My chocolate lab Ladybird loses her shit when it storms. I can only describe it as a dog panic attack: She runs all over the place, pants crazily, tries to climb up on my bed (where she is not allowed), nervously licks my legs, and eventually seeks comfort in the safety of the bathtub. She can’t talk to me, unfortunately, so I have spent many a storm wondering how to help her. Until the internet told me about the ThunderShirt.
What’s a ThunderShirt? A godsend, for starters. It’s a snug little coat you Velcro around your dog in order to reduce anxiety. You can get one for $30 or $40, depending on size, and make sure you have the right size, or it won’t work like it’s supposed to. It’s designed to make your pooch feel safe and sound in the event of a storm or a nearby fireworks display; some people use it to treat general anxiety for their dogs, lest Fido consistently need some chill.
Of course, there’s a huge market for anxiety-reducing jackets for dogs. There’s the Storm Defender, the Original Anxiety Wrap, and the KONG Anxiety-Reducing Pet Shirt, to name just three. Some owners opt for anxiety chews or even vet-prescribed doggy Xanax. Each pooch is different, though all of these shirts and jackets provide basically the same service: They hug your dog tight and make your li’l pal feel safe and sound. I went with the ThunderShirt, because that’s what the overwhelming majority of dog owners I talked to suggested. So far, so good.
Whatever you get, it’s a pretty simple process, but definitely follow the instructions for once. First off, present it like a little pup platter with a treat on top, which gives them a positive association with the thing, and doubles as a smart way to trick a dumb dog into putting on clothing. Because if there’s one things dogs hate, it’s wearing clothes. And if there’s one things dogs love, it’s snacks.
After that, Velcro on the shirt, and make sure it’s on nice and tight, like a warm hug for a dog. It doesn’t work immediately; it might take 10 minutes or so for the dog to calm down. So comfort her in the meantime: Pet her, talk to her, tell her she’s beautiful and her ears are the softest ears around. Eventually, she will chill out. Ladybird usually does! After some frantic running around, she’ll lay down by my bed and just sit and lick her little paws until she falls asleep.
It’s easy to forget how sensitive dogs ears are: Fireworks probably sound like the world is ending, and dogs can’t exactly tell the difference between fun fireworks and scary explosions. The Fourth of July, for obvious reasons, is the Super Bowl of anxiety-jacket usage, this year mostly thanks to the assholes in my neighborhood who were setting off explosives until well past four in the morning. I was honestly having trouble with the noise, too.
If you’re new-product-averse, a tight T-shirt might give you much the same effect, but this is the best solution I’ve found. (Added bonus: Ladybird looks cute as hell in it.) Before the era of the ThunderShirt descended upon my home, if it started storming in the middle of the night, Ladybird would wake me up, scratching and wining at my door. Then she would pace and prance around, like a scared little baby, which meant neither of us would sleep much. While she still does the waking-me-up thing, now she will calm back down once I’ve got her in the thing.
So what do you use to calm your dogs down when the thunderstorm hits or the fireworks come out?
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