The Thundershirt (www.thundershirt.com) is marketed as “The Best Dog Anxiety Treatment,” but does that mean it really works?
The Thundershirt is relatively new and sells for around $40 at most pet retail stores. It came out marketed to pet owners whose dog shows signs of anxiety during thunderstorms. Made of a soft, stretchy material, the Thundershirt is designed to snugly wrap around your dog and to give him a sense of comfort when in stressful situations.
Recently, it began noting that it also works for separation anxiety, fearfulness, hyperactivity, barking, and more. Since this appears to be a pretty trendy dog accessory these days, I thought I’d pick one up and try it out on my fearful reactive dog. Here’s what I found for her, and a couple of clients’ dogs.
For my dog, Karma, I noticed a change as soon as I put the Thundershirt on her. She was much calmer. During walks, she barked less at people (some not at all!), and during car rides, people walking near the car didn’t seem to bother her as much either.
To really put it to the test, I took Karma to her least favorite place – the Vet. In this instance of extreme stress and anxiety, I didn’t see any change with her wearing the Thundershirt. She was still very anxious, barking, and incredibly uncomfortable with being there.
A Group Class student was next to try the Thundershirt out on his fearful dog. She ended up being calmer during walks as well – much easier to handle!
Another client who tried it on her dog, found that her dog was also easier to handle during walks, paid more attention to her while outside, and accepted treats while on a walk. Usually, her dog was very focused on the various outdoor scents and cared much more about them than about her or treats.
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough I saw, however, was on a client’s dog who is afraid of the stove. He runs out of the kitchen, all the way down to the basement, whenever the stove or burners are turned on. With the Thundershirt, and some positive reinforcement training, he was sitting calmly beside the stove with both the oven and burner turned on within 5 minutes of working with him!
So does the Thundershirt work? Yes and no. It seems to be a wonderful tool to help teach your dog how to remain clam during periods of low to moderate stress. High stress situations, with most dogs, there probably won’t be a noticeable change.
It is important to note that while the Thundershirt may produce a calming effect over your dog, very little research has been done. It is possible that dogs may become accustomed to the Thundershirt and its effects may wane over time, or that the dog may begin to associate the Thundershirt with stressful situations and begin to feel nervous just by wearing it. It is too soon to tell.
The Thundershirt is probably a worthwhile investment (especially since you can return it if you don’t notice a difference in your dog!) if you are willing to also put in the time to train your dog while he is wearing the Thundershirt, instead of relying solely on the shirt to do all of the work. That way, the transition between wearing it and not wearing it will become much easier and your dog will no longer be in need of this training tool!
Have you tried a Thundershirt on your dog? If so, what do you think about it?
If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Every week, Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle one of the submitted questions. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.