If you own an anxious dog, you may be hoping that a comfort diffuser will make all Scruffy's worries magically dissipate in thin air. Don't get your hopes too high, though. Each dog may respond differently, so don't expect Courage the Cowardly Dog to magically transform into Titan overnight.
Comfort diffusers for dogs contain the synthetic version of a naturally occurring pheromone known as "Dog Appeasing Pheromone." The purpose of this pheromone, secreted by the mammary glands of nursing mommas, is to induce feelings of well-being and comfort to the pups. Since there is belief that dogs may be capable of remembering smells through adulthood, French veterinarian Patrick Pageat felt the use of such pheromones might help calm stressed adult dogs.
While your scaredy dog can't fix himself a cup of chamomile tea, you may be looking for something to help calm his nerves. Comfort diffusers are often recommended for the treatment of separation anxiety and to ease the fear of loud noises and thunderstorms. Other uses include fear of transportation, fear of boarding in an unfamiliar environment, fear of unfamiliar people, excessive vocalization or excessive licking. Dog appeasing pheromones have been also used for house soiling issues and fear of veterinary visits, according to veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman.
While comfort diffusers seem to have many uses, you may be wondering how effective they are. Several studies published in scientific journals 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.
Like people, no dogs are created equal. What may work for one dog may not work for another. Comfort diffusers, and calming aids in general, are not a substitute for training and behavior modification; however, they may help your dog relax so he may be better capable of learning and changing his behavior for the best. Also, keep in mind that pheromones are not effective for aggression problems in dogs, according to veterinarian and director of animal behavior consultations Wayne Hunthausen. Before assuming your dog is suffering from behavioral problems, consider having your pooch thoroughly checked out by your vet, since behavioral problems at times may stem from medical causes.
- Applied Animal Behaviour Science: Efficacy of Dog Appeasing Pheromone in Reducing Stress and Fear Related Behaviour in Shelter Dogs; Elain Tod et al.
- Journal of the British Veterinary Association: Evaluation of Dog-Appeasing Pheromone as a Potential Treatment for Dogs Fearful of Fireworks; G. Sheppard, D. S. Mills
- Journal of the British Veterinary Association: Signs of Travel-Related Problems in Dogs and Their Response to Treatment with Dog Appeasing Pheromone; M. Gandia Estellés, D.S. Mills
- Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association: Effects of Dog-Appeasing Pheromones on Anxiety and Fear in Puppies During Training and on Long-Term Socialization; Sagi Denenberg et al
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.