Dogs can become nervy for all sorts of reasons - so here are some ideas to calm them

The bangs and disturbance of fireworks are known for creating anxious dogs and with Bonfire Night coming up now is a good time to plan ahead.  (Read how to cure firework fear in dogs.)

Of course, you can go around the house closing curtains, putting on the television or music to create ‘white noise’ that helps to muffle the sound of the snaps, crackles and pops coming from outside. But with a dog’s acute hearing and sensitivity, they’re still going to feel on edge, with many showing behaviours such barking, pacing, hiding under furniture and trembling violently.

What the experts say about anxious dogs

Vet Tony Buckwell says: “The one product I have some experience of using and could recommend is DAP. DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) mimics the odour exuded by the mother of the litter and consequently has a calming effect on puppies.  It can also be used in other circumstances where you wish to avoid a dog becoming too distressed or if there is otherwise a concern over its ability to cope with strange, particularly aversive, stimuli such as fireworks or when first travelling in a car.

“I would always recommend providing the dog some form of ‘retreat’: an environment that the dog regards is its own territory, such as a bed, box or collapsible folding crate, where it feels safe and secure. This should be provided well in advance, so the dog has time to get used to using it. I have also found DAP to be particularly effective in this type of environment.

“I would also advise owners to ensure that they themselves always remain calm and never become too anxious when dealing with this type of behaviour. The dog will only pick up on their concern, link it with the challenging stimulation of firework noise and flashes, and become even more distressed as a consequence.

“The other point I would stress is that there is rarely one magic solution to this problem. People should realise that their pet’s aversion to fireworks might require a multi-modal approach to treatment, where a variety of actions and treatments work together to achieve the most effective solution.”

Firework phobia

Vet Neil McIntosh adds: “Mild cases of firework phobia can be helped by basic calming techniques and providing a safe hiding place. Adaptil diffusers and ‘thunder’ shirts can also be useful. Severe cases should be discussed with your vet, as they will only get worse unless appropriate medication and behavioural modification are employed.”

Thankfully, there are now some good products for calming anxious dogs around. We’re looked around and here’s a list of the best . (You might also like to read about how to introduce puppies to the noise of gunfire.)

Best products for anxious dogs

Best overall

1. ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser with 30 day refill – comfort, calming & anxious dog, anti-stress £17.25

Adaptatil home diffuser

Best by vets

  • Quantity: Four weeks supply
  • Allergen free: Yes

+ Suitable for all breeds of all sizes

+ Scentless

This plug-in device works by releasing a synthetic pheromone which copies the one the mother of a litter naturally releases to calm and reassure her puppies. It has a similar effect on adult dogs, keeping them relaxed but not sleepy. It contains amino acids and vitamins and works quickly. However, the diffuser doesn’t have any effect on humans or other pets as it is species specific. You can use it continually at home and it will help anxious dogs to stay calm when confronted with loud noises, visitors and having to stay home alone. The product is clinically proven and backed by the manufacturer’s 25 years of scientific research into pet welfare.

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2. ADAPTIL Express Tablets, fast calming for anticipated events such as thunderstorms, vet visits, groomers and fireworks – Pack of 10 tablets £15.60

Adaptil tablets for anxious dogs

Best for occasional use

  • Quantity: 10 tablets
  • Allergen free: Yes

+ Suitable for all breeds of all sizes

+ Palatable

These tablets which help to calm anxious dogs contain natural ingredients, including amino acids and vitamins and give swift and temporary calming. (Read how to give your dog tablets easily.) They work within two hours and keep your dog relaxed rather than sleepy. You can use them in conjunction with the Adaptil diffuser shown above or on their own when you’re out in the car, on walks or on a trip to the vet.

