Not long ago, I came across a graphic on Facebook detailing how to make a homemade thunder shirt for a dog. I know Thanksgiving has passed, as has Guy Fawkes in the UK, but New Year celebrations always seem to bring more fireworks, so perhaps this is a good time to discuss “dog frights”. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate you go down the DIY route unless you are very experienced with dogs and you also have a patient pooch that will stand still while you try all the winding and wrapping. if you are going to give it a try, please also note that the knot on the top should not be sitting on your dog’s spine, as it is in this picture – it needs to be off to one side to avoid putting pressure on the bones.
And it still may not give the same results as the real thing, which has been scientifically researched and is now a properly branded product. So why and when would you use thundershirts for dogs?
Firstly, what are they?
Also described as a “dog anxiety vest”, they are hailed as a natural calming aid based. Based on the idea of using constant, gentle pressure on your dog’s body to soothe and comfort, the principle is very similar to swaddling a baby.
Why is your dog anxious?
Many dogs go through some form of anxiety during life, which can be triggered by a wide variety of stimuli or situations. Some of the most common types are:
- separation anxiety
- fear of loud noises (fireworks, thunder etc) – this is where the thunder shirt gets it’s name from
- anxiety associated with travelling in a car
- just an ordinary lack of confidence (some rescue dogs fall into this category, through past bad experiences)
This video shows some other examples of anxiety or other compulsive behaviors, that may be affecting you and your dog
The first step to addressing any anxiety is to try and understand and remove or minimise the cause. However, in practical terms this is not always possible and then it becomes more about how you can actually deal with your anxious pet.
How does a thunder shirt work?
Using pressure to relieve stress has been a common approach for many years in humans. This pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system, through the release of endorphins – or “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.
The real-deal thunder shirt comes with easy-to-follow instructions and a simple diagram to show how to put on your dog.
There is no training required, although do bear in mind that reactions may vary – some dogs are instantly calmed, whilst some may take a while to get used to the idea – and there will be many somewhere in between.
Like any piece of apparel, whether human or pet, selecting the right size is going to be key to get the best effect from a thunder shirt. This is even more important, given this relies on a pressure-effect, so the garment needs to fit your dog snugly – including under the torso. There are actually seven different sizes available to help you get the best fit, ranging from XXS (for < 7lbs) up to XXL (greater than 110 lbs). Taking a chest measurement of your dog as well, can help you decide on which size would be best..
The vest has velcro straps, which mean it is incredibly easy to get on and off, and this is also an added measure to ensure a great fit for each individual dog.
What are the benefits?
- Thunder shirts are highly effective, with success reported in over 80% of cases and across a wide variety of behaviors
- These are completely safe for your dog
- They are easy to use
- Completely drug free, so there is no medication applied to your dog
- Not costly to buy – especially when you compare to the cost of medical intervention, pet training or even damaged furniture!
I hope this has helped you if you have an anxious dog, and given you a possible solution to improve things. If you have any comments or would like to ask a question, please do so below. Please also feel welcome to share any feedback or pictures about your dog and the thunder shirt.