Anxiety and stress are unfortunately very common issues for dogs. Loud noises from storms, fireworks, or traffic can trigger anxiety. Separation from their owners, traveling to new places, or even interacting with strangers are other common causes of stress responses in dogs.
Signs of anxiety in dogs include pacing, panting, trembling, hiding, and destructive behaviors. Extended or frequent anxiety can negatively impact a dog’s health and quality of life. So finding ways to calm an anxious dog is important.
One strategy many owners use is calming or soothing dog beds. These beds are designed differently than regular beds to help relax dogs and provide a sense of security. Features like high walls, enclosed tops, specific textures and materials, and heat are believed to ease anxiety in stressed dogs. By meeting a dog’s nesting instinct and comforting dogs through gentle pressure and warmth, calming dog beds may help lower anxiety.
Do Calming Dog Beds Really Work?
Calming dog beds are thought to work through deep pressure, warmth, and enclosing space which appeals to natural canine instincts. The gentle but firm pressure applied by the beds releases hormones like oxytocin and serotonin to produce a calming effect. The enclosed spaces and warmth mimic the small, den-like environments and ideal temperatures that provide dogs with a sense of safety and security.
There is anecdotal evidence from many dog owners who report seeing less anxiety and more restful behaviors when their dogs use calming beds. However, these accounts are not scientifically rigorous.
Some scientific research on gentle pressure from swaddling, wraps, and garments shows measurable benefits for anxiety in dogs. This lends credibility to the idea that the light pressure from a calming bed could also have calming effects.
Additionally, some veterinary behaviorists recommend calming beds to clients as part of treatment plans when dogs present with anxiety, noise phobias, travel stress, and other related issues. The beds are typically suggested along with other training and treatment methods.
While more controlled studies are still needed, the proposed mechanisms, veterinary guidance, and owner observations provide a reasonable rationale for how and why calming beds may work to ease anxiety in some dogs. Assessing your individual dog’s response remains the best gauge of their effectiveness.
Types of Soothing Dog Beds
There are several styles of dog beds designed specifically for anxiety relief and calming.
These beds have raised edges forming a round, donut shape. The high bolster edges provide a sense of security and enclosure, while the round shape appeals to dogs’ denning instincts. The bolsters also provide head and neck support.
Fully enclosed beds have a roof or canopy and high walls around all sides. These provide the most complete sense of a safe, den-like enclosure for anxious dogs. They are ideal for dogs who benefit from small, tight spaces.
Heated beds with a flat or pillow-style surface keep dogs comfortably warm. Maintaining an ideal temperature and providing warmth can relieve anxiety. However, supervision is required to avoid overheating.
These specialized beds have lightly weighted inserts that apply gentle, deep pressure across the dog’s body. This pressure has a calming effect similar to compression garments.
Choosing the Right Soothing Bed
Picking the optimal calming bed for your anxious dog involves some important considerations. Learn to Choose the Right Dog Bed.
Consider size & sleep preferences
Measure your dog when lying down and pick a bed that gives it enough room to stretch out or curl up. Also, consider their typical sleeping positions – do they sprawl or burrow? This can help select bed shape/style. May your dog need an orthopedic bed.
Easily get in and out of bed
For dogs with mobility issues, choose a low-sided bed they can step into easily. Ramps can assist dogs who can’t readily jump into donut beds.
Supervise destructive dogs
Dogs who tend to chew up bedding shouldn’t be left alone with a calming bed, as ingesting materials can pose a health hazard. Monitor your dog until you’re sure they won’t damage the bed.
Place the bed in a favorite spot
Put the new calming bed in the area where your dog already likes to sleep or relax, as this smell and familiarity can encourage use. You can gradually move it over time. Learn why dog likes to sleep in bed.
Take the time to choose a calming bed adapted to your individual dog’s needs and preferences. This will give your anxiety-prone pup the best chance of benefiting from their new soothing bed. Monitor use and make adjustments as needed.
Troubleshooting to use New Soothing Bed
It can take some time and effort for anxious dogs to adjust to using a new calming bed. Don’t get discouraged if your dog is hesitant to use it at first. There are a few tips to troubleshoot this issue:
It often takes 2-4 weeks for a dog to get fully comfortable using a calming bed. Be patient and try to positively reinforce use with praise or treats during this transitional period. Place the bed in your dog’s favorite lounging spot to encourage use.
