When your dog is fearful or stressed out, he can't exactly understand you when you tell him in words that everything's going to be OK. Thankfully, comfort-enhancing diffusers may just do the trick for you.
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A wide variety of doggie-specific diffusers operate by using synthetic pheromones. These diffusers send out soothing, natural scents that are intended to remind anxious pups and fully grown dogs of their mothers nursing them -- a pretty sweet thought. Diffusers utilize artificial "copies" of the mama dog's pheromone -- a quick way to get a nervous dog feeling calm, serene and as comfortable as a little baby. That said, pheromone diffusers may be helpful in assisting canines in the most stressful of situations. Some examples of anxiety-inducing scenarios for dogs include trips to the veterinarian's clinic, traveling, the introduction of another pet into the home, strange household guests, loud and intimidating weather sounds and the temporary absence of a beloved owner. If your sensitive doggie freaks out in any of those daunting situations, then a diffuser may be just what the doctor -- or veterinarian -- ordered.
Apart from just stress, may also be able to help prevent misbehavior in dogs, from destructive chewing to frustrating urine marking habits.
How They Work
Comfort-enhancing diffusers for canines operate by releasing the synthetic pheromone out into the open. Once your little one inhales the familiar scent, his brain is well on its way to receiving the happiness-boosting message -- time for a major sigh of relief! Place your diffuser in any key location that may be a source of stress and uncertainty for your pet, whether it's his carrier, a seat in your van or even in his bed. Whether you're battling a dog's fear of strangers in the home or his pesky marking habit, synthetic pheromones via diffuser may be able to calm him and get him back onto the path of relaxation.
Plug a DAP diffuser into an electrical outlet near the area where your dog spends most of his time so he can regularly smell it. Change the pheromone refill bottle monthly. If the pheromones work for your dog, you may not notice their effects until after one month of use, according to the DAP Diffuser website. The pheromone diffuser is not a drug; it won't interact with medications your pup is taking. While pheromones work to alleviate stress-related behaviors, they aren't effective in dealing with aggression, WebMD says.
Research suggests that dog-appeasing pheromone diffusers help to calm some but not all dogs who experience separation anxiety, who bark excessively, who exhibit destructive behavior or who tend to be stressed and anxious. A study published in the April 2010 "Canadian Veterinary Journal" found that hospitalized dogs exposed to DAPs exhibited less stress-related behaviors than dogs who weren't. These pups generally experienced a reduction in inappropriate elimination, excessive licking and pacing, along with an improvement in their waning appetites. Other studies have shown that dog-appeasing pheromones had positive effects in helping puppies socialize and adjust better to a new home. In adult dogs, these pheromones have shown to be effective in helping them cope in stressful environments such as shelters and veterinary hospitals and in stressful situations such as re-homing, fireworks exposure or travel. (See links below for detailed information on study results.)
Visit the Vet
If your pet's anxiety and stress issues are especially severe, speak to your veterinarian about other possible solutions if diffusers aren't very effective. Not all dogs respond to diffusers in the exact same manner, of course. The veterinarian may be able to recommend to you a temporary anxiety-decreasing medication. Never ever allow your fluffball to use any medication without the prior approval of a licensed veterinarian, however.
By Naomi Millburn
ASPCA: House Training Your Adult Dog
Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program: Stress Reduction Protocol for Dogs
Maryland SPCA: Stress Relief for Your Pet
Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue: Understanding and Managing Canine Separation Anxiety
Applied Animal Behaviour Science: Efficacy of Dog Appeasing Pheromone in Reducing Stress and Fear Related Behaviour in Shelter Dogs; Elain Tod et al.
The Canadian Veterinary Journal: Efficacy of Dog-Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) for Ameliorating Separation-Related Behavioral Signs in Hospitalized Dogs
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.