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Puppy-appeasing pheromones promise satisfying socialization—but does it work?

Posted Dec 20 2008 6:37pm

For stressed-out dogs and rambunctious pups, there’s a remedy distilled from their mother’s milk—well, not really her milk, just the pup-soothing secretions from the sebaceous glands near her nipples.

DAP (aka, “dog appeasing pheromone”) is the result of this distillation—just don’t ask me how they get it…I really don’t want to know.

Supposedly—however questionable the method of obtaining such a brew—the stuff can work magic. This according to the company in charge of collecting it. The study this French company funded appeared in last week’s JAVMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), and, of course, its results bode well for its product (a collar infused with the delicious aroma of “mama dog”).

Sidebar: You might think that corporate funding for research is evil and wrong. But in the veterinary world, sometimes that’s all we get. Sure, this backing salts our views somewhat, but that doesn’t mean we discount it out of hand. After all, if someone didn’t go out of their way to fund the research on new products you’d have a whole lot fewer options to choose from. A healthy dose of skepticism is always a good idea, no matter who’s forking over the cash.

Now back to the topic at hand: At issue is whether this pheromone works or not. Can it truly deliver when it comes to calming canine fears and facilitating appropriate interactions with humans and other dogs?

This is the question the study purports to answer, though in a limited application. To prove its worth, the researchers at a Toronto hospital evaluated puppies as they were put through their paces in group training sessions.

The pups (45 participated in this randomized, clinical trial) ranged from 12 to 15 weeks old at the start of their training. They were split into two control (placebo) groups and two DAP collar-wearing groups and were subsequently evaluated weekly for their progress.

Results:

“Dogs in DAP and placebo groups were significantly different with respect to degrees of fear and anxiety; longer and more positive interactions between puppies, including play, were evident in dogs in the DAP groups. Data from follow-up telephone surveys indicated that puppies in the DAP groups were better socialized and adapted faster in new environments, compared with puppies in the placebo groups.”

Conclusions: “When compared with a placebo treatment, DAP was useful in reducing anxiety and fear in puppies during puppy classes and resulted in improved socialization.”

Well, well, well… Based on this study, ain’t no way anyone should bother training a puppy without at least trying the DAP collar.

Personally, however, I’ve never found to be the DAP collar to be very useful. Few of my clients have, either. The paper did mention the lack of significant findings on a smaller pilot study when the older, less-potent version of the collar was employed. Perhaps its newer incarnation is far more effective.

But then, if I was working hard to market the “new-and-improved” version of any product, what do you think I’d try? I’d do my darnedest to get a study published in JAVMA pre-launch.

 

 Anyone here ever try the DAP collar? What did YOU think?

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