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This easy-to-use diffuser can help calm anxious dogs, according to my veterinarian

A special pheromone in Adaptil puts some pooches at ease — you can also get it in a travel-friendly spray.

I love my toy poodle, but he has some serious separation anxiety — the type that makes it difficult to leave him home alone, even for 10 minutes. When I leave, he cries, howls, and keeps his nose pressed to the door, waiting for me to return. While it’s difficult for him, it's also hard for me — and, of course, my neighbors, who probably don’t appreciate the noise. We’ve tried pretty much every trick in the book to help him cope, from DogTV and a Thundershirt to CBD treats and prescribed medication. While we’ve started working with a trainer, my veterinarian also recommended a spray called Adaptil.

Plug it in near your dog's bed or another spot where they like to sleep to help them feel more at ease.

$24 at Amazon

Adaptil contains a dog-appeasing pheromone that, according to the product description, mimics a mother dog's natural nursing pheromones and can help your dog feel more calm and more comfortable. "This pheromone is released as mother dogs nurse their puppies very early in life," said Joseph Turk, DVM, a veterinarian in Palm Harbor, Florida. "As such, it appears to aid in relaxation for some dogs." There are studies proving its effectiveness too.

Think of Adaptil as dog aromatherapy — something that helps take the edge off when your pup is home alone or dealing with stressful noises such as fireworks or a thunderstorm. To humans, Adaptil doesn't smell like anything at all. We can't smell it, but your pup can.

You can purchase Adaptil in a few forms: as a wearable collar, spray, or diffuser. With the spray, you can spritz your dog’s crate, bed, or carrier before a trip. However, it's alcohol-based, so you should spray it and wait about 10 minutes for the alcohol to evaporate before exposing your dog.

My vet recommended the diffuser for ongoing anxiousness since it continuously emits the scent. My dog's trainer suggested keeping it by my dog's bed during our training sessions to help him feel more at ease.

Both my vet and trainer cautioned me that Adaptil might not work for every dog. However, it doesn’t do any harm to try it: You don’t need a prescription, the dog isn't ingesting anything, and there are no negative side effects. In our case, it hasn’t been a complete cure, but in our training sessions, he’s remained calm in his bed for longer than usual. He’s also been barking less at neighbors who pass by my front door. I've since added it to my Amazon subscription list for a monthly refill.

Nervous dog in car. No Adaptil spray shown.
Adaptil is a little like aromatherapy for dogs, and dogs only — humans can't smell it. (Getty Images)

Over 4,000 Amazon reviewers give the Adaptil diffuser a five-star rating and praise it for helping their anxious pups.

"It works!" wrote one happy customer. "My anxious doxie mix started mysteriously pacing at night. He got a clean bill of health from the vet, I purchased a new orthopedic bed for him, and started giving him melatonin, but he still was up all night. This first night I plugged this in, he slept a full eight hours. We've had it for a week and he's still sleeping through the night."

"Silent, scentless — works!" wrote another. "I've been successfully using the Adaptil calming collar for our dog for almost a year now. It was recommended by our vet. I recently purchased the calming diffuser. Not only did it help calm my border collie mix (high-strung), but it seemed to also calm the four chihuahuas that visited over the holidays. One usually shakes nervously and one can be nippy and a bit aggressive with my dog. They were all noticeably calmer."

"Saved us from a failed dog adoption," said another pet parent. "This poor dog would bark and whine frantically for eight hours without stopping ... As soon as this was delivered, I plugged it in. We had to leave the house that evening for about an hour. I watched the camera the entire time we were out. NOT. ONE. BARK. He laid under the window and napped. I was still skeptical that whatever magic was happening would wear off and we’d be back to square one. Three months later, he’s still doing amazing."

Of course, as my vet said, it won't work for all dogs.

"Purchased it for separation anxiety issues when we leave the dog alone," shared another dog owner. "It didn’t solve the problem 100% but did seem to help some. The vet said it was a 50/50 shot. Before our dog just cried and howled all. day. long. Now he does take a couple naps for one to two hours between the crying."

"Good luck with your dog. Unfortunately this has not worked for my dog, even though my vet thought it might help," said another reviewer.

The secret sauce: It mimics a mother dog's natural nursing pheromones.

$24 at Amazon

Planning to travel with your pet? Take a bottle of the spray in the car or on the plane.

Spritz a little Adaptil in your dog's carrier or in the car if traveling makes them feel anxious. Just spray it 10 minutes before your dog enters the area to let the alcohol evaporate. It has a strong rubbing alcohol scent at first, but it wears off. 

$29 at Amazon

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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