Helping a dog maintain his composure

Can two bite-size treats each day help an anxious, high-energy dog handle life’s stressors without turning into a were-dog?


Proponents of a product called Composure would have you think so.

I might be one of them.

Although I rarely put much stock in “easy” pet fixes that make big promises (and often come with a bloated price tag), my vet’s office has me beginning to believe in Composure.

On Charlie Machete‘s first vet visit after his unexpected homecoming,  the office manager wouldn’t let me leave without taking a partial bag of these magical Composure treats.


Clearly, the poor woman wanted to give me some hope that I had not just accepted back into my home a murderous hellhound. Or maybe the hope was for her.

Never a big fan of being poked, prodded, or in some cases looked at, by strange people, Charlie Machete has been overly suspicious of anyone in the veterinary field since coming back to us.

OK, I’m being overly dramatic.

He can go to the vet for day boarding without totally freaking out. But if an examination or needle is involved, a muzzle is not optional. And I absolutely MUST be in the exam room with him, or he lets out that shrill “please-don’t-abandon-me” whine, followed by not-so-nice noises directed at whoever he feels is keeping him away from me.

I’m not making him sound very adoptable, am I?

Well, he actually is. And this Composure stuff could help my foster doggy stressball become even more of a highly desirable pet.


My vet’s office manager understood my initial skepticism about the product. She said she didn’t trust it at first, either. But then a client with two insane cats started dosing her babies with the feline formula. Apparently, they went from being nasty haters of the vet to much more tolerant patients. A daily hit of Composure also helped the situation at home. The client explained to the vet office manager that she “got her life back” because the cats stopped fighting with each other all the time.

Now, I know cats aren’t dogs, but I am familiar with the need to sedate an animal to maintain peace in the house.

Full disclosure: We have probably abused the Wal-finate effect.

Wal-finate is a super cheap, over-the-counter generic antihistamine that is OK to give to dogs. Luke needs it often for his typical golden retriever allergies. Scooby the miniature pinscher also needs a lesser amount of daily antihistamine, says the vet, to help him do less old man coughing. Less coughing means less stress on his collapsing trachea.

The thing about antihistamines – in dogs and humans – is they tend to slooooow you down (except for those odd cases where the drugs have the exact opposite effect).


That side effect can be convenient if induced in an anxious dog before long car rides, when company is coming over or pretty much any potentially stressful situation. Suffice it to say, Charlie Machete has taken some Wal-finate in his day.

However, being the sucker I am for “more natural” alternatives, the vitamin- and amino acid-based Composure intrigued me. I also liked the manufacturer’s promise that the supplement helps calm dogs without making them too drowsy.

Composure can be given to your pet daily or on an as-needed basis. Following sporadic usage, I have been giving Charlie Machete two of the soft chews each morning for approximately one week.


Composure soft chews are pretty small.

While I wouldn’t say the effects of the product are life-changing, I can tell a difference – especially within the first 4 hours.

As my vet suggested, the Composure seems to help Charlie Machete get into a state of mind where he is most receptive to commands, which makes it a good training aid.

Over the weekend, I gave him Composure shortly before two outings in public – the solo sidewalk adoption event in Brookside and lunch at a dog-friendly Waldo restaurant with Our Waldo Bungie‘s Emily and adoptable Polly Pocket. Both times, Charlie Machete behaved with more grace and confidence than he ever would have shown a year ago.

Frankly, I can’t say for sure if the Composure is a placebo – for me or the dog. But for now, we’re going to keep it up. After we ran out of the vet-provided sample, I went ahead and bought a brand new bag.

Does your pet ever need a chill pill? What nerve-calming strategies do you employ?


Luke the storm-phobe is going to try some Composure the next time the weather gets scary!

Have you checked out the new Wayward Dogs online store yet? Every purchase helps support this website, and Composure is one of the products offered.

Disclaimer: Talk to your veterinarian before trying any product like Composure.

About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on August 20, 2012, in Dogs, Machete, Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I just Love Charlie Machete. Looks so similar to my Litchi, who behaved somewhat the same when I first got her as well. Fascinated with the product. If it allows him to be calmer in situations which previously caused him stress, then at least he starts building his own confidence around them. Hopefully, the need for them dissipates as his confidence grows.

  2. I’m glad Charlie has something that’s working for him. I’m going to look into it myself because Boomer and Dottie sometimes go completely nuts on walks, it’s worth a shot right?

  3. There are sooo many great, natural calming aids! Composure is one and there are several other companies that make calming treats too. I personally like products like Rescue Remedy or Animal Apawthecary’s Tranquility Blend. Glad you’ve found something that works for Charlie!

  4. I’m glad that you mentioned Wal-finite. I have never heard of it, but we have a Golden Retriever and we have been struggling to find something that actually helps with his allergies. Everything recommended by the vets works for about a month and then falls flat. I’m going to do some research and see if we should give it a shot. Also, I love Charlie Machete and hope that this helps him out!

    • Thanks for the well wishes for Charlie Machete. Wal-finate is great, primarily because it is super cheap. It is a generic drug sold at Walgreens. The active ingredient is Chlorpheniramine maleate. As always, be sure to check with your vet before trying it – especially if you golden is on any other meds. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

  5. We used to give Rufus Composure before we took him to the vet. It always worked for him! 🙂

  6. Oh, and Machete did AWESOME at the restaurant! 🙂

  7. I’m so glad you shared your story about how Composure has helped Charlie Machete. We’ve seen numerous animals respond so well to this product. Not every pet has benefited from it but the majority that have tried it, report back excellent feedback. And the fact that it doesn’t put them in a “zombie like state” is very appealing to owners too. Glad you are pleased.

  1. Pingback: What He’s Wearing: Thunder Jacket Edition « Wayward Dogs

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