Whether it’s thunderstorms or fireworks, car rides or vet visits, there are things that make some dogs very anxious and stressed. Calming aids for dogs may help them relax.
“All dogs are different and there is no one treatment that works for all dogs,” says Chris Roth, in-house veterinarian at Pets Best. “It is going to be a trial-and-error process to see what works for your dog, and so you may need to try a few or combination of solutions to find what works best for your pet.”
Calming aids can include natural supplements, anti-anxiety vests and collars, or toys to divert your pup’s attention.
“It's important to note that while calming aids can be helpful, they should not be used as a substitute for proper training, socialization, or medical treatment when necessary,” says Denver-based Dr. Alejandro Caos, a veterinarian with The Vets, an in-home pet service. “If you are unsure whether a calming aid is appropriate for your dog, it's best to consult with your veterinarian.”
We tested many calming aids, consulted with trainers, veterinarians, and pet owners, and scoured product reviews. Our favorite overall pick is VetriScience Composure, veterinarian-recommended calming treats that can work within 30 minutes and last up to four hours. We also love the ThunderShirt, an anti-anxiety jacket that keeps a gentle pressure on your pup to ease stress.
VetriScience Composure Calming Chews for Dogs
Can work within 30 minutes and last up to 4 hours
Can give as needed or daily
National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal
Doesn’t work with all dogs
Veterinarians often recommend Composure calming chews to decrease anxiety without turning to prescription medication. Its active ingredients are colostrum, l-theanine, and thiamine, which may have properties that promote relaxation. The chews can be given every day or just as needed—like when you expect thunderstorms or a trip to the vet.
The chews are available in peanut butter, bacon, or chicken flavor. They’re made for all size dogs and you give one to three chews daily depending on weight. In times of extreme anxiety, it’s safe to double or triple the dose. There’s a longer-lasting version that can last up to 8 hours and an unflavored liquid version, as well as a clinical strength formula.
Composure has the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal of approval, which means the manufacturer has met several requirements including having strong quality control, a system to monitor products, submit to random testing, and meet strict labeling guidelines. The chews seem very tasty for dogs and can be given as a treat.
Price at time of publish: $19
Flavors: chicken, bacon, peanut butter | Quantity: 60 chews | Active Ingredients: thiamine, colostrum, L-theanine
Best Anti-Anxiety Vest
Thundershirt Dog Anxiety Treatment
Easy to put on and take off
Comes in seven sizes from xx-small to xx-large
Can be worn for long periods
Breathable, stretchy fabric
Doesn’t work for all dogs
The ThunderShirt acts like a gentle hug, swaddling your pet in soft, breathable fabric. The constant pressure works to help calm anxiety and over-excitement. The jacket is easy to wrap around your dog, using big body straps with solid Velcro closures. The jacket comes in seven sizes for dogs from dogs under 8 pounds to those over 110 pounds.
The traditional gray ThunderShirt is made from a stretchy, soft blend of polyester, rayon and spandex. There’s also a “polo” version with a slightly different design and the same fabric blend. The “sport” ThunderShirt is made of 100% polyester and is the most breathable. It’s a good option for dogs that run hot or have long hair.
The ThunderShirt can be worn for long periods. Just check it every hour or so to make sure it’s not rubbing or irritating anywhere. It can be worn in the car if travel is stressful, to the vet’s office, or in the home for thunderstorms, fireworks, or separation anxiety. In a 2022 customer survey of more than 1,700 dogs, the ThunderShirt helped calm 80 percent of pets.
Price at time of publish: $41
Sizes: xx-small, x-small, small, medium, large, x-large, xx-large
Zesty Paws Advanced Calming Bites
9 organic active ingredients
No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
Cost can add up, particularly for big dogs who take multiple chew doses
Zesty Paws is known for an array of popular multivitamins and supplements. These calming bites have nine organic ingredients that are believed to have calming properties including chamomile, melatonin, hemp seed powder, and forms of L-theanine and ashwagandha. The soft (and apparently delicious) treats come in three flavors: turkey, peanut butter, and bison.
