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Thunder shirts for dogs – why they could make a difference

Thunder shirt instrutcions

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.

Homemade thunder shirt for dogs

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?

ThunderShirt for Anxious Dogs

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)
  • over-excitement

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.

Thunder shirt instrutcions

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.

10 thoughts on “Thunder shirts for dogs – why they could make a difference

  1. Great post. I have heard about the Thundershirt before and have seen them in pet stores. I am a bit skeptical but your post has given me some good information to consider. I have a small female MinPin. She is about 7 pounds and it is hard to find products for her small size off of the shelf. I guess because a lot of people have small dogs and buy all of the small sizes up? And I like to make sure something like this would fit just right, so I am a bit hesitant about ordering things like this online for my pup sight unseen. I might just give this product another look after reading your excellent post. Thanks

    1. Hi Frank,

      It does need to fit right in order to work properly, but there is flexibility with the velcro strapping for the shirt to be tightened or loosened for the best fit. Here is some sizing information from the manufacturer which would help you select the correct one. Reading your comment, I would suggest going for the XXS.
      SIZE & WEIGHT: XXS for 110 lbs.
      Let me know how you get on, Mara.

    2. I wish I could post a video of our 12 year old, 16lb, female beagle. No drugs, nothing but her brand new Thunder Shirt. Sitting calmly on her chair, with my wife vacuuming the floor right in front of her. Normally, get the vacuum out and she’s trying to find somewhere to hide.
      Tonight is New Years Eve and in our neighborhood we get to hear fireworks and (unfortunately) a few gun shots. This will be the ULTIMATE test.

      1. Hi Marty. I’m so glad you decided to give the Thunder Shirt a try. There’s something really comforting about not using drugs or chemicals to help calm our dogs when these times of the year come around. How did she get on with it on New Year’s Eve? Would love to hear your feedback. Thanks so much for posting a comment here and I hope to hear from you again. best wishes to you and your Beagle, Mara.

  2. Thank you for the very informative and helpful blog post. This will be very useful for my Labrador who is terrified of loud noises, such as fireworks which are common where I’m from on special occasions. He also gets very nervous hearing firetrucks and thunder. What is the average length of time for a dog to get used to it, if not immediately? Thanks to your useful post I’m going to give it a try – any other tips you may share will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Julie,

      Nice to hear from you. Your Labrador sounds very much like our German Shepherd – he was frightened of the same sorts of noises too. It’s difficult to give you a definite answer about how long a dog will take to get used to a Thunder Shirt. For many dogs it’s an instant soother, but some might take 2 or 3 uses to really get used to it and be comforted by it. If you’ve tried it on 3 separate occasions and it doesn’t seem to work, then I would suggest your dog needs something else. I know there are “calming” diffusers that can be plugged into the electrical socket, which you could try if the shirt isn’t effective for your dog. I hope one of these helps you and your Labrador. It’s not nice to see them scared.


  3. Great tips on the thunder vest for man’s best friend. I heard about the vest before but I was a little nervous as to whether this will work. You did a good job of explaining how and why, soothing constant pressure should calm down an anxious or over-excited dog. My sister has a big dog (a German Shepherd called Princess) and she gets very anxious when there are thunderstorms, and this normally confident dog will hide in the tiniest corner and stay there for almost the whole day. I will definitely refer her to this website, she should find a number of tips here to assist Princess with, and maybe she could consider trying the thunder vest too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Mimi – I appreciate your comments. We used to have a German Shepherd too, called Rocky. He was the biggest scaredy cat when it came to thunder. He would launch himself at you if you were sitting down, or try and jump on the bed. Thunder shirts are a great invention and have helped soothe many dogs when they are anxious – whether during thunder storms or for some other reasons. Big pats to Princess next time you see her!

      Mara 🙂

  4. Hi,
    I am very happy to have come across this article! My sisters dog is a very nervous dog and has been since he was a pup..she has tried all kinds of things, which work for a few days and then stop. There is a collar thingy which has a safe chemical on it but it not very good.

    This looks awesome, Im definitely forwarding this article so she could sort out for her dog. 🙂

    1. Hi,

      Glad you mentioned the chemical collar – we tried a chemical flea collar on our German Shepherd and we had to take it off again almost immediately. Whatever the chemical it used, it reacted badly and made him really hyper! We always stay away from anything chemical now. Thanks for forwarding the article and I hope it helps her dog.

      All the best, Mara 🙂

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