My golden retriever Elsie is a bit nervous during thunderstorms OR fireworks. OK, that’s an understatement.
Elsie is extremely nervous during thunderstorms. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be an actual thunderstorm.
Elsie seems to have some kind of built-in barometric pressure reader. She seems to know when a thunderstorm is coming. Then when it finally does arrive, the real fun begins.
I’m Nancy Stordahl, and I maintain the blog Nancy’s Point. 2021 update: Elsie has passed away.
When Elsie senses an approaching thunderstorm, all the classic canine symptoms of anxiety begin to kick in:
- She becomes restless.
- Her body language “screams” worry.
- She paces. She sniffs the air.
- Pants – a lot.
- She whimpers.
- Forcefully nudges her way under my legs or chair.
- She “digs.”
- Tries to find a safe spot. She can’t – in her mind, there isn’t one.
*Get That Mutt’s tips on how to help a dog who’s scared of fireworks. Click Here.
These behaviors start off on the mild side, but quickly escalate, becoming highly annoying and frustrating. Elsie ends up in full-blown, panic-attack mode. I kid you not.
Whenever these symptoms begin to happen, I immediately put her in her kennel in my basement and turn a fan onto its highest setting in order to cool her down and hopefully drown out some of the “terror.”
Other things I’ve tried in addition to the Thundershirt:
- Ignoring the behaviors. No luck.
- Providing comfort verbally and physically by speaking reassuringly while petting and stroking her gently. No luck. See the post, Can you reward a dog’s fear?
- Putting her into a confined space such as a bathroom.
- Anti-anxiety drug via her vet. Again, to no avail.
The Thundershirt review – does the Thundershirt really work?
When That Mutt offered me an opportunity to test out a product called the Thundershirt, I was thrilled. As it turned out, our trial run came at the perfect time. The Fourth of July was also fast approaching.
In addition to thunderstorms, my dog is afraid of fireworks and firecrackers. Since we live in Wisconsin where such noisemakers are legal, we get to hear such sounds for more than a few days before and after the Fourth.
More opportunity for testing!
Now a bit about the Thundershirt.
The particular product I am critiquing is called the Thundershirt and is marketed as “The Best Solution for Dog Anxiety.”
It has a patent-pending design that applies constant pressure on a dog’s abdomen. This pressure is intended to calm the dog, much like swaddling an infant is supposed to calm her. It’s basically a “wrap” for your dog held in place with Velcro.
The Thundershirt for dogs is labeled as safe, effective, drug free and easy to use, so I will comment on these four claims.
Safety – Yes, it’s a safe product to use as far as I can tell, although I did not leave it on my dog while she was kenneled as she tends to chew/destroy things in her kennel when she is agitated.
I didn’t know if she would “eat” the product or harm herself with it in some way. She probably would not have, but my choice was better safe than sorry.
Drug free – Yes! I don’t like drugs for myself or for my dogs. See the post, Medications for dogs during fireworks.
Easy to use – Hmm. I am not good with puzzles. Thankfully the Thundershirt came with a good diagram. Let’s just say I needed it! Most people will probably figure it out more quickly than I did.
Effective – Well, for my dog, not so much. See what others thought of it here.
Will a Thundershirt stop my dog’s fear of storms?
For our particular situation, the Thundershirt did not prove to be very effective in reducing my dog’s stress.
I did notice a slight decrease in her anxiety with a gentle rain (no thunder or lightening, just drizzle), so this was something I will keep testing. Yes, my dog starts to get nervous even when there is a gentle rain!
Maybe she can progress. Who knows?
One positive thing is that Elsie did not seem to mind one bit about putting on or wearing the Thundershirt. There was no struggle to put it on her at all.
Another observation I made was that part of the Velcro came undone after only one use.
All in all, the Thundershirt did not solve our problem.
Could the Thundershirt work for other dogs?
The Thundershirt did not help Elsie overcome her thunderstorm anxiety. However, every dog is an individual and this product may or may not help your dog.
It’s important to point out that my dog is an extreme case. If you have a dog only beginning to exhibit signs of anxiety, this product might be of help in keeping the problem from getting worse.
The Thundershirt could help with dog separation anxiety or other issues like barking, travel anxiety, excitability, leash pulling and fearfulness.
It can also be used as a general training tool. For example, it could be used to keep your dog more focused on the lesson at hand. It may or may not come in handy for these uses. I did not test it for any of these purposes.
If you have a dog suffering from anxiety, the Thundershirt might be worth a try, especially since the company does offer a 100-percent guarantee that it will work or you can return it for a full refund.
You gotta love that!
How much does a Thundershirt cost?
The Thundershirt is priced at about $44.99 on Amazon – get one here.
Does your pet suffer from thunderstorm anxiety? What (if anything) works for your dog?
Let us know in the comments!
*Get my tips on how to help a dog who’s scared of fireworks. Click Here.
Nancy Stordahl maintains the blog Nancy’s Point, a blog about grief, breast cancer and other topics.