Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Thundershirt Experiment: Does it Really Work?

http://www.thundershirt.com/
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.

Photo Courtesy of Bayasaa
A Season of Fireworks and Thunder
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
Week 1
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.

Week 2
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
Conclusion
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?

18 comments:

  1. We tried the Thundershirt on Mocha. It wasn't very successful. I felt it was too hot for him to wear during a summer thunderstorm.

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  2. That was also one of my concerns, but I never kept it on her for longer than an hour and it didn't appear to bother her. But that is a good point Renee.

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  3. I always wondered about this product...now I know! Thanks, Briana!

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  4. Briana - I need to practice with it - I had a devil of a time trying to even get it on Mocha correctly. lol I'm willing to give it another shot, but it just seems so "heavy" - he looked really uncomfortable in it, and still was upset with the thunder. Poor pup!

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  5. Renee- I totally understand, it was not easy to get it on the first 2 times because there are so many velcro straps, you really have to study the diagram that comes with it to make sure you do it right. But I would definately recommend putting it on Mocha when he is calm and happy, like perhaps his feeding time. Thundershirt Co. insists the shirt is made of thin, breathable fabric but definately judge it for yourself. If MochaMan is panting way too much with the shirt on, I would take it off. Good luck with it!

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  6. My husband and I are moving to NJ (from CA) and will be living somewhere in the Morristown vicinity. My 3-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea, is a mess around loud noises - she shakes uncontrollably. Being in the car is especially difficult on the freeway with semis and/or buses. We are planning to drive across the country in order to avoid the trauma of flying (the noise would be horrible for her). I'm thrilled to learn about the Thundershirt!! It would be a God-send if it helps Sweet Pea stay calmer.

    We could acclimate her in advance of the week-long journey so she is comfortable in the shirt, but are there restrictions on how long she could wear it in a single time-span? We will be driving approximately 600 miles per day or about 8 hours a day.

    I anxiously await your reply. And thank you again!!

    Beth Thomas-Kim

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  7. Hi Beth! So glad to hear you will be coming to our neck of the woods! Morristown is a wonderful town and simply beautiful! We will be a great resource for you and Sweet Pea when you make the move. Make sure to look us up for all your grooming, boarding, and daycare needs! We would love to meet Sweet Pea. Come take a tour and decide if we are right for you.

    Regarding the Thundershirt-in all my research on it, I have never heard of a time constraint concerning how long a dog can wear it, but just to make sure I called up Thundershirt and asked them directly. I'm happy to report that there is no time limit. In fact, they told me some dogs wear the shirt everyday, all day! So just determine what seems right for you and Sweet Pea and good luck with the move!

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  8. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the quick reply and the welcome! We are really excited and will absolutely come and check out your gorgeous facility. After I posted my reply I realized you had posted the website so I spent some time reading all about the product and watching the videos. I order a monogramed (pink rugby style) for Sweet Pea this morning.

    Again, thank you for your lovely reply. We will look forward meeting you in a few short months.

    Beth

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  9. My dachshund-mix has developed a rather severe back problem. She is on pain meds and we are being as careful with her as we possibly can, carrying her down steps, etc. I ordered a Thundershirt, hoping it might make her feel a little more comfortable and stop her from trying to jump and "wiggle" which makes her back pain worse. After 2 days, so far so good. I put it on her in the mornings and leave it on all day. She seems to like having it on and it has calmed her down quite a bit. Only time will tell how effective it really is, but for now I'm very optimistic!

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  10. Any updates? I have a dachshund in a similar situation and have wondered if a Thundershirt would quell his wiggles.

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  11. This seems like it only "treats" symptoms. From what I understand I will have to keep this ugly thing on my beautiful Kooikerhondje any time she might get anxious. That doesn't seem like a fix to me, only a cover up. Behaviorial therapy worked wonders for our pup, albeit more expensive...

    Just a thought.

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    1. My dog wears his shirt 24 hours a day. I don't care what it looks like it has actually saved my dog from being PTS!!

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    2. My dog is a nervous wreck at only a little over a year. Put it on her last night and so far its like a new dog, Anxiety is better and no pulling on a walk. She fell asleep in it and no barking this morning. I havent taken it off still and think I will leave it on her 24 hr a day for now. She seems to feel much better in it.

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    3. My dog is a nervous wreck at only a little over a year. Put it on her last night and so far its like a new dog, Anxiety is better and no pulling on a walk. She fell asleep in it and no barking this morning. I havent taken it off still and think I will leave it on her 24 hr a day for now. She seems to feel much better in it.

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  12. kellyshirley09@gmail.comNovember 2, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    My dog settles quite well but likes it on most nights for longer than 2 hrs is this ok

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  13. My 11 yr old lab chow had surgery to remove a cyst on her side that she would not leave alone, constantly licking it and getting it infected. I decided to have it removed.
    The incision was 7 inches long with lots of staples. She wore one of those e-collar cones for a few days and her and I both hated the thing. The minute I took it off she would go for the staples. I tried a t-shirt and she licked it wet at the site of the staples. I decided to try the Thunder shirt. It is like magic. She is calmer and not stressed about her incision at all while she wears it. Even though it is just cloth like a t-shirt amazingly she hasn't tried to lick it through the shirt. If I take it off to give her a rest from it and put the cone on her head, she whines and tries to get at the incision until I put the Thunder shirt back on. She wore the shirt all night and never bothered the stapled area. I was amazed. I kept getting up checking on her through the night and she slept peacefully and never touched the site of the incision. I will be sure to mention how well the Thunder shirt worked for Bella to the vet when she gets her staples out. Maybe the Thunder shirt can help another pet after surgery not have to wear that awful e-collar and be more relaxed. In our case the shirt covered her incision. The shirt probably has to cover the incision to keep them from bothering the site, but even if it doesn't it could help with general anxiety with having any procedure even if they have to wear the e-collar, too.

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