The Source: Thunderworks
Applied gentle, constant pressure…no training required… 80% success rate…most dogs love to wear Thundershirts!
I have a confession. I love fireworks. I know that a lot of people hate them, and that they commonly trigger PTSD, especially in war veterans, and that there are newly developed boom-less firework options. I am happy to give up my sudden, alarming loud noises for the good of the group, and I will even lobby for this change to be made, but I am allowed to be a little sad about it, okay.
Another great reason for cities to consider switching to quiet fireworks is that the 4th of July holiday is, in the USA, when more pets are lost than any other day of the year. Shelters report a 30% uptick resulting from that day alone, and, as a whole, only 14% of lost pets are reunited with their owners – as many as 60% may be euthanized because their owners can’t be located and new homes don’t materialize.
Even for the calmest of pets, loud noises are scary. Enter… the Thundershirt. The stretchy fabric is designed to enclose the pet in a constant hug. It’s similar to a swaddle blanket for a newborn or the weighted blankets used by many folks with sensory issues, and in line with the famous hug machine* designed by the amazing Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of Animal Science and perhaps the most well-known Autistic person currently living. That is all to say, there is evidence for the efficacy of this concept to treat both dogs and humans, based in folk wisdom and lived experience as well as slowly emerging scientific research.
That doesn’t mean the Thundershirt works on every dog, every time, or that it works in a vacuum without additional training and support.
We’ve had two dogs, both with significant anxiety issues. For our first, a very sweet but very slow chocolate lab mix, the Thundershirt was like magic. Even my extremely skeptical husband had to admit there was a dramatic change in Nova’s behavior as soon as the Thundershirt was fastened. She wore the shirt in stressful situations for the rest of her life, and it did make a tremendous difference.
However… for our second dog, a feist (maybe?) of uncertain origins and with some scars and behaviors that suggest past trauma, the Thundershirt has no impact. Willow is so anxious that she is on daily anti-anxiety medication. (And may I just note here that all of our pets seem to develop some sort of chronic illness requiring ongoing treatment, everything from epilepsy to IBD, and our Care Credit card has saved their furry, chronically-ill butts on more than one occasion.) Confident in my past experience, I strapped Willow into the Thundershirt. She gave me a quizzical look and then kind of tipped to the ground, apparently having failed to remember how to use her legs.
We’ve repeated the experiment to no clear improvement in her anxiety (although she sort of hobbles around in the shirt now). So Willow, at least, is one of the 20% of dogs that doesn’t care about being swaddled in a kind of eternal hug.
The Thundershirt is at least tentatively supported by for-real scientific research as well as a slew of anecdotal evidence. It’s not really my place, therefore, to determine that it does or doesn’t work, since my two data points aren’t statistically meaningful. At least for Nova, the shirt worked extremely well and it did meet all the promises – she liked wearing it, no training was needed, and there was a noticeable reduction in her anxious behavior.
On Amazon, Thunderworks brand shirts (and there are slightly cheaper competitors) will run you $30-$40. Which is a lot to swallow for something that doesn’t work. However, as a person with tendencies that often run past frugal and into cheap, this product was absolutely worth it for one of our dogs, and one shirt lasted the entire six years that we owned her.
I guess what I’m saying is it’s worth a shot. And this 4th, please make sure that your pets are kept safely and securely at home. Nothing ruins the freedom buzz ™ of the holiday faster than having to explain to your tear-stained children that Rover isn’t coming back.
* When I touch on issues of neurodiversity or dis/ability, I always want to privilege the experiences and voices of ND folks. I do my best to review links, but please do let me know if I ever make an error such as linking to an organization that does not share those values. I’m learning and trying to do better every day.
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