Is The Thundershirt A Good Fit For Your Scaredy Pup?

June 18th, 2010 by Dan

Thunderstorms cause quite a ruckus in our house. While Lucian (the Dogue De Bordeaux) ignores the rumbles, Reef (the Pit Bull) has never been fond of storms. I’ve noticed as she’s matured that her agitation has only increased and she tends to bark at even the slightest roll. The barks tend to be of the high-pitched nature, the type she uses when she’s alerting us to a strange noise outside or the sound of a stranger knocking at the door. Her anxiousness can go on throughout the entire storm. While Reef’s storm anxiety isn’t even close to the worst I’ve seen, I have discovered that there is an effective way to help her feel more secure during stressful times (and give us a little peace and quiet too!) We tried out the Thundershirt and found it to be a highly effective solution to dealing with her moderate level of agitation. If you read on, you’ll also read an account of our contributing photographer’s experiences with the Thundershirt when she tried it out on her dog, Keely, who suffers from a variety of anxiety related issues.

Photo by Lori Horwedel

About the Thundershirt – Why We Like It:

* A Drug-Free Approach To Dealing With Anxious Behaviors:
The practice of using pressure to relieve stress has been practiced on humans for many years. Some Autistic individuals find pressure to be calming and there are many other forms of anxiety reducing therapies that center around pressure. However, many veterinarians aren’t aware of the benefits of these types of practices on their animal patients, so they automatically prescribe medications – when there may be alternatives!

* It’s Easy To Use:
In our experiences, the Thundershirt required little to no conditioning to get our dogs comfortable with wearing it. It’s easy to put on, machine washable and shrinks back into shape if it gets streched out. Most importantly, it worked – read on to find out about our experiences.

* They Stand Behind Their Product: The makers of the Thundershirt are so confident you’ll be happy with their product that if for any reason the Thundershirt isn’t the right solution for your dog you can return the wrap within 45 days for a full refund of your purchase price.

Reef’s Experience Wearing The Thundershirt:
When we knew a storm was brewing, we started conditioning Reef to wearing the Thundershirt and reinforcing the process of dressing her with treats. As a dog that doesn’t mind wearing coats (she gets cold easily with her very short bully fur!), she was extremely relaxed with the whole process as there was no thunder involved yet. As the storm neared, I gave each dog a bully stick to (hopefully) keep them distracted. Under normal circumstances, Reef wouldn’t touch a chew during a storm, as she’d be too busy alerting us of the “impending danger.” However, I noticed a distinct change in her temperament while she was wearing the Thundershirt and she was happily chewing her stick as the storm rolled in and the thunder started. At one point I left the room to eat lunch and returned to find her curled up sleeping in her bed – I was truly amazed. I kept the shirt on for the remainder of the storm and then placed it in her supply cabinet for easy access whenever we (or our petsitter) needs it.

About Keely:
Keely is an unusually high-anxiety dog. Even on a good day, there’s a lot of anxious licking, wiggling, and pacing.

Keely’s Experience Wearing The Thundershirt:

Wednesday night
: put Thundershirt on Keely. Keely dances in circles because she loves clothing. Bart (her Pit Bull companion) tries to remove Thundershirt by gnawing on it. Thundershirt immediately removed from view. Dogs do zoomies for 20 minutes.

Thursday afternoon:
Thundershirt is re-applied, dogs are walked to park for hangout session. Keely pulls maybe a little less than usual on the way to the park. (If she even suspects we’re heading to a park, she drags me the whole way. Long leads, water bottles, and books are all a dead giveaway. She was certain we were heading there, so this is totally normal behaviour.) We give the dogs the length of their leads and let them do their thing. Keely is fairly nonreactive to the goings-on around her; she watches “the friends of Barkan Park” garden, she eats grass. She is way better than usual–less concerned about her surroundings. We head home, remove Thundershirt. Keely immediately snaps at one of the cats. Instant anxiety? I don’t know.

Saturday afternoon: Keely will not stop licking Bart. Thundershirt applied. She immediately flopped down and fell asleep. Success!

Final Thoughts On Keely’s Experience:
Around the house, the Thundershirt seems to work very well. In situations where she’s more stimulated, the effect is less noticeable, but I do think it helps. Our park trip was slightly more relaxing than usual — Keely was able to relax and stop looking for other dogs, kids, and small animals and just do her thing. Granted, had another dog come along, all bets probably would have been off, but dogs only passed the park, none came in. She watched them pass and wiggled a little, which was a great response. She also wiggled at the people working on the gardens in the park, but stopped paying attention once she decided they weren’t going to visit her.

Final Barks:
After our “paws on” tests, I’ve started recommending the Thundershirt to some of my more anxious training clients and many of them have been thrilled with the results. It’s a safe, holistic way owners can support their animals well-being and help alleviate stress without the use of drugs. There are so many situations where dogs could use this “security blanket” – traveling, house guests, separation issues, barking problems and coming up soon – Fourth of July FIREWORKS.

Here’s a link to their homepage where you can find more information and ordering info.

One Response to “Is The Thundershirt A Good Fit For Your Scaredy Pup?”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Thundershirt didn’t work for me, but The Anxiety Wrap did. Look into the original Anxiety Wrap (the Thundershirt, I think, is a copy). The anxiety wrap works better because it also wraps around the hind legs. Apparently, when dogs are majorly stressed out they can lose sensation in their hind legs. Check it out at Glad you had success with Thundershirt, though!!!

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