Seven years ago, my husband and I adopted our first dog, Rudy, from Furry Kids. Our friend, Crystal Wing, helped us select Rudy, but she warned us in advance that our new family member would require special love and attention to help him deal with his excessive anxiousness. My husband, Mike, and I opened our home to the unusual Beagle/Chihuahua mix, eager to give the timid guy a home of his own.
Neither Mike nor I will ever forget the first few days Rudy came to live with us. At Crystal’s recommendation, we kept him leashed in the house initially. He was so fearful of us that he would run to a corner of the room to get away, and he hid beside a couch or under a table for several days, not willing to trust. His attached leash proved the only way to get him outside or in the car. He went two or three days without eating, and only when I started to hand-feed him was he willing to get close enough for me to touch him. I remember my mom telling me he looked like a “wild animal,” when introduced to people he didn’t know or exposed to loud or unfamiliar sounds. The common, terrified look in his eyes often broke my heart, and I wondered what kind of awful previous situation had contributed to his extreme fears.
As you might imagine, from the start, Rudy had no tolerance of fireworks, thunderstorms, or vacuum cleaners. Even a loud sneeze would send the poor guy darting across the room. If faced with one of these triggers, Rudy would retreat to our spare bedroom where he’d crawl under the bed and shake uncontrollably. I felt helpless to convince him he was safe.
Three years ago, my dad suggested I buy for Rudy a product he’d heard about on an evening news program. The product, called the Thundershirt, claimed to ease anxiety in dogs by simulating the swaddling effect used to calm human babies. I wasn’t confident a simple t-shirt would be able to alter Rudy’s extreme anxiousness, but I visited the Thundershirt website to learn more about it. A video on the product’s site convinced me to order a Thundershirt for Rudy, and a week later, I was ready for a thunderstorm during which I could test it out. In fact, when I first fitted Rudy with the shirt in calm weather, I noticed a change in his behavior. As soon as I secured the Velcro straps, my usually serious and very alert dog was rolling around on the floor, almost as if he’d been drugged. The Thundershirt produced serenity in him I had never before seen. Mike and I were speechless.
According to Thundershirt’s website, the product works by applying a “gentle, constant pressure. . . [that] has a calming effect on the nervous system.” The site likens the Thundershirt to weighted vests worn by people with autism who suffer from anxiety, and it boasts a success rate of 80%. The Thundershirt can be used to combat a variety of undesirable behaviors including separation, crate and travel anxiety, barking, hyperactivity, and leash pulling, and it is an excellent alternative to anxiety drugs. The product is machine washable, and fastens easily with Velcro straps. Ranging in price from $40 to$54, it is available in several colors and sizes by visiting http://www.furrykidsrefuge.org/Thundershirts2.html This site, too, has links to numerous testimonials to support the effectiveness of the Thundershirt as well as research to further explain anxiety.
Rudy wears his Thundershirt regularly. He still shakes in the face of fear, but his Thundershirt has made a definite difference in the level of his anxiety, and, for that, Mike and I are very grateful.
Written by Kelly Oliva
When you purchase a Thundershirt from Furry Kids’ Refuge, 100% of the proceeds go to help animals in our care! All Thundershirts come with a 45-day money-back guarantee!