For many dog owners – myself included – integrating their anxious dog into society can be a nightmare. Whether it manifests as a stubborn tail between the legs, crying, whimpering or even short-tempered aggression, many dogs unfortunately experience feelings of immense stress and anxiety that impact their ability to ingratiate themselves into their community.
Arya was purchased as a puppy when she was eight weeks old. She was given to me shortly afterwards by a family member and has since lived a life, I hope, wonderfully spoilt and stress-free. That is not to say she doesn’t have her own strange quirks. For a dog of reasonable size, she is incredibly anxious and on-edge when outside in public areas. Even in quiet country villages such as Crickhowell, Wales, where we stayed with her in a guest rented cottage and climbed Table Mountain together, she flinched and cried at the slightest interaction with a large quantity of strangers. When she is in the middle of a field or somewhere remote, she reigns as queen. Whenever we are anyway remotely busy and populated, it is panic time.
Arya has no qualms in the countryside but struggles to cope in the city.
It is a big problem that many dog owners frequently encounter. Luckily, there are measures to be taken that can help. Positive reinforcement can be challenging with Arya as she will completely ignore treats and respond little to praise when truly frightened. The Adaptil Calm-On-The-Go Collar was recommended to me by Arya’s previous vet, after I asked him for advice with her confidence and social skills. He recommended both the collar and the plug-in spray – though also suggested an alternative herbal plug-in spray that was a little cheaper. Both purchases, he advised, were better made through Amazon, as Adaptil products there tend to cost a little less than products directly bought from the company.
Eager to see if this would make a difference, I ordered some quickly whilst researching what Adaptil is and how it works.
What Is Canine Anxiety And How Is It Caused?
Anxiety in dogs manifests itself in a number of different ways. Just as humans can become overwhelmed and easily stressed, dogs too can find a number of different environments challenging. Situations such as these can be a catalyst for your dog’s nerves:
- Being left home alone
- Travelling in a car
- Going to see the vet
- Walks in busy cities and crowded places
There are a number of causes for canine anxiety. If you have rescued your dog from a shelter, they may be more inclined to having abandonment issues due to being discarded by previous owners, neglected or even abused. Moving home, a change in their routine or loss of companion can also contribute to a dog’s stress levels. It is worth noting that many breeds may be predisposed to having a nervous disposition, as well as factors dependant on the dog’s individual personality.
Like humans, dogs too can experience bouts of fear and anxiety.
What is Adaptil?
Adaptil contains a synthetic dog appeasing pheromone that is odourless and detectable only to dogs. It mimics the “comforting messages” sent by a puppy’s mother, produced from her mammary zone. The maternal comfort works to provide a feeling of safety and security for dogs of all ages.
Adaptil Junior is intended more for use with puppies, whereas the Adaptil Calm range caters more for adult dogs. Because of the targeted age range, Adaptil Junior functions better keeping puppies calm after being separated from their mother so as to make it easier for them to be trained and acquire social skills that will prove crucial throughout their lives.
Adaptil Junior helps puppies who are struggling with being separated from their mothers.
When To Use Adaptil
It is worth giving Adaptil a try if your dog has difficulties with:
- Staying home alone
- Loud noises
- Other fears and phobias
These symptoms are most often than not indicators of separation anxiety, low confidence or some other form of phobia, which can be incredibly distressing for dogs. Other symptoms that seem, at first, more of a nuisance manifest as incessant chewing, howling or even having a bathroom-related accident in the house.
Anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways when it comes to canine behavior.
How To Use An Adaptil Collar
The Adaptil collar is easy enough to apply. It is encased in a foil packet which opens to a plain black, rubber-like material. I purchased a collar for large dogs as Arya has quite a thick neck. The large collar fits dogs ranging up to 50kg approximately, fitting around necks roughly up to 62.5cm. The smaller collar fits dogs weighing up to 15kg with a neck circumference of 37.5cm.
It is recommended that the collar stays on for a month after it is first applied, with results noticeable after approximately eight days. The collar should be replaced at the end of the month for continued effectiveness.
Adaptil is great for allowing your dog to relax and let their true personality shine through.
Pros Of An Adaptil Collar
There was a definite change in Arya’s behaviour when outside whilst wearing the Adaptil collar. I started to notice these results after roughly five days. Although she was still a bit unnerved, the collar definitely gave her more confidence when out and about and allowed her to function more clearly as opposed to being ruled by her fears and anxiety. Although still not overly keen on strangers – which I attribute to her personality as every dog is different – she was more interested and less hostile when people greeted her, sniffing their hands with a slightly dubious expression instead of running and hiding behind my legs.
