take some time to get used to a new home.
During this time a dog can behave in ways that may not be in line with his true personality, and that’s when it’s so important to have patience and to be able to focus time and energy in assisting a dog during this transition.
That means helping to reduce stress as much as possible through gentle methods, including positive reinforcement training (and lots of love!).
Dog Anxiety Solutions
There are countless possible ways to tackle the problem of an anxious dog. Some are short term, such as when you absolutely must do something about a stressful car trip, while others are focused on long term behavioral modification. In both cases, a combination of positive training and anti-anxiety aids can go a long way to reducing and, ultimately, fixing the very common but very distressing issue of a dog that suffers from anxiety during certain events or situations – or in some cases, on a constant basis.
So what options do you have for anxiety reduction for your dog?
Although often called by the name of one brand, thunderjacket, these dog vests come in different styles and are often the first choice for people wanting to reduce dog anxiety quickly in specific situations. Very useful for storm situations, hence the name “thunderjacket”, these doggie coats are also highly useful in a whole range of other scenarios. The best vests are easy to put on and take off, so are highly portable and can be used both at home and when out and about.
Read our information above in this guide to learn about calming collars, and whether they could be a good solution to aid in reducing your dog’s stress and anxiety.
Pheromone Sprays and Plug-ins
Like the calming collars, pheromone sprays use similar pheromones to encourage reduced anxiety. These wall plug-ins or sprays are more suited to the home environment, while the collars can obviously be taken and used anywhere.