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How Dog-Appeasing Pheromones Can Help Dogs Relax

Adaptil’s calming products are good news for anxious pups.

by Lindsay Hamrick, CPDT-KA
January 27, 2022
Person in a white dress with a calm tan dog leaning on their lap
Irina Ozhigova / Stocksy

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Your dog may spend most of their time snoozing away on the couch or gleefully getting out zoomies, but there will likely be times when they feel anxious or afraid. Some dogs may experience chronic anxiety or severe bouts of stress when they’re left alone or during a summer storm. Dog Appeasing Pheromones, or “DAP,” can help.

What are Dog-Appeasing Pheromones?

According to Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, PhD., DVM and Doctor of Veterinary Behavior, DAP replicates the pheromone — or chemical messenger — that a mother dog secretes from her sebaceous glands when she is nursing, which has a relaxing and comforting effect on her puppies. Products that use DAP replicate this calming effect, and multiple studies have shown its impact, including this one that showed the use of DAP may improve the recovery of shelter dogs who undergo spay or neuter surgery.

What Conditions Can DAP Help With?

Adaptil is the most common product on the market. It comes in a variety of forms including collars, plug-in diffusers, and sprays. In Dr. Parthasarathy’s experience, dogs who are experiencing anxiety seem to benefit most from DAP versus those struggling with things like basic obedience skills. Dogs with separation anxiety, noise phobias like thunderstorms, and puppies or dogs adjusting to a new home are the most common patients to benefit from DAP.

Do DAP Really Work?

At Dr. Parthasarathy’s private practice in Oregon, about 50% of anxious dogs see an improvement after using DAP products. Pheromone treatment is very unlikely to cause any harm, so it’s easily paired with a more robust behavior modification plan. In some cases, owners report an almost immediate improvement. Others notice an increase in their dog’s anxiety only when a plug-in diffuser or collar expires, even when they didn’t report a significant change in behavior initially, highlighting that DAP may provide subtle, but important, improvements. One blind dog who was experiencing aggression-related anxiety and had undergone some behavioral modification saw a marked improvement when wearing her DAP collar.

As with any behavioral challenge, Dr. Parthasarathy sees treatment as a puzzle, and her job is to find the pieces that need to come together to support the dog. She also recommends that owners begin with a visit to their regular veterinarian to rule out any potential medical reasons for the behavior.

The Best DAP Products

Adaptil calming collar

Similar to the spray and diffuser, this calming collar provides continuous pheromone support for four weeks. This collar is a great option when the things that trigger your pup are outside the home. In combination with a training plan, it may help reduce stress if your dog barks at strangers or other dogs when you’re walking around your neighborhood, or if your pup startles from sudden noises. Does your pup need to be at a boarding facility or veterinary hospital for an extended period of time? This collar may help them cope with jitters. In one study, DAP helped reduce excessive licking and pacing in a hospital setting.

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Lindsay Hamrick, CPDT-KA

Lindsay Hamrick lives in New Hampshire with her three dogs, chickens, and an assortment of rotating foster animals. She forces her elderly chihuahua, Grandma Baguette, on overnight backpacking trips, can diaper a lamb with one hand, and while she’s a long-time Certified Professional Dog Trainer, 66.7% of her dogs still won’t lay down when asked.