My Dog Hated Loud Noises Until He Tried a ThunderShirt

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The ThunderShirt for dogs calms pet anxiety caused by noisy storms and fireworks. Say goodbye to pet stress!

Dogs don’t like noise

I’m a dog owner in North Texas, in the middle of tornado alley. Spring means thunderstorms, complete with wind, hail, buckets of rain, and noisy thunder. Living in a rural area, we also hear gunshots from time to time, either during hunting season or to shoo away wildlife like coyotes that threaten our pets. And several times a year, we put up with fireworks celebrations for the New Year, July 4th, and graduations.

Each of these noisy occasions turns noise-sensitive pets into trembling bundles of nerves. And a pet’s panic attack can mean behavior changes that damage your home and sometimes injure your beloved pet.

As a certified animal behavior consultant, I routinely counsel my clients about how to relieve their pets’ fear, anxiety, and stress. There are several anxiety products for dogs, including CBD treatments for dogs. One of my favorite recommendations is ThunderShirt for dogs. I’ve suggested this anxiety jacket for my canine clients for years, both in behavior consults and in many of my nonfiction pet books. You can get the ThunderShirt for fearful cats too.

What is the ThunderShirt for dogs?

thundershirt laid out on bed. dog sits on bed nearby.Courtesy Amy Shojai

When dogs feel fear, they instinctively seek to soothe themselves. Dogs might squeeze between the wall and the sofa or snuggle their head into your armpit. This provides a gentle pressure across their body. The ThunderShirt for dogs provides a similar gentle pressure that pets instinctively seek. Think of it like the swaddling effect that calms fussy human babies.

For years, experts observed that animals calm themselves by squeezing into tight places. Veterinarians use a similar technique to de-stress animals for medical treatments—like squeeze shoots for vaccinating cattle. This type of pressure prompts an animal’s body to release chemicals like the oxytocin (the love hormone) or endorphins that make you feel good.

Several studies have examined the effect of wearing similar jackets or anxiety wraps, as well as the ThunderShirt specifically. Not all dogs get the same benefits. However, surveys of pet owners using the ThunderShirt for dogs say it helped to calm distress in more than 80 percent of cases.

How we tested the ThunderShirt for dogs

For pets who aren’t used to wearing clothes like dog coats, gradually introduce the concept under non-stressful circumstances. Don’t wait for a storm to roll in before presenting the ThunderShirt.

I opened the package and laid the jacket out flat on the floor. My dog, Shadow-Pup, immediately wanted to roll on it—his way of sharing his scent and also a favorite game. Shadow also enjoys wearing his cold-weather jackets, and he loves his harness, so I knew he’d readily accept wearing the new dog apparel.

Another introduction tip is to leave the ThunderShirt in the dirty laundry basket. That helps the fabric absorb your familiar, comforting scent, so it smells safe. You could also spread the jacket on top of your pet’s bed, or leave it inside his crate. That helps him recognize this new item as something familiar. If you only bring it out during storms, your fearful pet may instead associate the ThunderShirt with noise, making his anxiety worse.

Since Shadow’s an old pro at wearing clothes, I skipped those tips. After he rubbed all over the jacket, I draped the fabric across his back, wrapped the side straps down around his tummy and the front straps around his chest. I secured each with the Velcro. He acted puzzled and tried to grab the remaining back strap. I had treats handy to persuade him otherwise. While he munched, I adjusted the final strap on his back to make the fabric snug. I also adjusted the chest and tummy straps (tightened some places, loosened others) so the ThunderShirt fit smoothly and didn’t encroach on his ability to relieve himself.

Next, we played with one of his favorite dog toys to help associate wearing the shirt with fun. This first time, Shadow wore his jacket for about an hour and settled down for a nap shortly after our play session ended. It didn’t appear to bother him. For the next several days, Shadow wore his ThunderShirt for 30 to 90 minutes. After the second day, he didn’t fuss with the straps as I fit it on him.

