What to Give Dogs to Calm Them Down [The Top 12]

If you’re trying to figure out what you can give a dog to calm them down, chances are good your dog is either overly hyper, or there’s an event coming up that you know will scare your dog such as fireworks from the 4th of July.

should you give your hyper dog medication to calm them down?

Whatever the reason may be for wanting to calm your dog, the good news is that there are a few things you can give them that will help keep them calm.

Here is a list of 12 safe things you can give dogs to calm them down:

  1. CBD Oil
  2. Amitriptyline Hydrochloride
  3. tryptophan
  4. Fluoxetine
  5. Dog appeasing pheromones
  6. Benzodiazepines
  7. doggie “Prozac”
  8. Benadryl
  9. Valerian
  10. Essential Oils
  11. Chamomile
  12. St. Johns Wort

Important: Make sure you talk to your vet before giving your dog anything from the above list.

Below we will go into detail on the 12 items listed above. Being informed of what each item does will help you make the best decision on which one to choose.

However, before we dive into the details, let’s discuss an important topic.

Sometimes It’s About What You Can Do For Your Dog to Calm Them Down

exercise might be the best thing you can do for your dog to calm them down

If you’ve done your research on this topic, you’ve probably come across articles that talk about how you shouldn’t give your dog anything. Instead, all they need is exercise and time spent outside.

Although I do believe there are certain situations where medication or natural herbs are required, the general advice of making sure your dog stays active holds true.

Before you give your dog any medication to help keep them calm, you should first ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do I take my dog on a walk?
  • How much time do I spend playing with my dog?
  • Is my dog home alone all day?
  • Does my dog sleep all day?
  • How much time does my dog spend outdoors?

Most dogs naturally have a lot of energy. If you aren’t providing them an outlet for that energy, it’s going to result in poor behavior and hyperactivity.

Answer the above questions as honestly as possible. Now ask yourself the one important question…” Does my dog actually need medication, or do I need to do a better job providing an outlet for their energy?”

Sometimes the answer is a combination of both, and that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with giving your dog something to help calm them down AND making sure you do a better job playing with them and spending time with them so they can get their energy out.

Remember this simple rule of thumb: Exercise is always the first “medication” of choice.

12 Safe and Effective Things You Can Give Dogs To Calm Them Down

how to calm your anxious dog with 12 medications

This following list does not contain every possible item you can give a dog. Your vet might recommend something that’s not on this list. If that’s the case, make sure you always go with the recommendation of your vet.

The 12 items below are the ones we’ve seen the most success with and, most importantly, have been proven to be SAFE. Read through each of them and determine which would be best for your dog.

CBD Oil

If there is one thing you’re going to try, make it CBD oil. CBD oil has gained a lot of popularity for human use over the past few years, but more and more studies are being done on dogs, and the results are amazing.

CBD oil has been shown to ease pain, help with arthritis and hip dysplasia, and even manage behavior issues such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity.

There are three main side effects you’ll probably notice when your dog is on CBD oil.

  1. Dry Mouth
  2. Lower Blood Pressure
  3. Drowsiness

If you’re going to give your dog CBD oil, make sure they’re drinking plenty of water and don’t already have low blood pressure.

You can either get CBD dog treats or CBD liquid. The most effective form is liquid. Just place a few drops on your dog’s food, and you’ll notice a difference in behavior within a few minutes.

Amitriptyline

If your dog is hyperactive because of anxiety or fear of noises, Amitriptyline might be what you’re looking for. Dogs are sometimes hyperactive because chemicals in their brain are unbalanced. Amitriptyline can help rebalance the chemicals, which could result in less hyperactive behavior.

One of the main concerns with Amitriptyline is that it could cause dizziness for some dogs. If you give your dog a dose and notice they’re walking a little funny, this medication might not be your best option.

Tryptophan

Have you ever wondered why you get so tired after a big Thanksgiving meal? It’s because turkey contains a large amount of an amino acid called Tryptophan!

Tryptophan works so well because it helps release a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin plays a major role in stress relief and anxiety. If your dog has been more aggressive than usual lately, you might want to consider Tryptophan.

Fluoxetine

Fluoxetine works in the same way Tryptophan works. It helps release serotonin, which will help relax a dog that might be anxious or stressed.

The reason we typically prefer Tryptophan over Fluoxetine is that the latter can cause loss of appetite. It also doesn’t do as good of a job at treating aggression as Tryptophan does.

Still, if Tryptophan didn’t work well for your dog, Fluoxetine is worth a shot.

Dog Appeasing Pheromones

These were first introduced into the US market in 2001, and the results have been surprising to say the least.

There are several pheromone products for dogs. If your dog is hyperactive, you’ll want to purchase “appeasing pheromones.

The best part about pheromone treatment is there aren’t any known side effects. You simply spray some appeasing pheromones on your dog, and within a few minutes, you’ll know if it’s working.

