Thundershirt


For the last two weeks I have been researching a product I saw on TV. It is called Thundershirt and it is supposedly used to combat anxiety and other problems in dogs. The website claims that Thundershirt will alleviate: Fear of Thunder/ Fireworks; Separation Anxiety; Travel Anxiety; Crate Training; Problem Barking; Hyperactivity and Leash Pulling.

According to their website “As for WHY Thundershirt’s gentle pressure works to calm a dog, experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin believe that pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system. Using pressure to relieve anxiety has been a common practice for years.”

For those not familiar, Dr. Temple Grandin, she has a PhD in animal behavior, a MS in that same field and a BA in Psychology. She has done extensive research on domestic animal behavior. Her main field of study deals with the design of humane livestock facilities. This may sound like it has nothing to do with a shirt for dogs, but Dr. Grandin also talks about humane restraint and keeping animals calm for transport.

Initially I was skeptical about the device and I am still not totally convinced that it is completely safe. The Thundershirt website states that their device has been studied, but the only studies I was able to find was the one done in-house.

There are plenty of videos on YouTube that show a range of reduced anxiety in dogs. There are also videos that show no change in behavior. Thundershirt’s site claims that it works for about 80% of the people who use it. Interestingly, they also suggest behavior training in conjunction with the use of the Thundershirt. There is also a suggested adjustment period for the device.

While anecdotal evidence suggest that this works, I have to wonder why people simply don’t find a good dog trainer in their area to work on these issues.Our dog Brenner is something of a little Diva and he used to have a very bad barking problem. With just an hour with a good trainer in our area we had a solution. It really looked like a live-action version of “The Dog Whisperer”. After a few weeks of implementing the trainer’s suggestions, we no longer have a vicious little piranha slavering at the front window every time someone passes.

Now he just gives a little warning burrff. Anyone who has a dog or has been around dogs knows what a burrff is. It’s that small, half-bark that equates to “Hey, you should look over there.”. As opposed to a full on “BARROWOWOWOW! SOMETHING IS COMING TO EAT US!!”, like Brenner used to do. He still has a little anxiety when we leave but he’s also from a rescue so I expect that behavior but it doesn’t make his life unmanageable and he’s always thrilled to see us when we come home.

To me the Thundershirt seems to me to be more of a shortcut or Magic Bullet that is used to alleviate the problem temporarily but it doesn’t solve the underlying issue in the long term. Granted, it is still a relatively new product and there isn’t enough substantial research on it. Once the Thundershirt comes off, those underlying issues are still there. With some training however, your dog can usually be freed of that anxiety, stress, etc.

My advice: Even though the Thundershirt is an interesting concept, do yourself and your dog a favor. Don’t take the shortcut. It does your dog a disservice.

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5 Comments

  1. September 15, 2011 at 9:30 am

    […] September 11, 2001 : Doggies.com Dog BlogMichael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels Now a Dog SanctuaryThundershirt #header { background: […]

    • September 19, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      This is great commentary on how you can help your dog. I’ll be implementing it with Brenner soon. Thanks for the info.

  2. February 1, 2012 at 7:16 am

    The original pressure wrap for dogs – and cats – was developed by certified professional dog trainer, Susan Sharpe, and this product differs from the Thundershirt in several important ways. The fabric, a stretchy lightweight, breathable and non-restrictive material is something that Susan came up with after experimenting with 90 different prototypes and it applies what is known as “maintained pressure.”

    The patented Anxiety Wrap provides more maintained pressure than any similar product on the market today and also has elastic and adjustable elements which specifically target acupressure points in the neck, shoulder and chest area, belly, mid-section and hind legs.

    In a recent clinical research study conducted by veterinarian, Dr. Nicholas Dodman at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine the Anxiety Wrap was found to be 89% effective in study participants! In my practice as a professional dog trainer I have found the Anxiety Wrap to be consistently effective and recommend the original Anxiety Wrap to my clients with fearful or anxious dogs as part of an individualized comprehensive behavior modification program.

    You are correct in suggesting that someone with an anxious dog find a qualified trainer to help with their dog’s anxiety. I personally do not believe that any single modality without the implementation of an individualized behavior modification program is usually effective – at least in the dogs I see.

    A behavior modification plan uses processes such as counter-conditioning and desensitization to change the underlying emotional reaction of a dog to its environment while teaching more acceptable adaptive responses to the environment.

    I believe the Anxiety Wrap fits better than similar products and provides a greater therapeutic effect. I recommend it without reservation.

    For more information about the Anxiety Wrap see the company website: https://anxietywrap.com/default.aspx

  3. June 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Here’s the problem Cindy. Define “acupressure points”. Are you equating these to acupuncture? If so every reliable body of studies has shown that acupuncture has either no affect or a placebo affect on the patient, whether this is a human patient or animal doesn’t make a difference.

    The other issue is that One Study is NOT conclusive evidence. It’s an indicator that more research needs to be done. Scientists check and double check each others work. This is how we know that there are no faster-than-light nutrinos.

    I highly suggest you learn about critical thinking. Listen to the Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe podcast on your computer or ipod. I learn something new every time I listen.

  4. Cara McClallen said,

    November 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Cindy, this all went downhill for me at the mention of “acupressure” as well. I second the suggestion to develop your critical thinking skills. I’m sure you will find it helpful in your career as well.The SGU is definitely an excellent place to start.


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