The Adaptil collar certainly does help dogs who are easily stressed in crowds and public places. It seemed mostly to take the edge off of her nerves, allowing Arya to approach situations more rationally. These effects have been long-lasting as Arya is much better with people now. She adores children and tends to go into a protective, guardian-like role when around them, exhibiting the typical bully breed loyalty. In regards to adults, Arya still prefers to build a relationship with people first, getting to know them gradually before giving them her affection. Once rapport is established, however, she is a completely different dog, full of love and eager to play.
The Adaptil collar certainly helped ease Arya’s nerves when strolling through a busy city centre.
Cons Of An Adaptil Collar
One of the things I wanted to work on with the use of the Adaptil collar was Arya’s lack of social skills when it comes to other dogs. She is very much a dog who needs to get to know someone – human or canine – before she can relax and be herself. The issue with the extended confidence Adaptil gave her was that it made her a little too cocky around other dogs, as she was quicker to try and assert herself through aggression. This is an ongoing problem that I believe only time and training can overcome.
The Adaptil collar isn’t completely foolproof. Whilst it certainly lowers your dog’s stress levels, it is not a definitive cure.
Adaptil can help dogs socialise – or, in Arya’s case, give them a little too much swagger.
So… Does Adaptil Work?
Yes. It certainly brings about a big change in your dog’s behaviour, though it doesn’t completely take away all of the anxiety. I would describe it best as a good aid in taking the edge off for your dog and allowing them to behave more rationally, rather than acting as a conduit for pure fear.
What Adaptil does do greatly is provide an aid whilst training your dog in social situations as well as helping them at home and during travel time should they become uncomfortable. It is a great support system that relaxes your dog without having too much of a draining, sedative effect.
Adaptil products make brilliant aids when you are training your dog.
Would I Recommend Adaptil Collars For Anxious Dogs?
As a complete and absolute cure, no. It won’t magically make your dog super social or fix all of their strange little behavioural quirks, but it makes enough of a difference that the rest of their journey can be filled in with training, time and attention. If your dog is anything like Arya, they will still need to gradually build a relationship with people and the outdoors. What Adaptil does do is allow a dog’s owner to work more with their dog and help them overcome their fears. I am a big believer in all dogs having their own individual personality. Like human beings, some are extroverted and some are introverted.
I accept that Arya will never be a dog to go crazy at the sight of strangers and attack them with kisses. She is much more reserved and cautious. However, with the help of the Adaptil collar she has made excellent progress. I can walk her through a busy city centre without her completely freaking out – though her tail will still remain firmly between her legs and she much prefers the countryside and big open fields to sprawling urban landscapes.
Many dogs struggle with anxiety purely due to their personality – but Adaptil can certainly be a big help.
Are There Other Adaptil Products Besides The Calm-On-The-Go Collar?
Adaptil have a range of products designed to ease stress and anxiety for your dog through the use of synthetic dog appeasing pheromones. The Adaptil collar is ideal for keeping your dog calm when out of the house on a walk, but there are also a number of additional products that help keep your dog comfortable at home.
The Adaptil Calm Home Diffuser is a plug-in that needs refilling every month. The Adaptil Refill is also sold separate. This is especially ideal for making your dog’s home a calm, safe space particularly if they, like Arya, have trouble with being home alone and are easily frightened by fireworks and loud noises.
Adaptil Transport is a spray intended for use on car seats and in dog carriers – never directly on dogs, however – to soothe travel anxiety in canines and send comforting measures that will keep them calm when travelling long distances or going to see the vet. It is advised to use the spray fifteen minutes before travelling, respraying every four or five hours.
Adaptil’s plethora of products gives additional support to your dog in stressful situations.
Adaptil also offer tablets for faster relief for canine anxiety during stressful situations and events. Adaptil Express is administered to dogs dependent on their weight: heavy dogs above 30kg are recommended to be given three tablets, dogs weighing between 20kg-30kg two tablets and smaller dogs under 20kg only one tablet. Unlike the other products in the Adaptil plethora, the Express tablets are non-pheromone based and are instead composed of a combination of amino acids and vitamins that help dogs remain calm and relaxed without making them too sleepy. It is recommended that you give your dog their Express tablets two hours prior to a stressful event, for example a fireworks display in the neighbourhood on New Years Eve.