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3. Lintbells | YuCALM ONE-A-DAY Large Chewies for Dogs | Calming Supplement for Dogs who are Stressed or Nervous, All Ages and Breeds | 30 Chews – 1 Month supply £31.45

Calming dog tablets

Best for on the move treatment

  • Quantity: 30 capsules (one month’s supply)

+ Available in different doses for different sizes of dog

+ Tasty, one-a-day chew

These might be good to have in your pocket as a just-in-case when you’re out on a walk or taking the dog to the groomer. They are a natural calming supplement, enriched with lemon balm, natural GABA, L-Arginine, L- Tryptophan and fish protein hydrolysates to help produce the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin. As a result they help anxious dogs to receive calming signals in the brain. From the UK’s no.1 veterinary joint supplement brand (Kynetec VetTrak August 2021).

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4. ADAPTIL Calm On-the-Go Collar, helps dogs cope with stress and anxiety related behavioural issues and life challenges especially when out and about from £18.05

Adaptil calming collar

Best for continuous use

  • Allergen free: Yes
  • Sizes: Puppies to adult dogs

+ Suitable for all breeds

+ Lasts 30 days

+ Can be left on (except when the dog is in water)

Like the Adaptil diffuser described above, this collar contains the dog appeasing pheromone used by the mother to calm her litter of puppies. Adult dogs receive the same effect from it. However, it does not affect humans or other pets. Use this collar on a stressful car journey, out on a walk, on a trip to the vet or dog groomer or in the house. It doesn’t smell and is scientifically proven.

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5. Thundershirt Anxiety Coat for Dog from £24.12

Thundershirt anxiety coat

Best vote from vets

  • Colour: Grey
  • Sizes: S to XL
  • Fabric: Nylon
  • Washable: Yes

+ Voted very effective by vets

+ Helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety in most dogs

If your dog is a wriggler then you will be glad that this coat is easy to put on and take off. It gives a snug, comfortable fit which ‘holds’ the dog, effectively treating noise anxiety. Wash it whenever needed – the fabric is also designed to resist collecting moulting hair which is useful.

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6. Comfortable Round Plush Dog Beds, Calming Dog Bed (L/XL/XXL/XXXL) for Small Medium and Large Dogs £59.99

Best for non-medicinal treatment

  • Colours: Varied
  • Sizes: L to XXXL
  • Fabric: Nylon
  • Washable: Yes

+ Also offers joint and muscle relief

+ Easy to clean

This doughnut style bed has been especially created from a soothing cover fabric with a raised rim around the outside, which creates a secure atmosphere for the pet to rest inside. Dogs have a natural instinct for curling up, and this bed will ‘cocoon’ them inside. (Read our list of best washable beds for gundogs.)

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7. YUKOOL Anxiety Coat for Dogs, Lightweight Wrap Calming Vest, Dog Anxiety Jacket, Used to Instant Therapy for Over Excitement in Lightning and Fireworks to Keep Calming Comfort from £12.99

Antianxiety dog wrap

Best for simplicity

  • Colour: Grey
  • Sizes: XS to L
  • Fabric: Nylon
  • Washable: Yes

+ Skin friendly

+ Breathable fabric

Just wrap this anxiety vest around your dog when you’re off to the vet or fireworks are going on outside. It makes the dog feel as though it is receiving a constant hug, is very soft and the cut allows the dog to move around freely. Just fasten with the easy Velcro slips and you’re done.

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A dog expert advises:

Our resident gundog writer expert David Tomlinson advises: “It’s remarkable how a trained gundog that’s totally steady to gunfire can be reduced to a shivering wreck by fireworks. It is very difficult to protect a dog from the sounds of the explosions, as many fireworks hit a frequency or decibel level that is not easily obscured simply by playing loud music. The best advice is to keep a dog in the dark (even under the stairs if necessary) and never leave a dog that is frightened in an outdoor kennel. Nervous dogs are also best separated from their companions, as fear can make then aggressive. Staying with a dog to reassure it often helps. If you know that there is going to be a firework party close to your house, then I would give serious consideration to taking your dog somewhere else for the evening. Fear of fireworks often diminishes with age, but that is probably because the dog’s hearing is no longer as sensitive as when it was younger.” (Read more about hearing loss in dogs.)