The 9 Best Things to Help Calm Down Your Dog

These natural ways to help your worried pal are pet-foster approved

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Whether it’s thunderstorms or car rides, fireworks or being left alone, there are so many things that can stress out your dog. Some pets can handle anxiety more easily than others. Give them a chew toy stuffed with peanut butter and they forget the stressor.

But other dogs need a little extra help to overcome their worries. Here are some natural ways to help your worried pal. Try a couple alone or together to see if you can lower your dog’s anxiety. If things keep getting worse, talk to your vet or an animal behaviorist. You may need to bring in an expert for training and possibly medication, and these recommendations should not be considered substitutes for veterinary care.

But first, see if natural methods can help. Here are the best things to help calm down your dog:

The Rundown
Best Calming Vest:
ThunderShirt for Dogs at Amazon
This vest applies constant pressure in a snug but comfortable vest to help calm anxiety.
Peanut butter and apple-flavored treats with U.S.-grown hemp and turmeric extract.
A fuzzy, soft bed that warms up as your dog snuggles inside it.
Mix of natural lavender, chamomile, and Egyptian geranium in an easy-to-use spray form.
These soft chews are made with milk protein, valerian, and other natural ingredients.
This kit releases pheromones that mimic calming chemicals that mother dogs release around their puppies.
Pure lavender harvested sustainably and tested for safety and quality.
Made from organic Colorado-grown hemp with added chamomile for mood.
Soothing music composed specifically for a dog’s hearing range.

Best Calming Vest: ThunderShirt for Dogs

ThunderShirt for Dogs

We swaddle babies to help them feel calm and safe. Some people use weighted blankets when we’re stressed. The ThunderShirt incorporates the same ideas. It wraps your dog in a snug but comfortable vest, applying constant pressure to help calm anxiety and over-excitement.

You can try making a DIY version with an old T-shirt, but we think the ThunderShirt people know what they’re doing. People with anxious dogs say these jackets truly have a calming effect. Make sure you get the right size. It comes in seven sizes and several colors. I personally like the “sport” version because the fabric is cooler for my longhaired dog.

Best CBD Treats: Austin and Kat Kat's Original Recipe

Austin and Kat Kat's Original Recipe

I’ve tried a lot of calming products for my anxious border collie mix. These are the one CBD treat that really seems to help. I sometimes have to turn to prescription meds for long car rides and really bad thunderstorms, but if the storm isn’t too bad and I catch it soon enough, these treats work.

Kat Donatello, the founder of Austin and Kat, created her business because she was trying to help her dog Brady get through his golden years and developed biscuits containing CBD. The peanut butter and apple-flavored treats are made in small batches with U.S.-grown hemp and include turmeric extract for an antioxidant boost. The treats are soft so they’re easy to portion, and they come in three strengths of CBD.

Is CBD backed by science?

Just as the CBD market is growing for people who are trying it for everything from stress to insomnia and pain, CBD is also becoming popular for pets. While some vets are still iffy on even suggesting it (there isn’t a lot of science to back up most of the research claims), owners are often eager to try it.

Best Calming Bed: Best Friends by Sheri The Original Calming Donut Dog Bed in Shag Fur

The Original Calming Donut Dog Bed

When the world gets a little overwhelming, some dogs like to find a soft place to get away from it all and just snuggle. These donut cuddle beds are especially appealing for little dogs and puppies. The faux fur gets warmer as your pet sleeps, making it even more comforting.

There are side bolsters on the bed to support your pet’s head and neck. The bed is machine washable and has an anti-slip bottom. It comes in five sizes and four colors. Be sure to check the size guide because the smallest size only fits pets up to 7 pounds.

Best Calming Spray: ThunderEssence Dog Calming Mist

ThunderEssence Dog Calming Mist

Essential oils have been used for centuries in many cultures to treat various aspects of well-being. Some people have had success calming their pet’s anxieties with certain essential oils. This mix from ThunderEssence, the makers of the ThunderShirt, contains essential oils from lavender, chamomile, and Egyptian geranium.

The spray is recommended for car rides, bedding, or to be spritzed in a room where your dog is staying. The mixture is also available in drop form to be applied to collars, bandanas, or directly to the ThunderShirt or other apparel if you want it closer to your dog.

Best Calming Chews: Doctors Foster and Smith Ultra-Calm Behavior Support Soft Chews

DRS. Foster and Smith Ultra-Calm Calm Behavior Support Soft Chews for Dogs, 2 lbs.

I’ve fostered a lot of dogs and several had severe anxiety issues. I tried many non-prescription options for them and my own dog. These soft chews by Drs. Foster and Smith often took the edge off. Key ingredients include milk protein hydrolysate, valerian, passion flower, and ginger root.

They must taste really good because dogs love them. The effect is very subtle; it’s calming, not sedating. Half a chew is recommended for dogs under 25 pounds.

Best Plug In: Adaptil Dog Calming Diffuser Kit

Adaptil Dog Calming Diffuser Kit

Vets often recommend Adaptil if you’re looking for an at-home way to try to calm your pet when you’re gone all day. The plug-in device releases synthetic dog appeasing pheromones (DAP), which mimic the calming chemicals that nursing mothers release around their puppies. They’re odorless to humans and cats; only dogs can pick up on them.

