Calming Scents for Dogs: The 5 You Must Know About
Alex Vicente • Updated on September 29, 2022
Having an anxious dog can be very difficult for a pet owner. It is upsetting to see your four-legged friend so upset, and at the same time, it can be frustrating trying to figure out what to do to help them.
A lot of people have reservations about putting their anxious dogs on medications and look towards natural options first. Thankfully, studies performed show a few natural scents you can try next time your pup seems all worked up.
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5 Main Scents that Are Calming to Dogs
The five scents used in the studies are great for dogs who are in high stressed situations. Dogs that are living in shelters or found as strays, even those being transferred from home to home. However, you can use these scents for your pup at home as well, even if they are just nervous over car rides or a trip to the vet:
Essential oils and natural scents—including four featured on our list—and their calming effects on dogs have been studied.
In this study, shelter dogs known to be vocal, anxious, nervous, and unable to sleep were exposed to each scent. Each dog’s reaction provided some proof that the smells were equally effective for each dog, no matter the breed, age, or size.
Why Do Natural Scents Calm Dogs?
As you try to understand exactly how this works, try and think about humans who use essential oils for aromatherapy. Recent studies have shown a considerable advantage of using natural scents/smells to calm and relax a stressed-out human. These remedies are helping to reduce the need for prescription medication while also aiding in natural anxiety relief. This calming reaction works for dogs just as well.
So if your pet ever seems uptight or overwhelmed, maybe try one of these natural oils. These essential oils or naturally calming scents work so well in dogs because of their innate sense of smell. Dogs can smell between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than we can. Because of this incredible ability, dog sniffing plays a large role in your pup’s brain’s sensory department and fulfills a “happy” need, just like tasting food or seeing a squirrel.
When dogs sniff a scent they enjoy, they feel happier, calmer, and even more relaxed. (depending on the smell, of course). It satisfies their senses, in turn helping them feel more secure and content.
Other Scents that May Help Calm Your Dog
The five senses listed above are noted as some of the best and most commonly used smells that help calm dogs down. However, these are not the only ones that people have been swearing by for years. Here is a list of a few more scents you can try to use with your dog the next time you think they need to relax.
- Chamomile: Chamomile is a popular scent used by humans to calm down and night and relax before bed. The same idea goes for dogs. Using Chamomile to calm a dog before nighttime or before a car ride can help relax their nerves.
- Lemongrass: Lemongrass is a common essential oil that is used in oil diffusers a lot. The calming effects of lemongrass are closely similar to those of lavender.
- Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus is a natural smell that is similar to the smell of the outdoors providing a more serene atmosphere for your pets.
- Orange: Orange (along with lavender) has linalool in them. This is a natural product that can mimic a sedative. Giving your dog some orange essential oils to inhale can calm them down quickly.
- You: Your scent could be the best way to help calm your dog during a stressful situation. If you are away from them for any reason, providing your pet with your shirt or blanket could be that little security they need to feel calm and relaxed. Having your scent with them will give them a sense of security, and they will be less likely to panic.
A Word of Caution Before Using Scented Oils with Dogs
Unfortunately, having such an in-tune sense of smell is not always a benefit for dogs. Having the ability to pick up a scent so easily means that dogs are more likely to be alerted or on edge by things you cannot see or even objects that are no longer around.
This is an issue faced by a lot of shelters, rescues, groomers, veterinarians, etc. With so many animals coming and going from these locations, many unfamiliar scents are left behind. These smells can get dogs riled up, make them nervous, or even scare them.
It is also important to note that there are some dangers to using these scents with your pets. The most significant problem is ingestion or direct skin contact. These oils are potent and could potentially be poisonous. Never put any of them directly on your dog or in a place where they could lick them.
Ingesting these oils can cause stomach irritation, issues inside the dog’s mouth, and possibly esophageal burns.
Here are some signs to watch out for if you feel your dog ingested essential oils:
- Abnormal behavior
Direct skin contact can cause irritation, rashes, or burns. If you ever feel your dog has ingested any type of essential oils, contact your vet immediately.
What Smells Are Dogs Afraid of?
Because they have such a good sense of smell, there are a few scents that your pup is not going to like. It can be too potent or overwhelming and can actually cause them to feel more anxious or upset, depending on the smell and/or situation:
- Hot Peppers
- Ground Spices
- Alcohol *
- Household Cleaners *
- Tart Cherry
A few of these scents have such an intense effect that some people will use them to deter their pets from chewing on things, digging up plants, or keeping them out of places they shouldn’t be sticking their noses into.
Smells like tart cherry juices, vinegar, and hot sauce are actually placed on items around the house that dogs tend to chew on in hopes of deterring this type of activity. The smells these items give off alert the dog to its probable taste.
Mothballs, hot pepper, and peppermint and used to keep dogs from going into areas that are a no-doggy zone. These items give a repelling scent that may cause your pup’s nose some discomfort, encouraging them to steer clear.
* Never use household cleaners or alcohol to train your dog for any reason; this can lead to poisoning and possibly death.
Dogs are wild animals at heart. They have sharp senses to stay alive. These senses are still as fine-tuned as their ancestors; however, they are not needed nearly as much, making them a hindrance more than helpful at times.
If you have a dog who seems to be on edge all the time, or in just specific situations, using their senses to help calm them down maybe all they really need. Not all dogs are the same, and not all experiences will be the same. Try the options above and see which one works best for you and your best friend.
calming essential oils
lavender essential oil
a few drops
central nervous system