Shopping for dog accessories over the last few months must have introduced you to the idea of calming dog beds. These pet beds claim to help your dog deal with issues like separation anxiety, but do they really work? Pet psychology is a complex topic. Many researchers have chimed in on their opinions of whether pet beds work, and the results are pretty surprising. To help pet parents make a more informed decision, we've decided to delve into the science of this phenomenon and see if calming pet beds really fulfill the claims they make. What we found turns out to be quite interesting.
Calming Pet Beds DO Work...Somewhat
Before we delve into the exceptions, the science behind the calming pet bed is sound. Have you ever witnessed puppies right after they're born? They don't have many senses, but the sense of smell and touch are the most well-developed at the start. Their first moments in the cold, cruel world are dominated by seeking out their mom's milk. Usually, this means sidling up to a teat snuggled warmly between their littermates. At this point, they're both warm and fed, and it's their very first moment of happiness. This first moment sticks in their minds through the rest of their lives and shapes their world.
Dog psychologists have noted that dogs associate sense with feelings, much the same as humans. It's not a wonder we're so close to them as a species. That scent of fur and the warm, snuggling feeling of being amongst their littermates is a feeling they associate with calming. Using this principle, the manufacturers of dog beds can simulate that calming feeling and give them a sense of being at ease.
Your Cuddling Also Helps
When your pet is stressed or anxious, and you cuddle them, they tend to burrow into you and try to escape the world. Does that burrowing seem familiar? It's the same sort of behavior that happens when they're just wee puppies, looking for comfort from their mom. As a per parent, this shouldn't come as a surprise that you're the person they look to for protection and comfort. When you hug them, you impart the same feeling that they associate with calmness and safety.
The downside is that while you provide a safe-zone, you don't smell like what they associate with protection. Your clothes don't have that inherent scent of their mom's fur or any fur in particular. Now, this isn't a failure on your part. But for your dog, it could ruin the feeling of comfort and could lead to them getting mixed signals from their furry brains. The result is that they're half-calmed and half-anxious. This disassociation could lead to any number of problems, from snapping at you to having an accident right there.
Pet beds handle this better than you do by giving your pet a nice, warm spot to snuggle up into and enjoy that has that fur scent. What's more, it has that pressure and warmth that they associate with their time of comfort. These elements are essential to help them simulate that comfort and calm their nerves. If you've ever seen your pets go crazy on the night of the Fourth of July where the fireworks are going off all over, you know how necessary this sort of thing is for them. However, you should be aware that not all calming pet beds are built along the same lines.
The Elements Of a Good Pet Bed
When we look at the science, a calming pet bed that works at what it suggests only needs to have two things - raised edges to provide just enough pressure and fur for the warmth and scent. Many pet beds these days use faux-fur and scent it accordingly. With time, it'll adopt your pet's natural smell and make them feel even more at home. It's essential that you get a calming bed that doesn't stifle your pet with raised edges that take too much effort for them to climb out of them. If you're looking for a pet bed to help with their anxiety, these are perfect. However, not all of them are made the same way.
We've seen pet bets that claim to be calming beds, but their construction left us wondering how they came up with that classification. Synthetic materials shouldn't have any place within a pet bed. They don't add to the feeling of comfort and, instead of comforting, introduces new scents that will serve to confuse and agitate your pet even more. The worst thing you could do for your furbaby is to get them a pet bed that has an entirely plastic-covered interior. This material isolates them from the pet bed and can provoke anxiety even more.
Many manufacturers making these beds don't seem to understand the basic premise. We've seen beds with memory foam inserts that might seem really good for a human but are really bad for a calming pet bed. These foam inserts provide a soft spot for your pet to lay, but they can trap heat and become unbearably hot in the summer. They would also need to be washed regularly. If your pet has an accident on it or lies on it with their muddy fur, it could permanently stain or damage the insert. Memory foam also doesn't provide any actual calming benefits to your dog.
Your Responsibility As a Pet Parent
Calming an anxious dog can be a challenging prospect. Some dog owners use medication to sedate their pet, but this isn't the type of solution you should look at as a responsible pet parent. Instead, your dog should have a place where he or she can run to ease their anxiety. The bed provides a safe space built just for them, made out of materials and scents that they associate with their happiest times. Just like humans, dogs associate their feelings and senses with memories. That's why choosing a calming pet bed needs to take these sensations into account. Keep the synthetics down to a minimum, but the warmth, pressure, and comfort should be an integral part of the bed's construction.