We’re fortunate that Shadow doesn’t suffer severe anxiety. From puppyhood on, I’ve thrown a “thunder party” for loud noises—praised him, showered him with treats, and taught him “booms” mean fun and games. So I didn’t expect significant changes when we finally had a loud storm this week and tried out the jacket.

dog on bed wearing thundershirtCourtesy Amy Shojai

It took only a minute to wrap him in his ThunderShirt. Usually, he watches heavy rain through the windows—we call it dog TV—and now and then he flinches with thunder, loud wind, or hail and then waits for his thunder party treat. But this time, while wearing the jacket, he settled down on the sofa and slept through the storm. He wore the shirt for the rest of the evening, about five hours.

When first introducing your pet to the jacket, remove it after one to two hours. That ensures a comfortable fit. Many pets like wearing the ThunderShirt for longer periods. The company recommends you remove at least twice a day, if using for extended periods for long car trips or storms.

ThunderShirt product features

Made from a soft stretchy fabric, the ThunderShirt for dogs acts like a gentle, huggable vest. It comes in seven sizes, from XXS for pets under seven pounds to XXL, fitting dogs over 110 pounds. The gray fabric and lightweight T-shirt material mean it won’t overheat pets even in warm weather.

Many pets object to having clothing pulled on over their heads, and neck openings don’t always fit correctly. Often, pet clothing fasteners prove hard to click securely or buckle closed, and require adjustments to strap lengths.

But the ThunderShirt doesn’t have a neck opening. That eliminates over-the-head struggles with your dog or cat. Instead, the ThunderShirt unfolds in a flat sheet of fabric. You place the fabric across your pet’s back like a saddle, and then wrap the flaps around the body for a custom fit. It doesn’t require buckles or strap adjustments, either. The Velcro secures everything with a smooth, no-rubbing style. The stretchy material allows a snug but comfortable fit for a range of pet shapes and sizes.

The company also promotes using other calming products with the ThunderShirt. The jacket has a patch on the front of the chest strap for you to spray essential oil products for an additional calming effect.

Pros:

What we liked about the ThunderShirt:

  • Reduces pet stress and anxiety in most cases
  • Soft stretchy fabric is comfortable to wear
  • No buckles to clip
  • Smooth fit is easy to adjust with Velcro fasteners
  • Available in seven sizes and several colors
  • Pheromone patch to augment the calming effect
  • Training and fitting tips video available
  • Machine washable: fasten Velcro first, wash regular cycle, hang to dry
  • 39,000 reviews and Amazon top seller

Cons:

What to consider about the ThunderShirt:

  • Learning curve to fit on the pet the first time
  • Velcro makes a loud noise that disturbs some dogs when removed
  • Sizing can be tricky
  • Not guaranteed to work for every single dog’s temperament (but returns accepted)

What other reviewers had to say

Verified Amazon purchaser Tracie Garcia was initially skeptical. “A ThunderShirt? Give me a break. This is not going to help me. I was so wrong! Both Ronan and myself are getting a full night’s sleep now during rain, wind, thunder, and lightening storms. This is the best product ever!”

Amazon purchaser Commander Cool says it helped their dog with anxiety. “Our dog is scared of everything, so getting this on her for the first time took a lot of patience, a curse word or 12, and a few beers. Once on her she mellowed right out. She did not mind it at all. Never once tried to get it off.”

Final verdict

The ThunderShirt for dogs offers a significant benefit to a large percentage of pets who suffer from anxiety. It won’t work for all pets, since every companion has a unique personality and challenges. You won’t find a magic wand to cure your pet’s fear and anxiety. But using the training tips increases the likelihood your dog will benefit from the shirt.

When it’s used in combination with other calming aids, and given the money-back guarantee, pet lovers have nothing to lose and much to gain by giving the ThunderShirt a try.

Where to buy the ThunderShirt for dogs

Thundershirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacketvia merchant

You can find the ThunderShirt for $39 to $74, depending on the size and colors, from Amazon, Chewy, and Walmart. Your pets will thank you for it. Mine did.

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Amy Shojai, CABC
Amy Shojai, CABC is the Affiliate Pet Editor for Reader's Digest. She's also an award-winning pet journalist and the author of 35 pet titles. She specializes in translating pet medical jargon and shopping information into information pet parents easily understand. Amy shares animal behavior and care information on her blog, and lives in North Texas with her furry muses.