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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 17, 2006

Calming cap reduces anxiety and aggression in nervous pets

By Dr. Marty Becker
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

If you have a dog that is overly nervous or easily — what veterinary team members sometimes jokingly call an "espresso dog" — a new non-pharmaceutical way to give your dog the equivalent of a chill-pill may be just what the dog-doctor ordered.

The Gentle Leader Calming Cap is a sheer fabric hood that fits over a dog or cat's head (the product is not available specifically for cats). Developed by Trish King, director of animal behavior and training at the Marin Humane Society, this muted-window of sorts covers the dog's eyes and reduces visual stimuli and lowers their reactivity.

Comparable to a human looking through a screen door at dusk, the pet still has enough vision to see shapes and can confidently maneuver in its environment with a little practice. The Calming Cap attaches with Velcro to the collar and the soft fabric and elastic provide a comfortable fit for most pets.

Veterinary behaviorists say the Calming Cap has proven to be a powerful tool in treating:

—Dogs that get hyper-excited or sick on car trips.

—Dogs that bark explosively in the car or when looking out the house.

—Fearful dogs or cats in the vet's office (or groomers) for nail trims, ear cleanings or other high stress procedures allowing a much more gentle experience for the pet.

—Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety.

—Docile dogs or scaredy cats that lack confidence.

—Nervous canines in dog-dog and dog-people interactions.

Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., certified animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colo., has also used the Calming Cap for more serious behavior problems. "I've used the Calming Cap to successfully lower the arousal level of dogs in the same family that are fighting, which helps facilitate behavior modification. It's also been helpful to reduce arousal during problem introductions between a newly acquired dog and resident cats."

Tara Lang, RVT, incoming president of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians reported on the use of the cap on over 200 animals in a review in the summer 2006 issue of Society of Animal Behavior Technicians and rated it an A+ in the veterinary setting. The only reported problems were the few animals that feverishly tried to remove it and the fact that it could snag quite easily with cats.

Lang, who is from Cape Girardeau, Missouri has seen some completely unmanageable pets becoming civilized within seconds and is in awe of this product. "While the Calming Cap could be abused in certain situations (leaving it on the dog all day depriving them of normal activity), it could also be the best tool of the decade."

The Calming Cap is available at veterinary hospitals, major pet retailers, at www.premier.com, and at Hetts' Web site, www.AnimalBehaviorAssociates.com. The retail price is $19.99.