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Calming Collars for Dogs: Do They Work and Are They Safe?

Anxiety in dogs is a common yet difficult behavioral challenge for a man’s best friend. If you’re coping with an anxious pup at home, you might consider a calming collar for dogs like Astress. Find out more about the effectiveness and safety of calming collars for dogs as well as how to use them for your canine companion.

What are calming collars?

Calming collars for dogs aim to reduce anxiety, usually through the slow release of pheromones. These collars are species-specific, meaning the pheromones released will only impact dogs in the home. Various brands are available, with Adaptil being one of the most well-known.

Pheromone collars for dogs (e.g., Adaptil)

Pheromone collars for dogs slowly release pheromones over time. Pheromones are species-specific chemicals animals produce for communication with other members of their species. While there are multiple types of pheromones dogs use to communicate with each other, a dog calming collar will contain a form of the dog-appeasing pheromone.

Mother dogs release dog-appeasing pheromones to communicate with their puppies. The idea is that these pheromones will help your dog feel the same comfort they once did with their mother. The Adaptil collar for dogs is among the most well-known pheromone collars for canine anxiety.

Intended benefits of calming collars

Calming collars aim to:

  • Reduce generalized anxiety and separation anxiety
  • Decrease fear in dogs during fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Decrease unwanted behaviors like whining overnight or destructive chewing that occur due to anxiety
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Do calming collars work?

Overall, There is no conclusive evidence regarding whether all calming collars work. A 2010 review of scientific studies regarding calming collars for dogs found that only one study had provided good evidence that dog-appeasing pheromones reduced dogs' fear and anxiety during training. There wasn’t enough evidence to prove they were effective for treating noise phobia, anxiety during travel, fear in the veterinary clinic, and behavioral challenges due to stress or fear in shelter dogs.

Since 2010, several studies have indicated that dog-appeasing pheromone collars are effective in specific situations, while others have stated no effect. Studies have not shown a negative impact on stress or anxiety associated with the collars.

Anecdotally, some pet owners find these collars beneficial in reducing pet anxiety, especially when used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Occasionally, the effect of the collar isn't noticed until the pet owner stops using it and realizes that their pet's anxiety has worsened without it.

Several factors may influence the effectiveness of calming collars like Adaptil for dogs:

  1. The dog’s individual personality, anxiety triggers, and mental health conditions
  2. The severity of the dog’s anxiety
  3. Quality and type of calming collar
  4. Going past the amount of time the collar claims to work
  5. Concurrent use of other behavioral treatments
  6. Getting the collar wet

Are calming collars safe?

Overall, most pheromone collars are considered safe, with specific caveats for using collars in general and those containing essential oils. Most safety concerns surrounding pheromone collars aren't unique to these anxiety collars but apply to most dog collars. While we'll review some of the safety concerns for calming collars here, it's always best to discuss the safety of any treatment method with your veterinarian.

Safety concerns for pheromone collars

Negative side effects associated with dog-appeasing pheromone are not common. These collars are considered safe for most dogs.

As with all dog collars, they can be a choking hazard if they get caught around something like a fence post. This is mostly a risk if the collar is too loose and can snag on things. The collar needs to be put on snugly but not too tight. You should be able to fit one or two fingers between your dog's neck and the collar.

If your dog swallows part of the collar, it could cause gastrointestinal upset and intestinal blockage, sometimes necessitating surgery. Dogs can develop skin irritation or allergy signs while wearing a pheromone collar. Your veterinarian may recommend or support using pheromone collars with other treatments or behavioral modifications.

Safety of collars that contain essential oils

Essential oils can cause skin irritation in some dogs, especially those with allergies or sensitive skin. While some essential oils, like lavender or chamomile, are considered safer than others, any essential oil can be dangerous at a high enough concentration. You should consult with your veterinarian before using essential oil collars.

Using calming collars effectively

Pet owners looking for natural calming solutions for dogs may find collars containing dog-appeasing pheromones appealing. However, calming collars are unlikely to be effective when used as a sole treatment for dogs with significant anxiety.

Instead, calming collars may best be used as a potential tool alongside other dog behavior modification techniques. For example, desensitization may help your dog adjust to a stimulus, while counterconditioning may help your dog associate a previously negative stimulus with positive rewards.

Many dogs with anxiety will benefit from prescription medications, such as trazodone, which are intended to be used for situational anxiety. For example, if your dog gets nervous at veterinary appointments, your veterinarian may recommend giving trazodone one to two hours before the appointment. Other medications, like fluoxetine, are intended for dogs who experience anxiety regularly, such as dogs with generalized anxiety or separation anxiety.

Alongside training techniques and medications, the following adjunctive or alternatives to calming collars for dogs could be discussed with your veterinarian.

  • Dog-appeasing pheromone in the form of diffusers or sprays
  • Calming supplements like VetriScience Composure or Purina ProPlan Calming Care
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) treats or oils
  • Anxiety wraps or vests like ThunderShirt
  • Acupuncture

Getting any supplements you intend to give your pet, including CBD, approved by your veterinarian, is a good idea. A veterinarian or animal behaviorist is your best resource for dogs with severe anxiety.

Are calming collars covered by wellness plans?

Pet wellness plans don’t typically cover the cost of calming collars. A comprehensive (accident and illness) plan will likely cover the veterinarian's visit to discuss your dog’s anxiety, which may include talking with the veterinarian about calming collars. The collar is unlikely to be covered by the insurance plan, but other veterinarian recommendations, such as prescription anti-anxiety medications, often are. Contact your specific pet insurance provider to clarify coverage details for canine anxiety.

If you’re considering a calming collar for your dog, it may be best used as part of a multi-pronged approach to managing your dog’s anxiety. While the effectiveness of calming collars is questionable, they are generally considered safe for most dogs. The bottom line? They might help and almost certainly won’t hurt. Consult your veterinarian to determine if a calming collar might suit your dog’s stress and anxiety.


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