Traveling with a dog that gets anxiety can not only be stressful, it can be a struggle. A dog’s travel anxiety can manifest as destructive behavior, fear, or aggression. If you’re looking for an over-the-counter answer to your dog’s travel anxiety, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve spoken to two licensed veterinarians, Dr. Steph Sheen, DVM at Fuzzy.com, and Dr. Gina Rendon, Medical Director at New York City’s Williamsburg Veterinary Clinic, to suss out the best calming products to call on when traveling with an anxiety-prone pup. Not only did they recommend the best products, they explained how they work (and don’t work), and shared tips on how to travel with your nervous, four-legged BFF. Keep in mind that many of these non-prescription products work best when used in combination with each other.
We based our recommendations on the overall effectiveness, price, accessibility, and drawbacks of a product. The wearable Thundershirt vest came in as our top pick for its effectiveness, value, ability to be reused multiple times, and quick impact. If that’s not your (or your dog’s) style, we’ve also got top picks for natural supplements, toys, carriers, CBD chews, high-tech brainwave technology, and more to keep your dog calm so the trip can carry on.
Thundershirt Dog Anxiety Treatment
Why we love it: It’s like a comforting hug for your dog.
What to consider: Dogs can’t wear Thundershirts if they are traveling as cargo on a plane.
Looking for something to soothe your dog in those specific travel situations that spark anxiety? Thundershirts have an excellent track record and work in many cases. In times of distress, dogs are like humans and benefit from feeling safe and comforted. Thundershirts are compression vests that provide a constant, slight pressure around your dog, similar to a hug. Dr. Steph Sheen says strapping on a Thundershirt is best when used for immediate, situational anxiety, such as car rides or short flights, since they work quickly and should only be worn a few hours at a time.
Thundershirts come in seven sizes from XXS to XXL and are made to fit dogs with chest sizes falling between nine to 50 inches. We’re also fans of packing a Thundershirt to have on your trip in case there is a storm, fireworks, or other temporary anxiety-inducing situation. However, note that if your dog is traveling as cargo on a plane, it likely won’t be allowed to wear a Thundershirt for safety reasons.
Price at time of publishing: $45 for medium
Best Calming Cap
ZONI PETS Original Happy Hoodie for Dogs & Cats
Why we love it: It’s a great value when you want something to block loud sounds.
What to consider: It may need to be used along with another calming product for maximum effectiveness.
Sensory reduction can play a big part in quelling your dog’s travel anxiety. The Happy Hoodie works by hugging your dog’s head and providing a sound barrier to reduce the loudness of noise. Originally designed as a grooming tool to help calm dogs and lower the noise impact of hair dryers, this calming cap is also clutch in travel situations like blocking engine noise on a plane or environments with unexpected loud sounds. We like this cap because it’s well-priced, can be washed for repeated use, is easy to slip onto your dog’s head, and is compact for packing purposes. Dr. Sheen notes that some dogs may be a bit “head shy” when it comes to wearing the cap and suggests positive reinforcement training to get them used to the feeling and experience. Still, this may not be a catch-all solution for some dogs.
Price at time of publishing: $14
Best Calming Chews
Nutramax Laboratories Nutramax Solliquin Calming Behavioral Health Supplement for Small to Medium Dogs and Cats
Why we love it: These chews use natural herbs and extracts to calm your pet.
What to consider: They are designed to be taken as a daily supplement, not just before a stressful event.
Nutramax’s Solliquin is an all-natural supplement chew that helps relieve anxiety in dogs without relying on sedation. Instead, Solliquin uses a combination of calming amino acids and plant extracts for a natural approach to calming, explains Dr. Sheen. Ingredients like L-Theanine, dried whey protein, and magnolia and phellodendron extracts work to help your pup’s brain create de-stressing alpha waves. Dosage is based on weight up to 30 pounds. These chicken-flavored chews are meant to be taken as a daily, ongoing supplement and will not give you fast-acting results. It may take a few weeks for your dog’s overall anxiety to lower.
Price at time of publishing: $23 for 75-count
Best Natural Calming Pills
Vetoquinol Zylkene Calming Supplements for Small Dogs & Cats
Why we love it: It calms naturally, without sedation.
What to consider: It may not be strong enough to work alone for some dogs.
Both Dr. Rendon and Dr. Sheen recommend Zylkene Behavioral Support Capsules as an over-the-counter calming pill. Instead of herbs or drugs, these pills use a natural extract from cow’s milk called alpha-casozepine for their calming effect. Dog allergic to milk? Good news! Zylkene is lactose-free. It’s suggested to start giving your dog the pills at least two days before you travel, and you should dose out the capsules according to your pup’s weight. While these natural pills are lauded by many dog owners, every dog is different and they may not work on your dog. Pills are sold in various strengths so be sure to check the package before you purchase.
Price at time of publishing: $30 for 30-count
Best with CBD
ElleVet Calm Comfort Chews
Why we love it: This CBD product is backed by vet-led clinical trials.
What to consider: It takes up to two hours to kick in.
Just as CBD can be used to help reduce anxiety in humans, these ElleVet Calm and Comfort Chews have been developed to take the edge off your dog’s situational anxiety. These chews use hemp-derived CBD to dial down the anxiety of car rides, flights, road trips, or busy transportation hubs. We love that ElleVet employs vets as advisors and has conducted research proving the safety efficacy of this product in different stressful situations. These chews can be cut and are suitable for dogs that weigh at least five pounds, and should be given roughly 90 minutes to two hours before the anticipated stressful event. We wish they were a bit more fast-acting, but that’s always the catch with edibles isn’t it?
