DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. Products containing DAP, such as those sold under the brand name Comfort Zone, chemically mimic the pheromones given off by lactating female dogs. Those pheromones are naturally soothing to puppies. As it turns out, they tend to calm adult dogs as well.
DAP products come in three forms: a diffuser (similar to a plug-in air freshener), a spray, and a collar. When using the diffuser, it should be left plugged in constantly—and don’t worry, you won’t smell a thing. Plug it in around your dog’s sleep or resting area to keep him calm if, for example, he has separation issues. Many dogs with mild separation anxiety pace, whine, and become anxious when left alone. They may even bark incessantly or become destructive. While DAP may not help all dogs, many will become noticeably calmer with its use. Many times a program of behavior modification is called for in the case of separation anxiety, but DAP often serves as an adjunct or, in some cases, a major part of the solution. Diffusers can also be helpful in the indoor sections of shelters and boarding kennels.
The spray form is easy to use as well. Some places DAP could be sprayed include a dog’s bedding, a training room before dogs arrive, a vehicle (for dogs with car-related anxiety), on a bandana to be worn around a dog’s neck, and even on a trainer’s pants to calm nervous canine pupils. DAP collars are another option, and a good one for dogs who have generalized anxiety in a variety of environments.
There have been clinical studies which prove the efficacy of DAP, but instead of citing statistics, here is an example of how I used DAP with one of my client’s dogs: two terrier-mix brothers, roughly four months of age, had never been separated from each other—not even for a minute. These super-bonded buddies ate together, played together, and even slept crated together. As a result, removing one from the other’s presence, even for a matter of seconds, resulted in acute distress for both. One of the things I recommended at the training session was to have the pups sleep in separate crates. The crates could be adjacent to each other at first so the pups could still smell and sense each other nearby.
I returned a week later to find the entire family looking as though they hadn’t slept in a week. This turned out to be not very far from the truth! They explained that when they kept the dogs in separate crates, they whined and cried all night. I suggested a DAP diffuser in the pups’ sleeping area. When I phoned two days later to check in, the mom sounded much happier. She said that from the first night the diffuser was plugged in, although the puppies did cry and whine for five minutes or so, they soon quieted down and fell asleep. Now, DAP doesn’t always work that quickly, but in many cases it does.
DAP is not a drug, and it will not turn your dog into a canine zombie. What it will do in many cases is take the edge off a dog’s anxiety. You can find products like Comfort Zone online, and other DAP products may be available through your veterinarian. This remedy falls squarely in the won’t-hurt-may-help category, so if your dog has anxiety issues, give DAP a try.
For more information about DAP and complementary therapies, see Help for Your Fearful Dog.
*Note: Using DAP in a household with birds is not recommended.