Be a smarter pet parent
Next time, skip the web. Get health tips and wellness advice for your pet straight to your inbox.
Updated March 3, 2023
Dogs, like humans, are prone to anxiety. Sometimes, it’s situational — loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks, can stress out our furry friends. Other dogs are anxious more frequently, perhaps because of a previous traumatic experience.
We want our pups to be happy and healthy, physically and mentally. The best calming aids may help your dog feel less anxious, but you’ll need to find the right fit for your pup. Our team reviewed and tested four calming chews for dogs. We also tested toys and collars and gave our best recommendation for a relaxing pet bed.
While there are many reasons why dogs experience stress, managing it is critical. Scientists say anxiety in dogs is more prevalent than was previously understood, leading to higher than necessary rates of relinquishment and euthanasia. Calming treats, supplements, and other aids may help with:
For dogs with persistent anxiety, daily supplements may be necessary. For dogs with situational anxieties, try a supplement 1 to 2 hours before the anxiety-causing event. In either case, calming supplements are most effective in dogs with mild general and situational anxiety.
Dogs can develop anxiety at any stage of their life. It will sometimes be present as early as puppyhood. Other times, it will manifest later in life for seemingly no clear reason. You may notice:
If you’ve noticed behavioral changes like these, see your veterinarian to make sure there’s no underlying medical reason why your dog is acting out of sorts.
Vetriscience teams up with veterinarians and nutritionists, making it a respected brand by vets around the country. These calming soft chews live up to the brand’s reputation — we love the simple and safe active ingredients list. We found that the chews work best during the day and for situational anxiety issues, like car rides.
Vetriscience consults with vets and nutritionists before putting a product on the market, so veterinarian Dr. Erica Irish and her peers feel confident recommending the brand to pet parents. Dr. Irish has also seen Vetriscience’s calming chews work firsthand. She loves recommending them to pet parents for daytime, event-specific use.
Native Pet doesn’t do long, confusing ingredient lists. Instead, it leans into natural solutions. These air-dried calming chews have eight ingredients, including L-theanine. The real chicken smells great and our pups got excited (in a good way) to take the treat.
One word of caution: These chews contain melatonin, which induces sleep but doesn’t help with anxiety. We don’t recommend giving these treats to your dog during the day, particularly before you want to play. Hemp seed powder is a trendy ingredient, but it’s not proven to help with canine anxiety. Dr. Irish says clinical trials would be helpful for pet parents and vets.
Dr. Irish notes that the safe ingredients and palatability have made these treats a favorite among reviewers. But she does have some concerns about the efficacy of the hemp powder and the necessity of using melatonin. Save these treats for bedtime if you’re going to give them to your dog.
Sometimes, our tummies hurt when we get stressed. Dogs are no exception. But anxious pups with sensitive stomachs deserve some tender loving care, too. Premium Care’s Calming Chews are soothing for situational-induced stressors without causing GI flare-ups. If you’re hesitant to spring for these chews, we have good news: You can buy them, let your pup try them, and return them if they don’t work. Premium Care offers a 100% money-back guarantee.
Dr. Irish can vouch for many of the ingredients in these calming chews (chamomile, valerian root, and L-tryptophan). But she does point out that scientists are still studying the safety and dosing efficacy of hemp seed oil. She’s comforted by Premium Care’s money-back guarantee and stellar reviews from previous buyers, though.
If you’re looking for an alternative with hemp seed oil and L-tryptophan, these chews by Vets Preferred contain these ingredients plus L-theanine.
These calming chews from Zesty Paws come in a fun orange container. But though the package is bright and cheery, the formula is soothing. Chamomile and L-theanine are among the main ingredients.
The melatonin in Zesty Paws’ chews concerns Dr. Irish. She says it’s acceptable in low doses for dogs and is even used to treat some skin conditions. Dr. Irish also points out that hemp oil is also scientifically unproven, but she notes that many of the other ingredients, like chamomile and L-theanine, are effective. Some of her clients swear by these chews, too.
A safe space, a designated place your dog can call its own is one way to soothe an anxious dog. This luxurious dog bed has the bonus of being one of our favorite chew-proof choices. Like other memory foam beds, it’s pricey but balances a durable exterior with a supportive and comfortable insert. If your anxious pup is also older or suffers from an underlying medical condition, it may be worth the splurge. Keep in mind that our sample size is small — what’s a good fit for our dogs may not be right for yours.
