My name is Allison and like many dogs, my miniature schnauzer mix, Puggles, is terrified by storms. And I do mean terrified.
For years, any time it would storm Puggles would start trembling uncontrollably. Next she would run around the house looking for a safe place. (That’s the only time I’ve ever seen her intentionally get into the bathtub.) Or she would crawl under my bed and literally try to dig through the floor.
There was no comforting her, and no getting her to settle down and stay quiet. If it was at night, I could forget about getting a good night’s sleep.
Then about two years ago, I caved and bought a ThunderShirt. I didn’t want to spend money on something that might not work, but I was desperate. And I’m so glad I did. For me – and Puggles – it was a miracle product!
What is a ThunderShirt?
ThunderShirts are made by ThunderWorks, which was founded by Phil Blizzard. Like Puggles, Phil’s dog – Dosi – was terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks.
Like me, he not only wanted to help Dosi, he also wanted to be able to sleep. So he talked with veterinarians and dog trainers about what to do for Dosi, but they weren’t much help.
Then a friend suggested trying to wrap Dosi up snuggly, much like swaddling a baby. During a particularly bad storm, Phil put an old t-shirt on Dosi then tightened it with packing tape to create mild pressure.
Dosi immediately relaxed and laid down for the rest of the storm. From there, Phil went on to develop the ThunderShirt.
How Does a ThunderShirt Work?
I was fairly familiar with the concepts behind the ThunderShirt because my son has high functioning autism, which includes a lot of sensory issues.
Through his therapy sessions as a young boy, I learned about popular occupational therapy products for kids with sensory issues, including weighted vests.
Weighted vests actually were developed based on findings by Dr. Temple Grandin. In fact, if you’ve seen the Emmy Award winning HBO movie “Temple,” then you’ll probably remember the scene where she came up with the idea for a hug box. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it!)
While working at her aunt’s ranch, Grandin noticed that some of the cattle immediately calmed down when they were moved to a squeeze chute – i.e., a strong, tightly-built area where livestock are placed when they need medical examinations or treatment.
She later built her own version of a squeeze shoot, which she called a “hug box,” that administered deep pressure and helped ease her anxiety and hypersensitivity when she used it.
Today, the official term is deep pressure therapy, or DPT, and is the basis for the ThunderShirt. DPT has been proven to increase serotonin, a chemical in the body that can decrease heart rate and anxiety. It also decreases cortisol, the stress hormone.
Finally, DPT can also decrease activity in the central nervous center, and it can lead to better sleep. When a dog wears a ThunderShirt, it is receiving deep pressure therapy.
How to Put on a ThunderShirt
Putting a ThunderShirt on is not really complicated, but it takes a little practice to remember how to do it easily.
In fact, my son called me recently when he was home alone, it was starting to storm, and Puggles was starting to freak out.
I told him to grab the Thundershirt – his first time of actually putting it on her – and he did great, except the whole thing was inside out!
To put on the ThunderShirt, start by fastening the Velcro straps around the neck. The strap fastens in the front of the neck, and the ThunderShirt logo should be on the outside.
This is just to keep the ThunderShirt in place and doesn’t have to be tight.
Next, take the right side of the ThunderShirt and pull the strap beneath your dog’s underbelly to the left side of the body. Next, pull the left side of the shirt down and then Velcro the two pieces together.
The pressure on the underbelly is the part that creates the calm, so it needs to be pretty snug, but not so tight that it causes sore spots or make it difficult to breathe.
Finally, pull the top flap (located on the left side) down and Velcro snugly.
Ok, I’ve got to insert a quick story here. Puggles has always hated wearing any kind of garment, like a dog sweater.
The first time I put the ThunderShirt on her, she forgot how stand up. Literally, she fell right over – much like a fainting goat. I wish I’d gotten it on video because it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen!
By the time I thought of it though, she was able to stand. Moving, however, took a little longer. I even tempted her by placing some pieces of chicken just out of reach.
She couldn’t figure out how to walk. Apparently, this isn’t all that unusual, especially for animals that don’t normally wear any kind of clothing.
She was walking within the hour, although she still forgets how to move when I first put it on her.
Let me back up and provide one important note about fit. When used on a male dog, the straps that go around the belly area should not push on or cover the genitals, so as to not cause irritation.
