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Will a Thundershirt Help My Dog?

If your dog is scared of fireworks or thunder, you’ve probably tried the Thundershirt or had someone recommend it.

You’ve probably also heard someone claim the Thundershirt solved all her dog’s problems like it’s some sort of miracle.

“I put the Thundershirt on her, and she calmed down immediately,” people say.

OK …

That’s great it works so well for certain dogs.

Others … not so much!

The Thundershirt seemingly does nothing for some dogs, leaving the owners feeling like they’ve wasted $40 and that the Thundershirt doesn’t really work.

You can read some Thundershirt reviews here (positive and negative).

What I think about the Thundershirt

The Thundershirt is not a quick fix. There’s rarely such a thing in the dog-training world.

I have never seen a dog totally transformed by wearing one. However, the Thundershirt can be a great tool in addition to other training tools and methods such as desensitization, positive reinforcement, plenty of exercise, etc.

If you’ve tried the Thundershirt with your dog, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I’m going to go over some tips that can hopefully help dog owners make the most out of a Thundershirt.

Also see my post, Does the Thundershirt really work?

Tips on how to use a Thundershirt for dogs:

1. Slowly get your dog used to wearing clothing.

My black Labrador mix Ace hates wearing clothes.

If I put a dog coat on him, he gets tense and even trembles. Ridiculous, I know. But remember, wearing a coat is not natural for a dog, and having something placed over them makes some dogs feel vulnerable or submissive. This is the case with my dog.

Thankfully, Ace is not really scared of much in life, so we have no need for a Thundershirt.

If you’re thinking of using one for your dog, you’ll want to slowly introduce the Thundershirt in a positive way, especially if she’s not used to wearing a coat or vest.

Here are some tips:

  • Set the Thundershirt on the ground for at least a half-hour so your dog can get used to it. Give her treats or play around it.
  • Gently place the Thundershirt over your dog and give her more treats.
  • Put the Thundershirt on her randomly for the things she loves like mealtimes or walks. Take it off when those activities end.
  • Don’t put the Thundershirt on tightly at first. It’s meant to be worn snug, but no need to tighten it at first.

So, you’re not even using the Thundershirt during storms or fireworks for now. If you only bring it out during those “scary” times, you might cause a bad association.

2. Use other training techniques along with the Thundershirt.

When you begin using the Thundershirt during storms or fireworks, you should first come up with some sort of training plan for helping your dog overcome her fears.

Thundershirt for dogs

For example:

  • Begin a desensitization plan. I know this is easier said than done, but one option is to play thunderstorm videos at a low level while giving your dog treats and gradually increase the volume over time.
  • Lots of exercise every single day. This is no easy solution, but in general the less pent-up energy an anxious dog has, the better.
  • Provide a safe, quiet place for your dog to “hide” during storms or fireworks with plenty of “white noise” to block out the sounds.

See my posts:

– How to help a dog that’s scared of thunderstorms
– How to help a dog that’s scared of fireworks

3. Combine the Thundershirt with other tools

The Thundershirt is just one tool, and it can work much better when combined with other products.

Some examples that could help include:

  • Providing your dog with a Kong toy or other treat-dispensing toy filled with jerky or peanut butter
  • Natural calming products such as Canine Calm or Bach’s Rescue Remedy
  • Dog-appeasing pheromone diffusers
  • Benadryl, which can help calm some dogs
  • In extreme cases, prescription medications

So, it’s unlikely you can just slap a Thundershirt on your dog and assume it will solve all your problems. This does seem to work for a small percentage of dogs, but not many.

I’m curious what your experience has been with the Thundershirt and what other tools or training techniques you used with it.

Let me know in the comments.

Did the Thundershirt help your dog?

Will a Thundershirt help my dog

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Cathy Kilgore

Saturday 1st of August 2015

I'm thinking about buying my dog a thunder shirt. Adopted my dog from the Humane Society and he is very possessive of me. To the point he is aggressive to others and sometimes bites. Will the Thundershirt help his aggressiveness? I love him so much but don't want to give him up if I don't have to.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 2nd of August 2015

Hi Cathy. Sorry to hear you're having trouble with your dog's behavior. A Thundershirt could possibly help a bit as far as making your dog feel more secure, but I do not think it's going to solve your problems. You could try it in addition to training.

Here is a post I wrote on how to stop a small dog from guarding you. It might help you brainstorm some ideas.

Might be worth hiring a trainer to come work with you one-on-one too if you can swing it. Even a single session can help give you some ideas. Good luck! I know possessiveness issues are challenging at times. Hang in there.

Jen Gabbard

Thursday 25th of June 2015

I've read many positive reviews on the Thundershirt so it's definitely peaked my curiosity - though luckily Laika doens't have a lot of anxiety so haven't had to try one out. I do love the suggestion of pairing it with training - just like using anxiety medication it might help but the training should still be done along with it for better results.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 26th of June 2015

I'm so glad Ace hasn't really needed to wear one either. Nothing really fazes him.

Tuesday 16th of June 2015

I've only had my dog for a year and he's 12 now. He always wants to get in the car, but he whines most of the time on short trips and longer ones as well. Nothing has seemed to help and I don't know his history, if he was always anxious in the car or if it's something he developed after he was surrendered by his previous owner, and spent 3 months in a couple different shelters. I haven't tried the Thundershirt yet and I'm not sure I want to spend $40 to try it.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 17th of June 2015

Anxiety in cars seems to be a common problem. The Thundershirt might be worth a try at some point, but like I said in the post I wouldn't expect it to be a quick fix. I hope you do find something that helps your dog though.

You've probably tried all these things, but thought I'd share this post on how to help a dog get used to the car:


Tuesday 16th of June 2015

I absolutely love the fact that you suggest training along with its use. People tend to look for a quick fix but there seldom ever is one. I also offer the Thundershirt on my PetAutoSafety site because there are some dogs who hate riding in the car. While the Thundershirt has helped some dogs, you're absolutely right in that training methods used in conjunction with it can help even more.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 16th of June 2015

I think a lot of people must use the Thundershirt for their dogs in the car. Makes sense. My dog gets a little nervous/excited in the car too.


Tuesday 16th of June 2015

Great advice Lindsay - and good tips on integrating the Thundershirt with other desensitizing/comforting practices. My dog used to cram himself under small bedside tables during thunderstorms, and it never occurred to me that he would appreciate a small, safe space (like a crate) to hide in. I always thought crates with kind of mean and hated the idea, but looking back now, I wasn't thinking about what my dog really needed, I was only thinking about my own preconceptions. I know so much more now!

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 16th of June 2015

Yes, I've known dogs that also feel more secure in their kennels/crates. My dog is usually indifferent to his kennel, but I notice he likes to go sleep in it when he's extra tired and just needs a break from the business of the rest of the house.