Price at time of publishing: $15 for 3-count
Best Calming Carrier
sleepypod Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed (Strawberry Red)
Why we love it: It also works as a certified-safe car seat.
What to consider: It complies with some, but not all, airline requirements for carry-on pet carriers.
The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed is a three-in-one product that functions as a soft bed, mobile dog carrier, and a certified-safe car seat. According to Dr. Sheen, the benefit of using this carrier is that since it doubles as a cozy, safe bed, it’s already a designated comfort zone for your dog. The plush inner lining works like a scent soaker, keeping the bed-carrier smelling familiar and the transport experience less scary. All you have to do to transform it into a carrier is zip on the mesh topper and attach the strap. There’s also a D-ring to clip your dog in while in transit. It is Rover verified and certified by the Center for Pet Safety for dogs under 15 pounds. The size is compliant with many airline underseat pet carrier requirements — but not all.
Price at time of publishing: $230
Best Calming Tech
Assisi Animal Health Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment Device
Why we love it: It helps with several dog anxiety issues and promises long-term results.
What to consider: It’s pricey and feels a bit experimental.
If you’re looking toward tech for an anxiety solution, the Calmer Canine is a wearable device with a vest and “halo” component that uses a targeted electromagnetic pulse to restore balance in the area of the brain that produces anxiety. It’s FDA-approved for human use and the electromagnetic frequencies are not felt or heard by your dog. However, it takes roughly four to six weeks of two 15-minute sessions per day to achieve results. Dr. Sheen says research has shown “good success” in reducing stress levels over time. This device was originally developed to treat canine separation anxiety, but is also helpful for travel anxiety.
Price at time of publishing: $189
Best Calming Distraction Toy
WEST PAW Zogoflex Toppl Treat Dispensing Dog Toy Puzzle
Why we love it: It’s mentally stimulating and easy to clean.
What to consider: It’s not designed for small dogs.
Never underestimate the power of distraction. Dr. Sheen recommends the West Paws Toppl treat puzzle chew toy, noting that food-dispensing toys are great for giving anxious pets an outlet for nervous energy. This Toppl is a soft plastic chew toy made from a dog-friendly Zogoflex material that can withstand light to moderate chomps from your nervous Nelly. The treat puzzle aspect keeps your dog interested — and distracted — by dispensing a reward for his attention. During travel, we recommend putting this toy with your dog in its carrier where it can’t roll out of reach. Need to clean it? Just pop it in the dishwasher. This product is designed for medium to large breeds, not small breeds or puppies.
Price at time of publishing: $20
Best Calming Collar
Adaptil Calming Pheromone Collar for Dog
Why we love it: It provides 24/7 calming pheromones and lasts for 30 days.
What to consider: It may not work on its own for all dogs.
Pheromone sprays and collars mimic the pheromones dog mothers release during breastfeeding, creating a calming effect. Dr. Rendon recommends pheromone products and considers them a must-have for travel. Slipping one of these bad boys on your goodest boy before you hit the road can help to provide continuous relaxation for your pup and take the edge off. Adaptil collars come in three sizes making it easier to get the right fit for your lil’ puppy or adult dog. Just note that pheromone collars are a roll of the dice, and this solution may not work for your dog (or may work better when used along with another calming product).
Price at time of publishing: $29
Best Calming Spray
ThunderEase Dog Calming Pheromone Spray
Why we love it: It can turn any object or area into a more relaxing experience.
What to consider: It needs to be resprayed every 4-5 hours.
Pheromone sprays are a convenient way to create multiple areas and items that relax your dog such as a carrier or hotel room. We like that it works nearly instantly so you don’t need to plan too far in advance, just spray where and when you need it. The Thunderease for Dogs Calming spray is made by Adaptil, leaders in the pheromone calming space. Just keep in mind that the scent fades every four to five hours and will need to be reapplied.
Price at time of publishing: $28
Tips for Buying Calming Products for Your Dog
Speak with a vet about your dog’s needs
Although these are all over-the-counter calming options, it may be wise to speak with your vet about possible factors that would rule out use of any products. Some facts to consider may be breed, size, health history, or existing medications.
Do a test run before leaving home
Mid-trip is not the time to find out an anti-anxiety product doesn’t work for your dog or that your dog has an adverse reaction to a product. Always do a trial of any supplements, introduce a new carrier, or get your dog used to any wearables in advance of travel day so you can work out any kinks or come up with an alternate plan, if need be.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my dog is stressed?
Yawning, panting, widening of the eyes, tucked tails or ears, shaking, whining or whimpering, drooling, compulsive behaviors, and destruction of nearby items are all signs your dog is experiencing stress and/or anxiety.
How can I calm a dog’s anxiety naturally?
There’s no one catch-all solution for curbing a dog’s anxiety, but providing mental stimulation and distraction, herbal supplements, essential oils, pheromones, and tiring a dog out with exercise are some options.
What are the rules for bringing a dog in the cabin?
Rules will vary by airline and country. Check all requirements on your airline’s website and know the rules for entering your destination with a dog (and for returning afterwards). There are usually rules for the size of the carrier, age of your pet, and sometimes additional paperwork to be considered.
What are the rules for dogs traveling as cargo or checked luggage?
There are certain breed and carrier restrictions depending on the airline. You may also have to provide food and water and show verification of vaccination status along with a health certificate. Check with your airline for specifics.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Katherine Alex Beaven is a writer covering travel, food and drink, and culture. For these recommendations, she relied on expert advice from two licensed veterinarians, research, and personal experience traveling with a pet.