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Dog Product Review: ThunderShirt, Part One

best dog blog, champion of my heart, ThunderShirtRather than write a single comprehensive dog product review of the ThunderShirt, I’m going to write a series of reports over time so that, together, we can work through the ups and downs for our fearful canine heroine.

After last Friday’s post, where I first raised the question of ThunderShirt expectations and results, a helpful discussion got underway both in the blog comments section and on our Champion of My Heart Facebook Fan Page. Huge thanks to everyone who weighed in with how the ThunderShirt did (or did not) help their dog.

I alluded to the fact that our real-world test of the ThunderShirt wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. Here are some additional, early, details.

Putting on the ThunderShirt

As we learned when we tested this Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Pack, as well as other times we tried tight t-shirts and anxiety wraps (using ace bandages), Lilly isn’t keen on wearing “clothes.” Since the ThunderShirt fabric is kind of snuggly, I hoped she would accept it more readily.

The best I can say is that Lilly tolerates the ThunderShirt, but only AFTER:

  • She runs away and worms across the ground, when I try to put on the ThunderShirt.
  • She lays flat on the ground for a bit in her classic refusal posture.
  • She shakes and shakes and shakes for about 5 minutes, like she just got out of a bath. (Sometimes, she’ll continue to shake every 30-60 minutes while wearing it … even though we’ve tried various levels of “tightness.”)
  • She slinks around the house for another 10 minutes with her head round and low, shoulders slumped, and tail tucked.

My best guess is that it’s a combination of the velcro attachment sounds and overall squeezing of the ThunderShirt that cause her less-than-ideal reaction.

Moving Around in the ThunderShirt

The first few times Lilly wore her ThunderShirt she seemed to believe it hindered her movement. It took some convincing before she would:

  • Walk around
  • Jump up onto the couch or bed
  • Play
  • Do tricks (especially ROLLOVER)

But, over time, as Lilly wore her ThunderShirt more, she began to realize that she could do anything she wanted to do while wearing it.

Conditioning a Fearful Dog to the ThunderShirt

Because Lilly is so dramatically, clinically sensitive, I was VERY careful to setup good associations (conditioning) with the ThunderShirt:

  • Lilly wore it at different times a day to avoid associating it only with certain times or situations.
  • Lilly wore it while eating, playing, listening to her calming music, snuggling, and other happy times.
  • We tried not to make a big deal over putting it on or taking it off. (But, we do tell her she looks “pretty” in it.)
  • Often, I’d put Ginko’s fleece coat (which he loves) on him first so that Lilly saw it was part of our normal routine.

ThunderShirt Results

Since Lilly is having a reaction to the ThunderShirt itself, it’s REALLY hard to say if it’s helping her feel calmer overall.

  • Sometimes she seems mostly OK wearing it.
  • Other times, like the other night, she ran to the basement and hid in her crate after I put the ThunderShirt on. We didn’t see her again for at least an hour.
  • Once she stood calmly (and quietly) next to me while I played fetch inside with Ginko. Typically, she barks like a mad woman when Ginko is playing.
  • Later that same day, though, she barked when Tom tried to do the same thing. (I tend to associate that change more with Tom, however, because he puts up with her noisy play much more / better than I do.)
  • Sometimes Lilly kisses Ginko instead of growling at him. Other times, she growls.

For now, all I can say is that the only notable, confirmed TREND is that Lilly reacts to wearing her ThunderShirt … or at least to us putting it on her.

So far, Lilly has only worn her ThunderShirt at home. I’ve not tried taking her out in public in it. Stay tuned as we continue with our ThunderShirt experiment.

***

FTC Disclosure

I purchased Lilly’s ThunderShirt with my own money at a local Petco (for about $40 retail). I was not compensated in any way by the company for this review.