Benzodiazepines

I know you’ve probably never heard of Benzodiazepines, but have you ever heard of Xanax? Xanax is actually a Benzodiazepines.

No, we don’t recommend giving your dog Xanax as that is probably too strong. But there are anti-anxiety medications you can give your dog that contain this ingredient.

When a dog is hyperactive or aggressive, it’s usually due to the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines help depress certain areas of the CNS, which will result in a relaxing effect.

Doggie “Prozac”

If your dog has separation anxiety, Reconcile might be the answer. Reconcile is considered a Doggie “Prozac” because it works in the same way Prozac for humans works.

Another benefit is that just like Fluoxetine and Tryptophan, Reconcile helps the brain produce serotonin.

Benadryl

Out of all the medications to calm a dog down, the one we get the most questions about (by far) is Benadryl…probably because it’s so popular for humans.

The answer to whether or not dogs can have Benadryl is yes. However, you do want to limit it. It’s not a good habit to give your dog Benadryl every day.

Keep in mind Benadryl has not been approved by the FDA for dogs, but most vets usually have no problem with a dog taking Benadryl every once in a while.

The main ingredient in Benadryl is Diphenhydramine. So when asking the question of whether or not your dog can have Benadryl, what you’re really asking is whether or not your dog can have Diphenhydramine.

If your dog suffers from allergies, Diphenhydramine might be a great option. The primary reason we don’t recommend it just to calm down your dog is that the only reason it calms them down is that it causes them to become sleepy. Diphenhydramine will not cause any long term help.

Valerian

Valerian root is a popular herb for humans who suffer from insomnia. However, the reason it helps insomnia is that it can calm the brain, NOT because it makes you sleepy. This is perfect for hyperactive dogs. Sometimes their brains are on overdrive, and all they need is to calm the brain.

Here’s the funny thing about Valerian…researchers still have no idea how it works. With all the other medications listed above, we can tell you exactly why they work. When it comes to Valerian, we have no idea!

However, we do know it’s safe and effective. The best part is Valerian is cheap, so it’s worth a try. If it doesn’t work, you’re only out a few bucks.

Essential Oils (Aromatherapy)

Yes, essential oils are safe for dogs (we receive emails about that daily). The best way to expose your dog to essential oils is through a diffuser.

Remember, dogs have a much greater sense of smell than humans do. Just because the scent of the essential oil isn’t strong for you doesn’t mean it’s not overpowering for your dog.

Below are the best essential oils to help your dog relax:

  1. Lavender
  2. Vanilla
  3. Rose
  4. Jasmine
  5. Citrus

Out of the above five above, studies have shown Lavender to be the most effective.

Chamomile

Chamomile is another herb that’s popular amongst humans but can also be used for dogs. Humans usually drink it in tea form. However, for dogs, you can get it in powder and pour some powder on the food. They also make it in pill form if your dog takes pills.

The reason Chamomile works so well for dogs is that it releases chemicals in the brain that relaxes the muscles. If your dog has built up energy because they have been inside all day and haven’t had enough exercise, Chamomile can help relax the tension in the muscles, which will calm them down.

You can also combine Chamomile and Valerian to boost the effects of each.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort has been one of the most studied products to treat depression in humans. The studies revealed that the results are almost as powerful as Prozac but don’t come with all the side effects.

The good news is it’s safe for your dog (in much lower dosages). It has also been shown to reduce pain in dogs significantly.

The only downside to St. John’s Wort is that it’s not a permanent solution. It provides temporary relief, but once the medication wears off, things will return to normal.

Can My Dog Become Addicted?

The unfortunate truth is that dogs can become addicted to the medications listed above, which is why increasing exercise and playtime is always recommended before giving your dog medication.

Will Melatonin Calm Down My Dog?

You might be surprised to see melatonin is not on this list. Even though it’s considered “safe” for dogs to have melatonin, we don’t recommend it. Melatonin is a chemical the brain naturally produces when the sun starts to go down. This chemical signals to our brain that it’s time to get ready for sleep.

The only thing melatonin will do for your hyper dog is make them sleepy. To some, that might not sound like a bad thing. However, consistent use of melatonin over time will cause the body to stop naturally producing the amount it should. This will severely interrupt your dog’s sleep cycle.

What Can I Give to Puppies to Calm Them Down?

you should not give medication to puppies

We DO NOT recommend you give puppies any sort of medication to calm them down unless your vet gives you the green light. Puppies’ brains are still developing, and many of the medications and herbs talked about in this article affect brain chemistry. This is something you want to avoid with brains that are still developing.

Your Dogs Health is Your #1 Priority

As a dog owner, your number 1 priority when it comes to your dog is keeping them healthy. In some cases, this might mean they just need more exercise and playtime. In other cases, it might mean they need medication.

Go back to that list of questions we asked at the start of this article. Answer them truthfully and decide if you need to give something to your dog to calm them down.

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