If you see any signs of irritation, remove the ThunderShirt. You may need to switch to a smaller size, or you can contact the ThunderWorks company for other suggestions.
What Situations Can ThunderShirt be Used For?
While the ThunderShirt was originally designed to help dogs through storms, they can be used in any situations that causes your dog anxiety.
This could include events such as fireworks, car trips, veterinarian visits, separation anxiety, crate training, house guests, and the list goes on and on.
I’ve used ours for car traveling, and it while it helped her some, there was not nearly the marked difference that we’ve seen with storms.
How long can a ThunderShirt be used for?
ThunderShirts can be left on for quite a while, and if it fits correctly, it should not be uncomfortable. I usually take mine off if it’s no longer storming.
The biggest thing is to make sure it’s not rubbing weird and causing skin irritation. The product is soft and well-made, and this generally is not a problem as long as your ThunderShirt is not too small.
The ThunderWorks company recommends removing the ThunderShirt every one or two hours the first few times your dog wears it just to make sure it is fitting ok without irritation.
If you are leaving the ThunderShirt on for long periods of time, be sure to remove it at least twice a day.
Does a ThunderShirt really work?
Honestly, I think it’s going to depend on the dog. I’ve heard people use the ThunderShirt with no success, but I have to say it made a huge difference in my situation. That being said, if it does not work on you dog the first time, the manufacturer recommends trying it a few times before returning.
For my dog, it’s been amazing. Uh-ma-zing!
Remember how I said she couldn’t stay still? With her ThunderShirt on, she just curls up on the bed – even looks out the window when there’s lightning – and doesn’t make a peep. No more shaking. No more digging. No more running around trying to find a safe spot. She curls up and goes to sleep even when I’m not there next to her.
Pros of a ThunderShirt
- It really works! At least for some dogs. And for my dog, it’s been a miracle product.
- It’s well made. As I mentioned, I’ve had mine for at least two years now and it doesn’t show any signs of needing to be replaced yet. (Granted, my dog does not shed so there’s no dog hair in the Velcro.)
- It can be washed and hand dried if needed.
- It’s fairly easy to put on once you get the hang of it.
- They offer a 45-day money-back guarantee (minus shipping/handling fees).
- They will exchange the size if needed.
Cons of a Thundershirt
- It’s not guaranteed to work. For my dog, it’s been an awesome investment. For other people I know that have tried it, it did little to no good. But remember, there is a 45-day money back guarantee, so it’s definitely worth a try!
- It’s kind of pricey.
- Sizing can be a little difficult to determine. My dog is 18 pounds, which is about the maximum for the “small dog” category. I went with a medium at first but decided that was way too big. I bought my product from PetSmart and had no problems exchanging.
- The Velcro is loud, so if you’re like me and trying to quietly take it off your dog in the middle of the night, good luck!
How Much Does a ThunderShirt Cost?
If you’re wanting to buy your ThunderShirt online, it’s best if you check the price here.
Price often change and I don’t want to promise a price, that’s changed!
However, the ThunderShirt brand offers a 45-day guarantee, minus shipping and handling.
Even if you don’t buy through the ThunderWorks website, product distributors are supposed to honor that return policy.
Again, to check out the ThunderShirt for yourself, click the button below!
My Honest Review/ Experience of ThunderShirt
As I’ve stated time and again in this article, as corny as it sounds, this product changed my life by changing my dog’s life.
If the weather is predicting storms, I make sure the ThunderShirt is right next to my bed so I can quickly put it on Puggles as soon as she starts stirring.
I can now put it on by feel in the pitch black of night.
I’ve been told that you can also use a small child’s t-shirt on your dog and get a similar effect. My guess is that it would not be as successful as the ThunderShirt because it would not be as supportive or snug.
However, I think I would recommend starting with that option if money is a concern to see if you notice a difference at all. If so, then I would invest in a ThundeShirt without question.
Additionally, as I was researching this piece, I discovered that ThunderWorks offers other products. I am probably going to make the ThunderLeash, which is marketed as a “no-pull solution,” my next doggy-related investment.
With the success we’ve had with ThunderShirt and the money-back guarantee, it sounds like a winning solution for Puggles and a no-brainer for me.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below!