There are various calming supplements on the market that are formulated specifically for dogs. The problem is - many don't work! I'd like to share with you about a few products that I have found effective through the years, on varying types of dogs.
Pet-Ease is a product which contains two calming amino acids - L-taurine (20 mg per tablet) and L-tryptophan (10 mg per tab), along with some calming herbs. This product is easy to use, because it comes in a tasty chewable tab. We kept our fearful rescue, who was practically feral when we captured her, on it for several months when she first came here and felt it really made a difference for her. Many of my clients have chosen this product over others simply because it is easy to use (most dogs will eat it like a treat) and it is formulated specifically for dogs.
If you prefer to purchase human quality supplements, or would like individual ingredient products so that you can give your dog a higher amount of the supplement, look for products that contain either the B vitamin niacinamide (nicotinamade) or the amino acid taurine (2-aminoesthanesulfonic acid). These are the individual ingredients I have used through the years that have proven most effective on over-reactive dogs. Niacinamide is a form of B-3 that works in the central nervous system by attaching to some of the same receptors as do anti-anxiety medications in the benzodiazepine family. Like many supplements, it should be given with food to decrease any chance of nausea. If your dog does exhibit nausea (drooling, or lack of appetite), simply discontinue use for 24 hours, then start back with a reduced dosage.
Taurine is an amino acid found naturally in red meat. Its positive effect on dopamine levels makes it ideal for calming hyperactive or anxiety-prone dogs. People often use taurine supplements to promote relaxation and build muscle tone. Supplementing with small amounts of taurine and niacinamide can help take the edge off of an anxious dog, making them better able to learn and accept gradual socialization or desensitization programs. Taurine is my favorite for dogs with fear issues that involve aggressive displays. Our dogs that are on commercial diets are probably all a tad lacking in amino acids (think about the high amounts of amino acids they would receive if eating a raw meat diet, there really is no way to exactly duplicate that in a commercial dry dog food). Perhaps the increase in high quality amino acids is the reason many people see a change in behavior when they switch their dogs to a raw diet, or to homecooked diets that contain very little or no grain. If you are interested in the subject of a more natural diet, there are many books on the subject, but one that I particularly like is Natural Nutrition for Dogs & Cats by Kymythy Schultze.
You can find these products in our Knowing Dogs Amazon store by simply clicking on the blue highlighted links above, or you can look for them at your favorite health food store. In addition to calming supplements, I nearly always recommend dog appeasing pheremone products for fearful dogs.
What about flower essences or products such as Rescue Remedy? I have not found them helpful for dogs with high levels of anxiety, but they may be helpful in other situations. I would love to hear from you in the comment section, regarding what you have tried, and your thoughts on what works, and what does not.
If you are working with a fearful dog, you can find many helpful suggestions in our affordable dog ebook, Healing the Broken Heart...How to Rehab a Fearful Dog. Click on this link and you can have this valuable material downloaded to your computer in just minutes. As always, I am available via email, at no charge, for anyone who purchases a dog ebook through www.knowingdogs.com.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, so if your dog is on medications or you have any concerns about the safety of any supplement for your particular dog, check with your veterinarian. Keep in mind that traditional veterinarians are required to have very little training in canine nutrition, but a holistic practitioner tends to be more knowledgeable in this area. I do not personally use a holistic veterinarian, because there is not one in my area, but I have done a good bit of reading on the value of niacinamide and taurine supplements, so this, along with trial and error through the years, is the reason that they are the supplements I most often recommend. But if in doubt (due to any medical condition your dog may have), then always check with your personal veterinarian!