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Do thunder shirts work for dogs?

Published: July 2021 | Updated: June 2022

Thunder jackets for dogs, also known as thunder shirts, thunder coats, thunder sweaters for dogs, or storm vests for dogs, are designed to fit snugly around your dog's body and help calm them down. 

The gentle pressure on your dog's torso can make them feel more relaxed in stressful situations, such as during a storm, fireworks, trips to the vet, and more, in the same way as swaddling a baby or giving someone a hug can. 

Whether it's a wrap, vest, jacket, or shirt, they all have the same purpose in mind: to help your darling pet relax.

Causes of Dog Anxiety

Before we dig into the thunder shirt, you must first understand why the thunder shirt may need to be used. In nearly every case, the reason has to do with anxiety.

Anxiety in dogs can be generated by a variety of external triggers. Loud noises (such as firecrackers), visits from friends and family, going to the groomer, car travel, vacuum cleaners, and separation from their owners are all common causes of dog anxiety. 

One of the most common causes of general anxiety in dogs has to do with thunderstorms. Thunder, to dogs, is like a firecracker or firework going off continuously throughout the storm. The light from the lightning and hammering from the rain add to the fear in dogs afraid of inclement weather. 

Dogs are also able to sense changes in barometric pressure, which would explain why your dog becomes nervous before the storm has even arrived.

Why Should I Be Worried About My Anxious Dog? 

When it comes to anxiety, dogs may exhibit a number of symptoms. Trembling, panting, whining, and barking are all signs of anxiety in dogs. 

Many dogs become restless and continually pace back and forth. Others may turn destructive, pawing the door, windowsill, or floor. Some seek the comfort of their owners, while others seek refuge in limited spaces such as the closet or restroom. 

Outside dogs may scale fences or breach the electric fence's boundaries and may run away to search for comfort.

Dogs with high levels of anxiety can quickly become overwhelmed, and the consequences can be dangerous. Dogs that escape the house risk becoming lost or being hit by a vehicle. Clawing excessively can injure nails and paws in even indoor dogs. 

Plus, the mental anguish anxiety causes dogs (similar to how we feel with anxiety) can be overbearing.

What is a Thunder Shirt for Dogs? 

A thunder shirt is an excellent alternative to medication, which can cause your pet to become drowsy and tired. 

A thunder shirt is a vest that wraps around your dog applying a slight amount of pressure to your dog's body. It's kind of like a permanent hug to provide comfort through hard situations. 

The thunder shirt swaddles your dog so they're able to calm down in situations that could cause them to experience anxiety. 

Pet owners could practice wearing a thunder shirt for a few minutes during non-stressful occasions, rewarding their dogs with praise and goodies both during and after wearing the thunder shirt. By introducing the thunder shirt slowly , the dog isn't confronted with something new and unexpected in an already stressful scenario.

Also, bear in mind that some dogs will dislike the feeling of the thunder shirt in the beginning, just as some humans dislike being held or hugged, so don't push it if your dog is uncomfortable.

Using the Thunder Shirt for Separation Anxiety in Dogs

If you're using a thunder shirt to help your dog with separation anxiety, don't make it a source of anxiety for him. If you only put the thunder shirt on your dog right before you leave, you will teach your dog that the shirt means you're leaving. Simply have them wear their soothing shirt or wrap at times when you are not leaving them alone to avoid the association between separation and the thunder shirt.

3 Additional Tips for Handling Dog Anxiety 

In addition to the thunder shirt anxiety dog wrap, there are other actions that can be added to reduce your dog’s anxiety including:

  • Controlling your own emotions: Your dog will react to how you are feeling. If you're scared or frustrated, do your best to get a handle on it quickly. Your dog can sense your emotions and will take cues from you. 

    Keep a positive attitude when speaking to your dog and don't make a big deal out of the situation you're in. Your dog will seek comfort from you, but don't spoil him with hugs and kisses, as this will just reinforce his anxious behavior. He needs to know he’s safe and you’re not concerned with the situation at hand.
  • Create a place of comfort: Provide a secluded area in the house for your dog to retreat to when she's feeling anxious or fearful. Place your dog in the most sound-proof portion of the house during a storm (an interior room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet). 

    If necessary, sit with him or offer him a favorite toy. To block out outside sounds, turn on the TV or radio. Incorporating a relaxing pheromone, like DAP (a pheromone they will recognize as a puppy from their mother) via diffuser can also be helpful. 
  • Provide anti-anxiety supplements for dogs: Rocket Animal’s Canine Cush soft chews contain optimal levels of the highest quality, lab-tested CBD oil for dogs, which can have a calming effect on your dog. Simply give your dog a chew 10-20 minutes before leaving the house or prior to a known stressful event, such as a firework show on the 4th of July.

The Bottom Line

When utilized correctly, thunder shirts can be extremely beneficial. Place the thunder shirt on your dog multiple times during enjoyable moments so that he becomes used to how it feels and associates it with positive situations rather than unpleasant ones. 

You can then use the thunder shirt during times of distress once your dog has become accustomed to it and links it with comfort. You can also incorporate other strategies to help your dog feel less anxious, such as managing your own emotions, creating a peaceful environment to escape to during times of anxiousness and providing high quality anti-anxiety supplements for dogs