If your furry friend suffers from anxiety, calming treats for dogs can help you carve out more quiet moments — moments when your pup isn't worried about their environment and you aren't worried about your dog's anxiety. These treats typically rely on natural ingredients that have a non-sedative calming effect. So, as long as you choose your calming chews carefully, you won't have to worry that you're sedating your dog.
Here's a look at how all-natural calming treats work, what to look for (and avoid) in a calming formula, and other things you can do to help an anxious dog.
When Should You Use Calming Treats for Dogs?
Calming treats are designed to help anxious dogs cope with stressful situations. They are not designed to address hyperactivity, boredom, or aggressive behavior.
If you're trying to calm a hyperactive dog that is not suffering from anxiety, the best solution is exercise. Some dog breeds, especially working breeds and herding breeds, need more exercise than the average pet parent can provide. If your pooch falls into this category, try hiring a dog walker or taking them to doggy daycare a few times a week.
If your dog is bored, it can look like separation anxiety — both can lead to destructive behavior and excessive barking. Calming chews may help minimize unwanted behaviors that come from separation anxiety, but if your dog is simply bored, you'll need another solution, like a long-lasting dog chew or a treat puzzle.
If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior, calming aids are unlikely to make a meaningful impact. Instead, work with an animal behaviorist to learn techniques to minimize and manage your dog's aggression.
If you're trying to offer your dog anxiety relief, then calming chews could be right for you. Calming chews can help dogs cope with separation anxiety and environmental fears like a fear of loud noises, thunderstorms, or fireworks.
They can also help dogs who feel anxious when there's a lot of commotion. You can offer your dog a calming bite before you host a party or before workers come to your house.
But, in these cases, you should also provide your dog with a quiet place away from the commotion, like a covered crate or a private bedroom. And again, calming chews are not a cure for aggression, so if your dog has ever shown aggression toward a guest in your home, keep them separate from your guests.
How Do Calming Treats Work?
Don't think of calming treats as a dog treat — think of them as a dog supplement. Sure, a good calming supplement will taste delicious and come in a chewable formula that makes it easy to feed to your dog. But calming products contain active ingredients like a supplement.
The best calming treats for dogs rely on all-natural ingredients with few, if any, side effects. And many will have dosage recommendations on the label, which will specify how many calming treats your dog can eat each day.
Small dogs will need fewer soft chews than large dogs, but in either case, you shouldn't use calming treats as a training treat or an all-the-time snack.
Give your dog calming treats about 40 minutes before a stressful event to allow time for the active ingredients to go to work. The types of active ingredients in your dog's calming treats will determine how effective the treat is and how long it takes to work.
What to Look for in Calming Treats for Dogs
Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA — that goes for both human supplements and dog supplements. So, it's up to you to determine the quality and efficacy of any supplement you give to your best friend.
We'll go over the best active ingredients to look for in a calming formula below. But to determine the overall quality of a supplement, you should look at the inactive ingredients as well.
Products that use certified organic ingredients will have higher quality standards than products that don't. You should also look for formulas that are free of artificial preservatives and fillers. And whenever you have the option, choose whole food ingredients, like chicken and peanut butter, over heavily processed ingredients, like chicken flavor and peanut butter flavor.
Avoid treats with CBD because the ingredient isn't well-researched in animals — there are few scientific studies into the calming effects of CBD in dogs. There is, however, scientific evidence that giving CBD to dogs increases their level of alkaline phosphate — an important liver enzyme. Researchers aren't sure what effect long-term CBD use might have on dog's livers.
Err on the side of caution by choosing these active ingredients instead.
The Best Active Ingredients for Calming Treats for Dogs
These ingredients are safe for our canine companions. They're all natural, and they can help calm our dogs without the use of more serious drugs.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that your dog's (and your own) body produces to prepare for rest. This supplement made headlines for its calming effect on dogs as early as the 1990s. And one study found that giving dogs melatonin before surgery helped them remain more calm throughout the process.
In spite of its efficacy, you should never share melatonin supplements for people with your canine companion. A chewy dog treat that contains melatonin is much safer because it will contain a dose that's appropriate for a dog's weight and metabolism.
L-theanine is a phytochemical that occurs naturally in green tea leaves. A study on dogs with behavioral issues found dogs that ate a diet rich in L-theanine had reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. A similar study in cats found that cats exhibited lower stress levels after receiving L-theanine for 30 days.
Also known as vitamin B1, thiamine is an essential nutrient for dogs and cats, so it should be included as part of a balanced diet. Thiamine helps maintain the central nervous system, and thiamine supplements may help calm stress and anxiety.
While most dogs will get thiamine from their food, some may not get enough or may have a thiamine deficiency for other reasons. Researchers aren't certain about the number of dogs with a thiamine deficiency.
Hemp Seed Powder
Hemp seed powder and hemp oil are natural sources of stearidonic acid, which helps promote normal brain function. Studies in humans show it has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Calming hemp treats made from organic hemp seed powder or oil can help provide these benefits to your dog.
In addition to the ingredients listed above, there are some herbs with a long history of use in homeopathic medicine. Research into the efficacy of these herbal remedies is mixed, but they are safe for dogs, and there is anecdotal evidence to support their use. If you want to try them for your own dog, these herbal ingredients may provide a calming effect:
- Valerian root
- Ginger root
- Passion flower
Other Techniques to Help Dogs With Anxiety
In addition to a functional calming treat, you can try making lifestyle changes or using other tools to address your dog's anxiety. These techniques can be used separately or simultaneously until you find the best combination of therapies for your anxious dog.
- Exercise: A well-exercised dog is a calmer and better behaved dog. Plus, exercise will positively impact your dog's whole body health, so this is a great place to start when you're looking to address health or behavioral issues.
- Chews and treat puzzles: If you keep your dog occupied, they'll have less time to stress. Try using a long lasting treat like an antler or yak chew to give your dog something to do. Or fill a KONG or another puzzle toy with small treats, peanut butter, or a DIY frozen dog treat recipe.
- Calming diffusers: Another calming product, diffusers use dog pheromones to signal to your pet that they are safe. Diffusers can be especially helpful when your pet is adapting to a new environment.
- Thunder shirts: A ThunderShirt or ThunderWunder is a vest that uses deep pressure therapy to sooth your dog. The effect is similar to a hug, and it can help your pet cope with loud noises and thunderstorms.
- Behavioral therapy: Animal behaviorists can teach you tools and techniques that can help desensitize your dog to their anxiety triggers.
- Prescription medication: If your pet suffers from serious anxiety that affects their daily life, talk to your vet about prescription medications for your dog's anxiety. But, keep in mind that these medications can come with serious side effects and are best used as a last resort when other calming aids fail.
Choose the Right Calming Treats for Your Dog
Calming treats are designed for dogs suffering from anxiety — they're not meant to address hyperactivity, boredom, or aggressive behavior. If you have an anxious dog, calming treats can help soothe their anxiety naturally with few, if any, side effects.
But, choose your calming supplements carefully. Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so there can be a big difference between one supplement and the next. Look for treats with a limited number of ingredients, including scientifically proven active ingredients and all-natural inactive ingredients.
Native Pet Calm Chews are all-natural calming treats for dogs. They're made with Melatonin, L-Theanine, Thiamine, and Hemp Seed Powder — ingredients backed by science.
Calm Chews can help your pet cope with stressful situations. And they're ideal for dogs suffering from mild anxiety. Use Calm Chews daily to help reduce your dog's overall anxiety, or offer them before stressful events to help your pet keep their cool.For more information on your pet's health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.