My dog Cassie had always been a curious and fearless explorer. She spent many vacations hiking with me, trailblazing new doggie paths off the beaten path through brambles and thickets. At the beach she would taunt the sea by racing in to meet the waves and then fly back at the last minute with sand and salt flying in the ocean breeze, her mouth agape in a mischievous smile, knowing she had just evaded Mother Nature.
Though I expected her physical strength to wane over the years, I was not prepared for the noise anxiety she gradually developed over time. The two boogiemen in her life became the oven with its high pitched chirping alarm and worst of all, a rainy thunderstorm that’s loud claps sent her running, tail between her legs behind my bed or to the bathroom where she would shake in fear.
With summer under way and the threat of thunderstorms and fireworks in the picture, I thought it was time to give the Thundershirt™ a try. I’d heard about the phenomenon, but because it was just a shirt, I was skeptical. My dog tends to freeze in place and become as immobile as a statute when I put her raincoat or winter sweater on. However, since Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science and an animal behavior expert, has touted the calming benefits of pressure for anxious animals, I was somewhat convinced of the methodology behind the seemingly simple concept. Much like you swaddle a baby in a blanket to calm it, theThundershirt™ fits snuggly over your dog, exerting soft pressure on your dog's body which soothes your pup and their anxiety. Not only does the shirt claim to help with your dog's noise phobia, but it's also helpful for pooches with separation anxiety.
Cassie in her Thundershirt
With July 4 approaching, I attempted to suit her up in preparation for the big day. As suggested, I put the shirt on her at night during her treat and trick time, which happens to be her favorite part of the day. I wanted her to associate the shirt with pleasurable experiences and become accustomed to wearing it at non-threatening times. As per usual, after I finally managed to Velcro her in the shirt in all the right places by following the diagram, she froze in place. Once I got her interested in her treats, she loosened up and performed her repertoire of tricks with ease. Later, she lay down and fell peacefully asleep.
After putting the Thundershirt on her every night for 10 to 20 minutes at times when she was eating, I noticed her grow comfortable in it. Often times she would simply fall asleep. Finally, the night of July 4th arrived, every dog’s nightmare. I swaddled her in her shirt and sat down with pen and paper in hand to observe her reactions to the loud pop, sizzle, and boom of the fireworks. Though her expression was fearful, and she kept to the corner of the bathroom, I noticed that for once, she did not shake incessantly. This was a huge step!
Cassie and Briana
Though it took longer for her to adjust to the shirt than I had originally suspected and putting the shirt on correctly can be a little bit confusing, in the end she was calmer than I had ever seen her during a thunderstorm or fireworks episode! In my opinion, the Thundershirt™ is worth it, but in the beginning you must be patient. Morris Animal Inn carries Thundershirts™ so stop by to test one out on your dog before the summer is over!
Written by Briana Falco
Morris Animal Inn Employee and proud mother of Cassie
Have you ever used the Thundershirt on your dog? If so, what have your results been?