Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thundershirt, Spanx for Dogs?


Last year we discovered that Rue has a moderate thunderstorm phobia. Like many dogs, the crack of thunder freezes her with fear and anxiety.  When it's storming Rue cannot eat or drink. Rue literally curls up and shivers with fear.  We decided to purchase a Thundershirt. A Thundershirt is a snug shirt designed to ease anxiety by applying gentle pressure on specific points on dogs and cats.  According to Thundershirt, 80% of owners note a "significant improvement in symptoms when using the Thundershirt."  It was any easy decision for us to spend $40 on a all natural product that has a 100% satisfaction guarantee and no side effects. I ordered the shirt and optimistically put it on Rue during a warm summer afternoon thunderstorm. Regrettably, we noticed no change in Rue's anxiety while wearing the Thundershirt during storms. 

Border Collie, Rue 

Disappointed, I  packed the shirt away, but before I put it away Chico approached and sniffed the shirt, so I decided to put it on him. Chico is somewhat of a ham. He is one of those dogs that loves to look good and knows when he does. He likes to be groomed, he likes bandannas, collars, and, unbeknownst to us, Thundershirts. When you get Chico's collar or bandanna out, he sticks his neck out to have it placed on him, then runs around to show anyone who happens to be home. So on this day, I put the Thundershirt on him, he pranced around the house, and went to show Dustyn, happily wagging his tail along the way.  We laughed and noted how silly he looked with his heavy undercoat poofing out from around the tight fitting shirt. Since the shirt didn't work for Rue, I didn't think it would work for Chico and packed it away. You can read about the other successful techniques we've used to help Rue with her t-storm anxiety here.

 Another Chance To Get It Right

If 80% of thousands of people found "significant improvement in symptoms when using the Thundershirt," maybe I should reconsider trying the Thundershirt on Chico, who doesn't suffer from any sound phobias, but is fearful and reactive towards people.  So this weekend, we busted out the Thundershirt and took to the streets!  

Handsome Ham, Chico

It's cold here in the Midwest, the temperatures have been in the teens and a wind chill in the negative digits are par for the course. So my running buddy didn't look too silly wearing his Thundershirt. Normally, Chico runs in a no-pull harness, so I put that on him over the Thundershirt, leashed him up, and we went on our way. While on our run I was making mental notes of Chico's demeanor and behavior.  He did indeed seem more relaxed, confident and happy.  But looking at his silly fur, poofing out from under his t-shirt I thought of how he truly looked like he was wearing Spanx, the body shaping undergarment for women (and now men.) The Thundershirt, made from a blend of Cotton (55%), Polyester (35%), and Spandex (10%) isn't all that different than Spanx, applying gentle pressure and support to the areas that need it most. 


Okay, I'll admit it... I own a Spanx.  I needed it for a wedding I was in that required me to wear a flowing dress that caught in all the places a women doesn't want a dress to catch. The shaper, smoothed my bumps and sucked me in. I felt confident, comfortable and happy at the wedding in my flowing dress. As I looked at Chico happily running, I wondered, is that what he feels? Surely not for the same reasons I felt that felt I so good. My reasons were vein.  His? Pure. Was he feeling relief or comfort?  

Our run as a whole, was uneventful. However, I can note a few things.    
  1. Chico didn't pull as much as he normally does. Generally, Chico will pull some on our runs the first block or two. There was no leash pulling from the moment we left the house.  A nice "J" in the leash remained present throughout the run. A nice change for my shoulder, which for a change, remained in it's socket for 5 miles. 
  2. Chico's expression, ears, and body stance told me he was very relaxed. Often times when we run, Chico is very driven and focused on moving forward as fast as possible.  He will pin his ears back and run as fast as I can follow. Today, his ears were perked up, his eyes and head moving from side to side, taking in all the sights and sounds.
Chico in his Thundershirt and no-pull harness

I'm excited to continue testing the Thundershirt with Chico. I'm not under any assumptions that the Thundershirt will have earth shattering results for Chico, but I'm certainly hopeful to make him feel as confident as I felt in my body shaping Spanx. 

The Thundershirt company claims that their product helps dogs and cats with generalized anxiety outside of just thunderstorms. I'm interested to hear your experiences with this product. How did you use it with your pet, and did it work?

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  1. Our long-term test of the ThunderShirt for Lilly got sidetracked when she nearly croaked on us a few weeks ago. We hope to get back to it soon ... since she had to go off her anxiety meds cold turkey with this medical emergency.

  2. Hi Roxanne!
    We can't wait to hear how your Thundershirt testing goes with Lilly. We'll keep crossing are fingers and paws that she is feeling better soon and that the Thundershirt helps with her anxiety.

  3. Very interesting. None of my dogs are fearful of thunderstorms fortunately, but one of them does have extreme anxiety when I leave the house and he's not kenneled. (I know, that's pretty specific, but that's how he is.)

  4. When my BC puppy Sophie came home with me, she spent the first few weeks in a thundershirt (until she outgrew it/figured out how to get it off) for crate training and separation anxiety. She may get another one once she stops growing for emergencies.