The Thundershirt is touted as a new drug free treatment to help reactive dogs deal with stressful situations, but is the Thundershirt really the miracle cure the hype would make you believe?
If you are a pet owner struggling with a reactive dog or nervous cat, then you will have undoubtedly seen the adverts online for the Thundershirt. Marketed as a revolutionary and drug free treatment to help your pet deal with fear and anxiety, it really does seem too good to be true. Can a piece of dog clothing really stop your dog barking at strangers? Will a thundershirt really help your nervous dog cope during thunderstorms?
We put the Thundershirt to the test on several reactive dogs, all suffering from different behavioral problems to help you decide if the Thundershirt could help you and your reactive pet.
How does the thundershirt work?
The thundershirt is based on the success of equine body wrapping techniques, such as the TTouch system (https://equinewellnessmagazine.com/body-wrap-techniques/) where elastic bandages are wrapped around a horse to improve the horses confidence and reduce unpredicatable fear based behaviours. The same technology is incorporated into the Thundershirt, which wraps tightly around your dogs body and fastens with velcro.
There is no definitive theory as to why animals are reassured by training tools such as the equine body wrap or the thundershirt, but it is believed to be similar to the soothing effect of swaddling your baby, or weighted blankets helping autistic children sleep.
When fitting the thundershirt, we found it difficult to determine just how tight the thundershirt should be. The fabric is very stretchy, and fits even the most barrel chested dogs, so we decided to fasten it as snug as possible, while still allowing the dog the whole range of normal movement. The material is extremely soft and excellent quality, so it won’t rub your dogs skin and cause rashes or hair loss.
The easiest way we found to put the thundershirt on with even the most energetic dog, was to first lightly fasten the two smaller straps which go around the dogs neck, followed by the fastening of the straps around the dogs stomach and chest. Once these are tight, we refastened the neck strap so it was flush to the skin. To fit a thundershirt on your dog will take less than a minute, and it is very user friendly to figure out which way is the right way around!
Case Study #1 – Scruffy dog
Scruffy dog is terrified of fireworks and will hide, cower, shake and defecate if subjected to prolonged exposure to the sound of fireworks. It can take him days to fully recover after the trauma of a fireworks display nearby, so we were eager to test it on him first.
Scruffy might be an old dog at 7 years old, but he was the wriggliest that we tested the thundershirt on. However, it still took less than a minute to get the shirt on snugly, when he immediately jumped on the sofa and fell asleep for 5 hours.
Then the fireworks began. And he didn’t even rise to hide under his favorite table.
For the next 15 minutes Scruffy calmly relaxed on the sofa like he does every evening. At the loudest pops and bangs he reacted no more than to a car driving past the house. We noticed no reactions to the loud noises at all, and Scruffy was comfortable and relaxed throughout. A total success!
Case Study #2 – Megatron
Megatron is a rescue dog who was removed from her mother and abandoned in a box at three weeks old. As a result, she has moderate to severe behavioural problems, the most concerning of which being barking and lunging at strangers. With a family BBQ looming, we decided to get her used to wearing the thundershirt several weeks before the big day so she would be comfortable with wearing it while dealing with a garden full of guests.
After fitting the thundershirt on Meg tightly, her behavior immediately calmed and her movements slowed. However when she tried to walk away she seemed disorientated and wobbly, like an aunt we were expecting to attend the party who always drunk too much wine.
This disorientation did not seem to stress Megatron out, who happily wobbled around the garden for around an hour or so. We repeated this every day leading up-to the party, and were surprised at how happy she would be just at the sight of the thundershirt. The drunken wobbling subsided after the first couple of days, and the warmth provided by the material of the thundershirt was an added bonus.
The day of the party, we had high hopes for the thundershirt, but as the guests started to arrive we could see that Megatron was quickly getting stressed. Before the BBQ was even smoking, Megatron had reached her threshold and was back to her old tricks of scaring the guests, the thundershirt seemed to be having no effect.
For Megatron, an extremely reactive dog with severe behavioural problems, the thundershirt is not a miracle cure. She does seem to enjoy wearing it though, so we will continue using it with her alongside a qualified dog trainer to keep working on her behavioural problems.
Case Study #3 – Mowgli
Can cats wear thundershirts? Absolutely! We decided to test it on one of our rescue cats, Mowgli, who spent the first year of her life living with over 50 dogs at an open shelter in Thailand. As a result, she has no cat social skills, and despite being friendly to people, is very scared of other cats. We hoped the thundershirt might help her tolerate the other cats better, maybe just enough time for them to get to know each other better?
It’s a bit more difficult to get a thundershirt on a cat, as they wriggle more than even the most hyperactive of dogs. It can take a few attempts, and you may need to enlist the help of a friend and some of your cats favourite treats, but it is possible!
As soon as Mowgli tried to walk wearing the thundershirt, she had the same disorientation and wobbling as with Megatron, the dog. After a few wobbly (and hilarious) minutes, she soon fell asleep, and in the same room as the other cats!
With daily use of the thundershirt, Mowgli’s behaviour and confidence around other cats improved significantly. The thundershirt allowed her to relax in the presence of the other cats, and therefore they were able to bond in a non-confrontational way. After 2 weeks of daily use, she no longer needs the thundershirt and peace between cats has been restored!
Will the thundershirt work for my pet?
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but with the official website claiming 80% success rate, we would say that it is definitely worth a try. This training tool is a positive learning experience for your pet, and there are no side effects!
Thundershirt has over 5,000 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4 stars. It has a high probability of helping your dog,
Have you tried the thundershirt with your pet? What is your dogs problem, and did you see any improvement? Let us know your thundershirt journey in the comments!