You may have heard of or seen Adaptil for dogs at your vet’s office or online- touting the promise of calm in a collar and thought, “What are these and do they really work?” A short answer is yes they can help in a variety of situations, but they may not be enough for every dog. Adaptil collars are pheromone collars that help to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs and puppies. Stress and anxiety can arise from multiple reasons in dogs; meeting new people, thunderstorms, being left alone, or even just being adopted and going into a new home can be a stressful situation for our pup pals.
What Is a Pheromone?
Pheromones are chemical compounds that animals naturally produce and release into the environment. When the pheromone is perceived by another member of that species it triggers a behavioral response. Essentially, pheromones are the silent and instant carrier pigeons of information. Because these chemical compounds are so specialized, they are unique to each species. Pheromones influence behaviors in a variety of ways depending on the pheromone type. Some pheromones signal reproductive status, give a warning to others to stay away, or even send an alarm signal. Appeasing pheromones are the “feel good” pheromone that is released shortly after an animal gives birth and helps their young as they grow.
Adaptil, formerly known as DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) is a synthetic version of the canine appeasing pheromone. 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. Despite the wide eyed looks that dogs give off, all puppies are born blind and deaf- a rough start! For the first two weeks of their lives newborn puppies rely exclusively on scent and touch and throughout that time the appeasing pheromone helps to minimize stress that the new puppy will experience. When a puppy crawls away from their mother and litter it can increase their stress and they begin to vocalize distinctly- a puppy SOS! When they return to their littermates and mother they get the reassuring signal via the appeasing pheromone that helps them become calm and relaxed again.
Why Use a Pheromone Collar?
Using a pheromone collar provides your dog with a consistent supply of pheromones regardless of time or place. Dogs that have noise phobia, commonly thunderstorms or fireworks, benefit by being surrounded by the appeasing pheromone as we cannot always anticipate when a thunderstorm will happen or when fireworks will be herd. Some dogs may have temporary changes such as being boarded, traveling, or being hospitalized that can cause unintentional stress. During these times the Adaptil collar can add a layer of self assurance to help dogs cope with the changes they may face.
Puppies that have just started their life with their new families can especially benefit. While it is a one of the happiest days, to bring a puppy home, it can be quite the shock to go from leaving your littermates and mother to having a new family- all in one day! Puppies that used Adaptil during that transitional phase stopped crying at night 66% faster and were 75% less likely to vocalize during the day compared to puppies that did not use Adaptil. Feeling secure also helps puppies learn better during their early months in training classes, setting them up to be balanced adults.
Each Adaptil collar is adjustable but needs to be fitted to your dog snugly. To ensure a proper fit you want no more than two fingers width between the collar and your dogs neck. The dogs body heat will help to diffuse the pheromones into the air around him or her.
- Adaptil collars are available over the counter and have no known side effects
- It is safe to use in addition to behavioral medications that your dog may be prescribed
- The collar comes in both small and large sizes and also a Junior size for puppies under 35 pounds
- Once you fit the adjustable collar it provides up to 4 weeks of continuous pheromone support
- Odor free and won’t interfere with flea and tick prevention
- Adaptil has published multiple studies for their product in veterinary journals proving there is a positive statistical impact for dogs wearing the collars
- The collar must be replaced every 4 weeks to deliver a consistent supply of pheromones
- The collar is not waterproof and should be removed for grooming or when the dog is gong to be in water. It can be inconvenient if you have a water loving dog.
- Collars may take up to 7 days to being seeing results if used alone.
- Used alone without any other behavior modification and or environmental changes, it may not effective for your dog
At the end of the day, pheromone collars may help your pup and they certainly won’t hurt them. However, the most effective way to tackle any challenging situation for your dog is problem solving from different angles. Management, behavior modification, and environmental modification are crucial for a success in any area where your dog feels anxious or stressed. Behavior modification is a systematic approach to changing behavior through the use of learning techniques such as operant and classical conditioning. Environmental modification and management is something that everyone is capable of doing and small, strategic changes can have big impacts. For the times where we cannot remove an obstacle we can modify our dogs surroundings and minimize the stressful or anxious impact. For example, during holidays where fireworks are going to be set off, make sure you dog has a comfortable surrounding. Have soft bedding, favorite toys, maybe a frozen tasty treat at the ready, and play classical music (yes, it’s been studied and shown to help!) with the curtains drawn to minimize the visual fireworks. While the festivities are going on outside you can work to make the inside as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
As always, never shy from advocating for your dog to their veterinarian. Vets dedicate their days to making sure our pets can stay happy and healthy for as many years possible, that includes making sure their mental welfare is addressed. Veterinary professionals, veterinary behaviorists, and certified positive reinforcement trainers can help you teach your pup skills to make them more confident and feel more secure in a variety of situations. Like most things in life, slow and steady wins the race for positive changes.