The plug-in may help with barking, destructive behaviors, and adapting to a new home, especially for dogs that need to be left alone. One plug-in covers up to 700 square feet. The kit includes a diffuser and one refill, which can last for about one month.

Best Essential Oil: Eden's Garden Lavender Essential Oil

Eden's Garden Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender is known for its calming properties and for promoting well-being in aromatherapy. In humans, studies have found that lavender reduces the stress hormone cortisol and can lower blood pressure linked with stress. Some pet owners find it helps their dogs when applied to the collar or used in a diffuser, but never apply undiluted essential oils directly to pets' fur or skin (more on this in the FAQs).

Eden’s Gardens oils are 100 percent pure, with no artificial fragrances, fillers, synthetics, or chemicals. They’re harvested sustainably and batch-tested for safety and quality. The lavender is affordable, if you’re just trying out the whole idea of essential oils. This particular lavender is sourced from Bulgaria where the plants are grown at high elevation for best quality.

Best CBD Oil: Honest Paws CBD Oil for Dogs Calm

Honest Paws CBD Oil for Dogs Calm

The CBD market is unregulated, so it's important to find reputable brands. Honest Paws products are made from organic hemp grown in Colorado. They are non-GMO, soy/gluten-free, and are lab-tested for purity.

The company offers a wide selection of CBD products including several blends of tinctures, treats, and even CBD peanut butter, but the “calm” formula contains added chamomile for mood. It comes in several strengths based on your dog’s weight.

Best Calming Sounds: Pet Acoustics Pet Tunes Bluetooth Speaker

Pet Tunes Bluetooth

You might leave on the TV or Spotify for your dog when you leave the house, but Pet Acoustics music is specifically created for dogs in mind. Founder and composer Janet Marlow tells Treehugger she began researching music for animals when singing to her critically injured cat soothed him in the ICU.

She developed music for dogs, cats, horses, and birds, modifying the spectrum of sounds to each animal’s hearing range. “The goal was to provide an animal with a specific music environment based on their hearing comfort range by frequency and decibels that would consistently calm behavior,” she says.

The soothing tunes come in a Bluetooth-compatible, portable speaker that you can place in the house or bring with you in the car. You can also subscribe to monthly new music if you want to keep the tunes fresh.

Final Verdict

There are so many options when your pet is dealing with stress. We like the trusted ThunderShirt (view on Amazon) calming jacket to slip on for storms, fireworks, and car rides. Austin and Kat CBD Dog Treats (view on Austin and Kat) are a tasty way to take the edge off when your pet is anxious. They also have turmeric for an added nutritional boost.

FAQs

What natural techniques help anxious dogs? 

Many times anxiety and stress can be helped with physical activities. Exercise Is always a good first step. Just like exercise helps ease stress in people, it can do the same for your pet. Take your dog for a long walk or throw balls in the yard when you know you’re going to be gone for the day or before a stressful car ride. It helps release pent-up energy, but also amps up production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

Distraction can also be an effective and fun way to dissolve stress. This can be particularly effective when your dog is anxious because of a storm or fireworks. Get your pet involved in training or brain games instead. If your dog is concentrating on puzzle games or focused on earning treats for showing off skills, then it’s easier to forget the stressful things that are happening.

Finally, just like massage can be so comforting for people, it can help your pet. Try using long, slow strokes. It’s beneficial for both of you because so many studies have shown that petting dogs is good for human well-being.

What types of music help calm dogs down?

If you’re going to leave on Spotify or the radio for your dog, which playlist or station should you choose? Researchers in Scotland tested many musical genres on shelter dogs and found that reggae and soft rock seemed to relax them the most.

The results, which were published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, found that the dogs were generally less stressed with music than without. They spent more time lying down than standing when tunes were piped through the kennels. The dogs were exposed to classical, reggae, soft rock, pop, and Motown in the experiments. They showed a slight preference for reggae and soft rock, with Motown coming in last, but not by very much.

Are essential oils safe for dogs?

There has been limited research on the efficacy of essential oils to calm dogs in certain situations. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, when lavender was diffused in cars, dogs spent more time resting and sitting and less time barking than dogs in cars with no lavender.

Essential oils can be irritating if applied with full strength directly onto your dog’s skin or can cause stomach upset if they lick it off. Instead, put the oil in a diffuser in the room or put a drop or two on the collar or bedding.

Why Trust Treehugger?

When Treehugger reviews pet products, we always put pets' needs first. When possible, we try to highlight products that are also eco-friendly. When researching products for this story, we found that many of the most effective products aren't made from the most eco-friendly materials. We'll update this list if more sustainable options become available.

The proud mom of a rescue dog, Mary Jo DiLonardo has fostered more than 30 dogs and puppies. Her own dog is very anxious and is stressed by thunderstorms, fireworks, and long car rides, so she has lots of experience with natural calming remedies.

For more than 25 years, Mary Jo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, health, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place. She has spent six years with Treehugger, formerly under the Mother Nature Network brand.