***

 

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Zach D - May 26, 2013

Well i must say i was Definitely unsure of trying this jacket. bought it for the hell of it and i must say the damn thing worked… at first! i have a german shepard who had a lot of energy and loves to be around people, but people cant handle her energy! this jacket calmed the dog down as if i gave her a painkiller, totally mellow! was unbelievable! left it on all day! well that night i took it off her and when i woke up it was like she had been beatin or kicked or something!!!! I was so damn scared! wouldnt stop crying whining, dropping low to the ground, i couldnt pick her up with out YELPING, i thought my room mate had hit her or something. i took her straight to the vet and they had to get a stretcher because it seemed like she was in unbearable pain, thought maybe she had even eatin something sharp.. doctors did exam, x-rays.. NOTHING~! the dog is fine… she has been freaking out all day when she sees people, as if she got beatn.. THIS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE I BOUGHT THIS P.O.S. PRODUCT, It seems to work for some dogs, but made my dog not react well after you take off

Kelly - November 21, 2012

We have tried both the Thunder Shirt and the Anxiety Wrap. Our dog seems to respond better to the Anxiety Wrap.

Melissa - April 12, 2012

Based on numerous Thundershirt reviews that I have come across, it is undeniable that Thundershirt has been continually helping tens of thousands of dogs all over the world, mainly in cases of anxiety.

    Roxanne Hawn - April 12, 2012

    A lot of dogs are helped by the ThunderShirt, but a lot of dogs are not. It’s worth a try for anyone whose dog is anxious, but for us … it wasn’t some magic cure.

Pup Fan - January 24, 2012

Just an FYI… I gave you the Pawsome Blogger Award on my blog today – hope you’ll stop by and pick it up!

http://istillwantmorepuppies.blogspot.com/2012/01/red-carpet-its-covered-in-dog-hair.html
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JJ - January 19, 2012

I like the thunder shirt… a little….
I think it depends on WHY it’s being worn and what the family expects it to accomplish…..

I have a client with a black lab who stiffens and just… stands there… every time she is put in it. She’s hyper sensitive to … everything … including (but not limited to) harnesses of any kind, face collars, collar collars, and so on.

I think the thunder shirt is a lot like rescue remedy and other natural products – it either works or it doesn’t.

Consequently, the thunder shirt works for all of our dogs, but I know people who couldn’t be bothered.

Also, I know that its effectiveness is determined by the length of time the shirt is worn. For example, if a thunder-phobic shepherd wore the shirt for two hours before a thunderstorm, the oomph of the product would be greatly lessened by the time the storm hit. (Of course, that’s not saying the shepherd in question wouldn’t be calm and relaxed and not bothered by that time.)
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beth - January 17, 2012

My female Aussie slinks to the ground when putting it on but is happy once it is on – she pays no attention after it’s on. My theory is the velcro bothers her.

Merr - January 15, 2012

I imagine this could be helpful for a pup who trembles when the fireworks go off on New Year’s or July 4, etc.
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Left Bank - January 14, 2012

If Lily can ever accept wearing the Thunder Shirt I wouldn’t toss it in the bin with all the other anxiety relieving stuff that didn’t work just yet.
It may never do the job for her but maybe it takes time to sink in as do many solutions we offer our fearful dogs.
We’re into the seventh month of using the T.S. on our hound. Today there was a bang from up the road. She still had the T.S. from her ride in the car (no barks for the second week in a row) and her morning walk. She walked (not ran) into her crate and emerged a few minutes later and joined us on our bed for an afternoon nap.
I do think she associates it with a reassuring future in the minutes to come and like her Prozac it seems to have a more meaningful effect the longer her history of wearing it is.
If it works at all for a dog it’s only as good as the dog’s guardian’s awareness of the potential sounds, problems that the dog might be exposed to and their quick (but calm) response to the unpredictable events that turn our dog’s world upside down.

