Canine Pheromones – Do They Work?

Canine pheromones, otherwise known as dog appeasing pheromones, have been suggested to treat separation related disorders, stress, fear, anxiety and other issues that may cause undesirable behaviors in dogs. A dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) is basically a synthetic chemical equivalent of the hormone that canine nursing mothers produce. This hormone is said to encourage behaviors that are tranquil and provide a feeling of security to dogs, as well as support the necessary bond between mother and pup.

More About DAP

DAP products are manufactured synthetically, and although the actual ingredients are not necessarily considered “natural” or “holistic”, the concept of the products is natural, as opposed to other treatment choices, like prescription drugs. Dog appeasing pheromones mimic the pheromones that a mother dog produces naturally in her milk. The natural response that canine pheromones stimulate in dogs is what makes this treatment method valuable to holistic-type dog owners.

DAP comes in several different formulations. There are DAP sprays that can be sprayed in your pet’s crate or even in kennels at the veterinarian hospital when a pet is staying over for surgery. There are DAP collars that can be worn by dogs who exhibit stress or fear on a regular basis or when certain circumstances occur that could create anxiety, such as thunderstorms or fireworks. There are even electric diffusers that can be plugged into a room and moved from one room to another in your house, when necessary.

Studies on Dog Appeasing Pheromone

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a review in June, 2010 that evaluated using pheromones in both felines and canines to treat undesirable behavior. The study encompassed a systematic review of various pieces of scientific literature ranging from January 1998 to December 2008. Results concluded there was only one study, out of the seven which focused on canines, which indicated evidence that fear and anxiety were decreased in canines when the dog appeasing pheromone was used.

However, canine pheromones have been researched widely, and many of the studies have leaned more toward the efficacy of using canine pheromones to improve undesirable behaviors in dogs. For example, the Journal of the British Veterinary Association published another study on 67 dogs that exhibited separation-related disorders. The dog appeasing pheromone was given to one group and clomipramine (a prescription tricyclic antidepressant drug used to treat panic disorder, OCD, depression, chronic pain, and sleep disorders) was administered to the other group. In both groups, the undesirable behavior seemed to decrease nearly the same amount, although owners did report fewer unwanted behaviors in the pheromone group. Additionally, owners found the pheromone to be more convenient to administer.

Dog hiding under chairApplied Animal Behaviour Science published a study that assessed the efficacy of DAP on the behavior of shelter dogs. The evaluation lasted a period of 7 days, wherein 37 dogs were administered the dog appeasing pheromone and 17 dogs were in a control group in a public animal shelter. The amplitude and frequency of barking, as well as two temperament tests that gauged excitable behavior, fear and separation, were used as testing factors.

The dogs exposed to the dog appeasing pheromone for the entire seven days showed a significantly reduced amount and amplitude of barking. Additionally, there were significant differences in sniffing frequency when in contact with a friendly stranger, barking and resting. Regarding a stranger who was neutral, there seemed to be no difference between the DAP group and the control group. Overall, the tests in this particular study indicated that the pheromone was, in fact, useful in reducing fear and stress-related behaviors that shelter dogs exhibited.

Puppies & DAP

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a randomized, controlled clinical trial in December, 2008 that evaluated 45 puppies between the ages of 12 to 15 weeks. The puppies were separated into 4 different groups; there were two large breed groups and two small breed groups. Each size category was split up into a placebo group and a group that was given the dog appeasing pheromone throughout the duration of 8 week long puppy classes. Owners were asked to fill out questionnaires before the lessons started and after each lesson was completed pertaining to a measurement of fear and anxiety and the total amount of learning, as well as participate in follow-up telephone surveys.

The puppies in the DAP groups showed significantly better results than the puppies in the placebo group. For example, the puppies in the DAP group played longer and had more positive interactions than the puppies in the placebo groups. After the classes were fully completed, the puppies in the DAP groups also appeared to have adapted faster in their new environments and new situations and were better socialized in comparison to the puppies in the placebo groups.

More studies could certainly be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of dog appeasing pheromones and whether they reduce specific undesirable canine behaviors. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of various studies that were not included in this article that also indicated DAP is a practical, palliative means to treating unwanted behaviors in canines. Take some time to discuss with your veterinarian which DAP product would be best for your dog’s behavioral, fear, anxiety or stress-related issues.