Product Review: Calming Cap
A Calming Cap is a training tool manufactured by Premier Pet Products which reduces visual stimuli for dogs. While it was originally manufactured for dogs which were nervous in the car (and I can imagine it may help with motion sickness for dogs who become ill in the car as well), Calming Caps actually have many useful applications, including reducing reactivity toward people and other dogs, reducing stress in dogs that are afraid at the vet's or of certain types of handling, reducing stress in dogs which are sensitive to movement, light, and shadow, and can help in allowing off leash exploration time safely for dogs with extremely high prey drive until recall training is in place. When placed over the dog's eyes, the cap limits, without entirely blocking, visual access to the environment. The Calming Cap will attach to a regular buckle collar, with velcro attachments behind the neck and under the chin.
The "Pros" of Calming Caps include:
- Threshold reduction - calming caps are great in situations where it is difficult to manipulate the environment to keep the dog under threshold. If your dog normally barks and lunges when another dog is 50' away, you may be able to reduce t0 15 or so feet with the Calming Cap on. We've had a few dogs that could only participate in a group class with other dogs while wearing the Calming Cap - this allowed them to be successful in the training environment, get used to the sounds, smells, and activity level of class without being overwhelmed by the visual stimuli. By the end of a six week course, the Calming Cap is generally no longer needed.
- Fairly easy to fit - these aren't really adjustable but do come in four sizes made to fit nearly any breed.
The "Cons" of Calming Caps include:
- It looks weird. Your neighbors will ask you, "What the heck is that thing on your dog's face?"
- You can't just slap it on and go to work. If your dog is already comfortable wearing a Gentle Leader (or other head halter) or a muzzle, he may acclimate to the Calming Cap more quickly than a dog who has never worn anything on his face before. Here are instructions for fitting from Premier which include tips on training your dog to like wearing the Cap. If your dog is sensitive to sound, you may also need to desensitize him to the sound of the velcro tearing. If you are unsure about how to do this, a qualified behavior professional should be able to help. Depending on the dog and the diligence in introducing the Cap, the process may take a day, two days, or a week. Don't use the Cap in a stressful environment until your dog is able to relax while wearing it in neutral environments.
- May not be an option for some brachycephalic breeds. I admit I haven't used this with any brachycephalic dogs, but I can imagine fitting might be a challenge for some of these dogs and downright impossible for others.
I give this product 4 out of 5 potential stars. It's not a product I recommend often, but when I do, it often gives both the dog and owners significant relief from stress quickly.