Ettel - January 14, 2012

I have a very anxious/recovering SA Miniature Poodle who is *very* sensitive to wearing anything other than a collar. So much as a harness puts him off – he’ll constantly shake and refuse to move – basically shuts down. I thought the Thundershirt might help him, but it just made his anxiety worse and resulted in extreme anxiety behavior that I hadn’t seen before. It sounds like Lilly is more tolerant of it than Charlie is, and I hope that you can work with her on accepting it. On the other hand, I have a Pit Bull with her own anxiety/fear issues and the Thundershirt works in minutes to calm her down. She’s very sensitive to change in her environment and whenever I’m doing things in the apartment (cleaning, moving furniture, etc.) she gets very worries – five minutes after getting the Thundershirt on her she’s sleeping soundly in her dog bed, not a care in the world.

Good luck!!
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melF - January 13, 2012

How interesting Roxanne. I am also glad you are doing a longer review on the Thundershirt.

I have never experienced Daisy hiding or hating her Thundershirt, so this is new to me. Since Hilary also mentioned it, so you think it could be a Border Collie thing> I know they tend to be more sensitive to many things – like noise, maybe they have a touch or pressure sensitivity too?

I look forward to seeing how this goes. I think your and Lilly’s experience will be helpful to so many.
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Candy Blakeslee - January 13, 2012

I swear by Thundershirts. Betsy hates clothes but is always excited to put on her Thundershirt.

If Betsy reacted like Lilly, I do not think I would continue to try it. I think it is an item that either works, or it doesn’t.

In my house it allows the people to sleep through thunder storms, instead of dealing with freaked out dogs.

I should say that it does not take ALL of Betsy and Norman’s anexity away….just enought that everyone (and every dog) can deal with it.

Maery Rose - January 13, 2012

What a coincidence. I read something about how this had worked miracles for a fearful dog and was wondering if you’d ever tried it.
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Hilary - January 13, 2012

Glad you’re writing about this. I love the concept of the Thundershirt/Anxiety Wrap, tight T-shirt. I do think they work for some dogs, but can’t claim to work for all.

In my experience, Luna hangs her head and slinks around when wearing one, stays very still, but doesn’t react as badly to fireworks and thunder. She does not romp or play when wearing it.

Frisbee, on the other hand, has worn Anxiety Wraps, and sticks to me like velcro when wearing it. I almost trip over him. I put it on him to calm his dog reactivity, and I can’t say he’s less reactive inside, as he still shows the body statures of reacting when he sees another dog, yet won’t leave my side and has to have part of his body touching me when he’s wearing it. Same situation without the wrap? He lunges at strange dogs during walks. But he won’t walk on a leash when it’s on (stays still), so it kind of defeats the purpose.

But during thunder and fireworks, he still hides in his crate, shirt or not.

Julie - January 13, 2012

I think it is interesting and useful to see that different dogs will react differently and there is not one “cure-all” for all anxious dogs šŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing!!

Thomas Aaron - January 13, 2012

I think it is good that you are doing such a thorough, systematic, honest review of the product.

I went to their website and read the “How it Works” section. I see the basis of their claims. But I have my doubts.

They claim that the pressure calms the nervous system. However, are we sure that anxiety is caused by an agitated nervous system in the first place? Or is the agitated nervous system just the symptom of the dog’s learned fears — or genetically-dictated temperament tendencies?

If the latter, then this product isn’t really getting to the root cause of the problem, and it is probably (my guess) that the dog will just adjust to the pressure or compensate for his fear in some other way.

I’m not a behaviorist, but I’m always skeptical of these types of products — like the little bracelets that are supposed to improve your balance.

Brette Sember - January 13, 2012

We have one that mom insisted on buying for our dog who freaks out at thunder. I don’t think it does anything for him. We also bought the homeopathic calming drops and I think that those work.

    sarajah - March 19, 2012

    well we were in the same boat. bought every kind of thing for our Max but tbh we never ever saw any big changes. there were time when he didnt freak out but hell yea there were many times when he wore those shirts and still ran under the ned each time the storm came.
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