Try treats or moving location
If your dog seems unsure about the new bed, try placing tasty treats like small pieces of chicken or cheese inside the bed to motivate them to investigate and reward the desired behavior. You can also experiment with moving the bed to different areas of your home where your dog likes to relax and see if they take to it better in certain spots.
Don’t force to use
While patience and positive reinforcement are key, you should never pick up or carry your anxious dog and put them in their calming bed. This can cause more stress. If you’ve tried all the tips but your dog still refuses to willingly rest in the bed after a few weeks, it may not be an effective solution for them.
Getting your anxious dog comfortable using their new calming bed takes time in most cases. Use praise, treats, and finding the right location to promote positive associations. But let your dog adjust at their own pace and don’t force interactions with the bed.
Are the Effects Permanent of Soothing dog Beds?
While calming beds can provide anxiety relief while your dog is resting in them, their effects are unfortunately not permanent. Some important points about the long-term impacts of calming beds include:
Temporary relief of anxiety/stress
The soothing effects come from the enclosure, gentle pressure, and warmth the bed provides. Once the dog gets up and leaves the bed, these stimuli go away and anxiety can return. The beds give temporary respite but don’t permanently reduce anxiety.
Work best with training
For long-term anxiety relief, calming beds should be used along with behavioral training, counterconditioning, medication (if recommended by your vet), and other interventions. The beds augment these approaches.
Anxiety may return
Since the calming effects are dependent on being in the bed, dogs will likely still show anxious behaviors when separated from their bed such as during walks, car rides, or being left alone. Continue training even when using a calming bed.
While calming dog beds can be very useful tools for managing short-term anxiety, they do not provide a complete solution on their own. Work with your veterinarian and trainer to use the bed as one component of a comprehensive anxiety reduction plan. This will provide your dog with relief and comfort when in their calming bed while also addressing the underlying causes of their stress.
In conclusion, calming beds can be helpful tools for providing anxious dogs a refuge and temporarily relieving stress when used appropriately. However, dog owners must have realistic expectations about their limitations. Calming beds are not a substitute for more comprehensive treatment plans when anxiety is severe.
The enclosed spaces, gentle pressure, warmth, and cozy materials of calming beds appeal to dogs’ natural instincts and provide comfort. There is supporting evidence that these mechanisms can reduce signs of anxiety in some dogs. However, the effects are temporary and work best when paired with training, medication, and behavioral modification techniques.
Not all dogs respond positively to calming beds. Factor in your individual dog’s needs and preferences when selecting and implementing a calming bed. Provide ample adjustment time, use rewards to encourage use, and don’t force interactions. You may need to try different styles before finding the right fit.
While more research is warranted, calming/soothing dog beds can be a worthwhile investment as part of an overall approach to relieving anxiety and improving your dog’s quality of life. When thoughtfully introduced and properly used, they offer supportive value for many canine companions. Just be sure to have realistic expectations of their anxiety-busting powers.
FAQs about calming dog beds
How long does it take for a calming bed to work?
Many owners report seeing effects within the first few uses, such as their dog voluntarily resting in the bed when stressed or anxious. However, it can take 2-4 weeks of consistent use for the calming bed to have its full impact on reducing anxious behaviors. Be patient during this adjustment period and try to positively reinforce the use of the bed.
Should I leave the calming bed out all the time?
In most cases, it is recommended to allow your dog free access to the calming bed at all times. This allows it to be readily available when your dog feels stressed or needs a secure place to retreat. However, some dogs may try to chew or destroy beds, so you may need to remove the bed when unsupervised until you are sure your dog will not damage it.
What if my dog doesn’t take to the calming bed?
If your anxious dog is hesitant to use their new calming bed, there are a few tricks to try. Offer high-value treats like chicken when they investigate the bed so they associate it with something positive. Place the bed in your dog’s favorite existing sleeping spot so it smells familiar. Try a different style, size or material that your individual dog may find more appealing. But do not force or carry your dog onto the bed – they may resist and come to dislike the bed. If your dog refuses to willingly use it despite these efforts, a calming bed may simply not work for them.
Why are donut beds calming for dogs?
The high bolstered edges of donut beds surround the dog, providing a sense of security and enclosure. This satisfies dogs’ natural instinct to seek out sheltered, den-like spaces where they feel safe and relaxed. The round shape appeals to this denning desire as well. Dogs can burrow into the center of the bed so the bolsters mimic the enclosed feeling of a den. The soft bolsters are also comfortable for dogs to rest their heads on. All of these factors come together to calm dogs’ anxieties.
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