Feed one to three treats per day, depending on your dog’s weight. Start with half the recommended amount and gradually increase it. You can divide the amount if you want to give them at breakfast and dinner. The treats have no artificial flavors or preservatives or synthetic colors and no grain, corn, or soy. The bites have the NASC quality seal and Zesty Paws offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
Price at time of publish: $32
Flavors: turkey, peanut butter, bison | Quantity: 90 chews | Active Ingredients: hemp seed powder, chamomile, valerian root, passionflower, L-theanine, ginger root, ashwagandha, L-Tryptophan, magnesium citrate
Vetoquinol Zylkene Calming Supplements for Small Dogs & Cats
Can give daily or as needed
Can give as capsule or sprinkle on food
No preservatives or lactose
More expensive than many other calming solutions
Doesn’t work for all dogs
Zylkene capsules from Vetoquinol contain a natural milk protein from cows called alpha-casozepine that has been found to help foster a sense of calmness in some pets. Its calming effects are well-researched in cats, but not yet widely studied in dogs, though initial results are promising. You can give the capsule as is or open it and sprinkle it on your dog’s food. They shouldn’t even notice because it has no taste.
The capsules come in three strengths: 75 mg, 225, mg, and 450. Choose based on the size of your pet. You can give them as needed in times of stress or offer them daily as a supplement. Zylkene contains no preservatives or lactose and does not cause drowsiness. They are often vet-recommended, but can be more expensive than some other options.
Price at time of publish: $50
Flavors: Unflavored | Quantity: 30 capsules | Active Ingredient: alpha-casozepine
Best Calming Spray
ThunderEase Dog Calming Pheromone Spray
Can use it anywhere (car, hotel, vet’s office)
Starts working within about 15 minutes
No odor for humans
Doesn’t work for some dogs
Has to be reapplied every 4 to 5 hours
Calming sprays can help you deal with anxiety away from home. You can spray it in the car, on a dog bed, or throughout a hotel room. The ThunderEase spray releases pheromones that copy a nursing mother dog’s chemicals used to communicate with her puppies. The goal is to inspire a feeling of calm and comfort.
Spray about 8 to 10 pumps wherever you need it, like the inside of the car or on a dog bed. Then wait about 15 minutes before bringing your dog into the area. Respray it about every 4 to 5 hours as needed. You can also spray it directly on a ThunderShirt anti-anxiety vest to up the calming effects. There’s no lasting smell that people can sense.
Price at time of publish: $28
Quantity: 60 milliliters | Active Ingredient: dog pheromone
Adaptil Calming Pheromone Collar for Dog
Lasts for about a month
Can be worn 24/7
No smell for humans
Doesn’t work for all dogs
Vets often recommend this Adaptil collar for calming anxiety and nervousness without medication. The collar is infused with pheromones that are released by nursing mother dogs to communicate with their puppies. Pheromones are chemicals that act like hormones but outside the body and they can have an impact on the behavior of others in the same species.
The collar comes in three sizes—puppy, small, and medium/large. Place it snugly around your pup’s neck and your dog’s natural warmth will activate it to release the pheromones. Keep it on all the time except when giving your dog a bath. The effects typically last about a month before the collar will need to be replaced.
Adaptil also makes a plug-in diffuser that releases the same pheromones. The scent is not noticeable by the human members of the family.
Price at time of publish: $22
Sizes: Puppy, Small, Medium/Large | Quantity: 1 | Active Ingredient: canine-appeasing pheromone
Best Calming Toy
West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Dog Puzzle Treat Toy
Comes in two sizes
Can hold spreadable treats and bully sticks
Floats and can be used for fetch
Can’t hold loose treats or kibble
The Qwizl from West Paw is one of our very favorite dog toys. The twisty, durable Qwizl has an opening that runs through the whole length of the toy and then little open spots along the ends and sides. That allows you to slather in a soft spread like peanut butter or yogurt and then poke in some dog treats or kibble and freeze the whole thing. The act of licking can be self-soothing when a dog is anxious or nervous, so giving them a long-lasting treat toy can help them calm down.
