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Calming Products to Help Dogs Handle Separation Anxiety, Holiday Stress & More

Compression vests, pheromone sprays, and CBD oil are game-changers.

by Rebecca Caplan
December 21, 2021
Greyhound dog lying on top of couch looking out of a window
Briana Morrison / Stocksy

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When I adopted my toothless, six-year-old Dachshund, Moose, last May I thought I was prepared for anything. I set up a pee pad on my balcony, got plenty of gum-friendly toys and treats, and already loved him unconditionally. But nothing could prepare me for my biggest hurdle upon adopting him: separation anxiety.

If left by himself for even a minute Moose would bark, scream, and claw at his crate. Neighbors complained, my roommate fled to her parent’s house, and I was chained to my home for months until we were able to figure out a solution. Six months later, I’m happy to report that Moose and I are making major progress with his separation anxiety. In that time we tried every product out there marketed for the condition. Here’s what actually helped us — ranked in order of least to most effective — and can hopefully help you too.

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out.

KONG Classic Dog Toy

Leaving your dog with a high-reward treat is often the first thing experts recommend for separation anxiety training. The theory is that a high-reward treat while you’re gone will associate something positive with what is currently a negative experience. Unfortunately, Moose’s anxiety was so extreme that he was far too nervous to even touch the KONG while I was gone. This isn’t uncommon for a dog with intense separation anxiety — especially if they are more praise/people motivated than they are food motivated. This might be a better option for a dog who is more food motivated or has less separation anxiety.

$13 at Chewy
KONG Classic Dog Toy

Leaving your dog with a high-reward treat is often the first thing experts recommend for separation anxiety training. The theory is that a high-reward treat while you’re gone will associate something positive with what is currently a negative experience. Unfortunately, Moose’s anxiety was so extreme that he was far too nervous to even touch the KONG while I was gone. This isn’t uncommon for a dog with intense separation anxiety — especially if they are more praise/people motivated than they are food motivated. This might be a better option for a dog who is more food motivated or has less separation anxiety.

$18 at Walmart
ThunderEase Pheromone Calming Spray

This diffuser contains a liquid that mimics the pheromones mother dogs emit after giving birth, which is intended to calm her new puppies. The pheromone is marketed as odorless, but does give off a faint rubbing alcohol scent that didn’t really bother me. I was happy enough that it seemed to work and did a fair job of calming Moose both in and out of his crate. However, like the Thundershirt, the pheromones on their own weren’t enough to keep Moose relaxed — but in combination with our other training, they became an important weapon in our arsenal against separation anxiety.

$22 at Chewy
ThunderEase Pheromone Calming Spray

This diffuser contains a liquid that mimics the pheromones mother dogs emit after giving birth, which is intended to calm her new puppies. The pheromone is marketed as odorless but does give off a faint rubbing alcohol scent that didn’t really bother me. I was happy enough that it seemed to work and did a fair job of calming Moose both in and out of his crate. However, like the Thundershirt, the pheromones on their own weren’t enough to keep Moose relaxed — but in combination with our other training, they became an important weapon in our arsenal against separation anxiety.

$22 at Walmart
Super Snouts IsoHemp-300 Hemp Oil

CBD disbelievers be gone because this ish really works. Like with human CBD, dog CBD is incredibly brand dependent but Super Snouts was a lifesaver for me and Moose. It’s important to note that this CBD does NOT contain any THC or psychoactive components. It’s completely dog safe and is incredibly effective at relaxing even the most stressed pups. The biggest problem we faced was a tolerance issue. After a week or so, Moose started needing more and more CBD to reach the same relaxed state and, after a while, it became completely ineffective.

We still use it from time to time — but I’m more careful at how often I’m dosing it out in order to maintain its effectiveness. If your dog’s separation anxiety is related to a temporary change perhaps this can be a more one-and-done solution. Otherwise, it’s still a great tool for relaxing your dog in stressful situations, if used sparingly.

$50 at Super Snouts
Frisco Eyelash Orthopedic Crate Mat

When I first started this training I had gotten mixed suggestions on where to leave Moose to allow him to feel most calm. Some said that a crate would be too claustrophobic, others said that allowing him to wander would make him feel too uncontained. We ended up trying three different methods: a five-foot wide pen, a crate, and a room with a closed door. Left to his devices in the closed room, I watched on camera as Moose parkoured off of every piece of furniture I owned — leaving behind nervous accidents on many of them.

Even scarier was leaving him in the pen, where Moose, a very short dog, would attempt to leap over the gate, sometimes getting his belly stuck on the pen before falling to the ground. In the end, the crate is where both Moose and I felt he was safest and calmest. A little trick that helped us even more was leaving Moose in the crate for 40 minutes before I left the house — allowing him to calm himself while I was still there.

$54 at Chewy
Frisco Eyelash Orthopedic Crate Mat

When I first started this training I had gotten mixed suggestions on where to leave Moose to allow him to feel most calm. Some said that a crate would be too claustrophobic, others said that allowing him to wander would make him feel too uncontained. We ended up trying three different methods: a 5-foot wide pen, a crate, and a room with a closed door. Left to his devices in the closed room, I watched on camera as Moose parkoured off of every piece of furniture I owned- leaving behind nervous accidents on many of them. Even scarier was leaving him in the pen, where Moose, a very short dog, would attempt to leap over the gate, sometimes getting his belly stuck on the pen before falling to the ground. In the end, the crate is where both Moose and I felt he was safest and calmest. A little trick that helped us even more was leaving Moose in the crate for 40 minutes before I left the house — allowing him to calm himself while I was still there.

$25 at Walmart
Trazodone Medication

Admittedly, Moose was a tough separation anxiety case. He had just been through the major trauma of losing his home (and all his teeth!). Early on, I consulted with his vet about how to best help him adjust, and we decided that an as-needed Trazodone prescription would allow Moose to stay calm while alone in his crate — allowing him to absorb the tools he needed to get over his separation anxiety once and for all.

The medication has allowed Moose to slowly gain confidence, while not affecting his personality or quality of life. If you’re struggling with your dog’s separation anxiety and feel like they might need more help than anything over the counter can give them, don’t hesitate to consult your vet to see if prescription anti-anxiety medication (used only when necessary) can give your dog some peace and you some peace of mind.

$11 at Chewy

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rebecca caplan

Rebecca Caplan

Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.