Dogs often chew when they’re stressed, and anyone who has parented a super chewer knows how quickly you can go through toys. Like other Kong products, the Kong Extreme is one of the few truly indestructible dog toys we’ve tested, though you should always supervise your dog to make sure they don’t ingest any small pieces that might break off. You may fill it with one of the treats on this list or a puree of your dog’s favorite filling.
We’ve tested Sentry calming collars on dogs and cats and found them to be effective for both. Our veterinary advisors are fans, too. “The calming collars may help a dog or cat that has mild anxiety around other pets or is being introduced into a new home,” Dr. Michelle Diener says. “These collars would not be worth trying on a dog or cat that has severe anxiety.”
Dr. Irish helped us formulate this list. She took a close look at the calming supplements on our list to ensure they’re safe and effective for your pup to use. We then tested each chew in the field with our dogs so we can recommend the best calming treats that actually work. We also tested them in the betterpet lab to make sure the consistency, smell, packaging, and other factors lived up to manufacturer descriptions and veterinarian expectations.
Calming supplements alone may not be enough to soothe your anxious pet. That’s why we also suggested other products we’ve tested: a comfortable bed, a challenging toy, and a calming collar. Dr. Irish also recommends calming probiotics like Purina ProPlan’s Calming Care — we’ve rounded up the best probiotics for dogs here.
👉 Your veterinarian can help you make a plan for soothing your anxious dog. Severe anxiety may require anxiety medications or behavioral training.
Calming supplements usually work best if they have a variety of ingredients that can work in conjunction to reduce anxiety.
Valerian root. Many researchers believe valerian root increases the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA provides a calming effect on the brain, allowing your pup to relax. The supplement has a sedative effect, so expect your dog to become a little drowsy.
Melatonin. Melatonin can also increase the functioning of GABA in the brain and reduce the feeling of fear. Melatonin is generally considered safe by vets, but there aren’t many canine-specific studies. As always, consult your vet before giving your dog melatonin-based supplements. Watch out for ones with xylitol as an ingredient.
L-theanine. L-theanine works by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, which produces a calming effect. It’s the main ingredient in most calming supplements for dogs and can be used for a variety of anxious conditions. Give your dog a supplement about one hour before an anticipated anxious event.
L-tryptophan. Low levels of L-tryptophan in the body have been associated with anxiety, mood disorders, and depressive symptoms. So it makes sense that if you provide extra tryptophan in the body, feelings of anxiety may be reduced. Tryptophan also increases the amount of serotonin, the happy hormone, in your pup’s brain.
Chamomile. Chamomile is an herbal extract with anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and muscle-relaxing properties. It can help with relaxation though it has mildly sedative properties, thus helping to relieve anxiety. It can also decrease anxiety-related gastrointestinal disturbances, such as gas, pain, and bloating.
Hemp oil. Hemp oil and CBD oil are incredibly popular among dog owners these days. While there’s anecdotal evidence that CBD is effective, there’s still a lot of research to do. Scientific findings have yet to prove the oil’s consistent efficacy and safety profile.
If you do try CBD oil with your dog, make sure it’s manufactured specifically for dogs and follow the label instructions precisely to avoid adverse reactions. Dr. Irish also recommends looking for companies that readily provide laboratory data ensuring their products do not contain THC, the compound found in marijuana that leads to changes in consciousness and perception.
Passionflower. Passionflower is a natural herbal supplement that’s considered to be a mood enhancer. It can produce a calming effect in your pup but is best if given before a trigger sets them off.
Colostrum. Colostrum is a milk protein that is derived from the first milk produced by a lactating female. The colostrum used in supplements is typically obtained from cows. There’s also evidence that certain milk proteins may help with anxiety as well.
Natural calming supplements contain a single or combination of natural ingredients to help dogs chill. Some chews include chamomile, L-theanine, and valerian root.
Ultimately, the best calming supplement for your pup will depend on your furbaby’s needs and preferences. We selected Vetriscience Composure as our top pick for its stellar reputation and simple ingredients that are proven to aid anxious pups.
Generally, calming supplements are safe for dogs. But you’ll want your dog’s vet to review the product’s ingredients before giving it to your dog. Some ingredients may interfere with other medications your pup is taking.
Calming supplements can help calm a nervous dog, but there are other methods, too. Exercise, pheromones, calming vests, and training can all help. You could also try: soothing music or white noise, a comfortable bed in a dedicated space such as a (roomy) closet or basement, and, of course, snuggles from you. In some cases, a prescription from the vet may be the best solution.