You can also poke a bully stick down the center of the toy, making it a challenge for your pup to get to it. The Qwizl is made of a trademark material called Zogoflex, which is a hard, rubber-like substance. It comes in two sizes—small or large—and three bright colors. Qwizls also float so they can be used at the beach or lake and, because they’re so sturdy, some pups just like using them as a chew toy. When you’re finished, the Qwizl is easy to clean in the dishwasher.
Price at time of publish: $20
Colors: aqua blue, granny smith, tangerine | Quantity: 1 | Material: Zogoflex, hard rubber-like material
Our favorite overall pick is VetriScience Composure Calming Chews, veterinarian-recommended calming treats that can work within 30 minutes and last up to four hours. We also love the ThunderShirt, an anti-anxiety jacket that keeps a gentle pressure on your pup to ease stress.
What to Look For in Calming Aid for Dogs
Uses for Calming Aids
Calming aids may be helpful in situations where dogs might become stressed or anxious. That can include:
- Travel—Some dogs might get stressed when traveling by car or plane.
- Separation anxiety—Dogs may experience anxiety when left alone.
- Loud noises—Dogs may become frightened or stressed during thunderstorms or fireworks.
- Vet visits—Dogs may be anxious when going to the vet, particularly if they’ve had unpleasant experiences in the past.
- New places—Dogs may be stressed when they are someplace new, like a different home.
“An important aspect of reducing stress and anxiety is predicting the event that may cause your pet to be triggered into an unwanted state of anxiety,” says Dr. Caos. You know fireworks will happen on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, so plan for these events by giving calming aids about two hours before the noise happens. “While calming aids can be helpful, they should not be used as a substitute for proper training, socialization, or medical treatment when necessary. If you are unsure whether a calming aid is appropriate for your dog, it's best to consult with your veterinarian.”
There are different natural substances that have been studied for their calming properties. “While these ingredients have been shown to have some calming effects in dogs, it's important to note that their effectiveness may vary depending on the individual dog and the specific situation in which they are used,” says Caos.
Some common active ingredients include:
- L-theanine—Amino acid found in green tea and some mushrooms that has been shown to reduce anxiety in some dogs
- Valerian root—Herb with sedating properties that has been used to treat sleep issues and anxiety in people and dogs
- Chamomile—Popular herb used for calming properties and to reduce anxiety
- Passionflower—Herb traditionally used for anxiety and to help with sleep
- Pheromones—These can mimic the calming feelings of a nursing mother to her puppies
- Melatonin—Hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycle and may ease anxiety in dogs
Side Effects and Risks
Calming aids are generally considered safe for dogs, however, each pet may react differently. “It's always important to follow the recommended dosage instructions for any calming aid, and to closely monitor your dog's behavior and response to the aid,” says Caos. “If you notice any adverse effects, stop using the product immediately and consult with your veterinarian.”
Here are some side effects to consider:
- Allergic reactions—Dogs may have an allergic reaction to specific ingredients, which can cause itching, swelling, and breathing issues.
- Interactions—They can interact with some other medications, so consult with your vet before adding supplements to your dog’s diet.
- Behavioral changes—Some dogs may experience the opposite effect from calming and may get agitated when given certain supplements, says Caos.
- Overdose—Taking too much of a calming aid can cause drowsiness or lethargy, and even lead to respiratory issues and seizures.
How long do calming aids for dogs last?
How much a calming aid works and how long those effects last depending on the specific product and your dog’s response to it. “Some natural calming aids, such as chamomile or valerian root, may take longer to have an effect and may last for a shorter period of time, typically a few hours,” says Caos.
However, calming vets or collars may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Likewise, supplements with natural ingredients such as L-theanine or melatonin may last up to 8 hours or more.
“The duration of the effects of calming aids can also be influenced by the individual dog's size, age, and overall health,” says Caos. “As with any supplement or medication, it's important to follow the recommended dosage instructions and to monitor your dog's behavior and response to the aid.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets
To find the best calming aids for dogs, we tested a range of products on our own pets. We also consulted with veterinarians about what to look for when shopping, asked dog owners about their favorite products, and sifted through loads of online product reviews.
This article was researched and written by Mary Jo DiLonardo who has covered animals and pets for several decades. Mary Jo has fostered more than 60 dogs and puppies. She is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use with them such as best dog toys and best car safety seats and restraints.