As many of you know, it was Dash’s bouts with separation anxiety that partly inspired me to build this website. In my search of finding a “cure,” I saw an advertisement for the “Thundershirt” in the back of a dog magazine. Touted to help anxious dogs reduce (and sometimes even eliminate) anxiety during provoking events (such as a thunderstorm or riding in a car), I figured I had to give it a try. It retails for $36.00 and you can purchase it at Thundershirt.com. The website touts that it has over an 85% success rate. The nice thing about this product is that it comes backed by a Satisfaction Guaranteed – simply return it if it doesn’t work!
I purchased an x-small sized thundershirt based on the recommended weight guidelines, but it proved to be too small for Dash. Exchanging the shirt was easy enough and within a few days I received the appropriate fitting size.
The shirt wraps tightly around the dog’s body for a firm fit. It has a few flaps that velcro together. Dash didn’t put up a fuss about wearing it at all. It was very easy to put on.
But the true test would be to see whether it reduced any of his separation anxiety – meaning would it cause him to stop barking (he barks incessantly) and scratching at the door? To test it out, I wrapped Dash up and put on a tape recorder so I could hear whether he barked or not. Then I went out for about 1/2 hour.
Dash usually does okay for the first 15 minutes I’m gone. It’s after that 15 minutes that he goes into a vortex of doom and goes into complete nuclear meltdown. So I figured 1/2 hour alone should do the trick.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. At all. The barking was exactly the same, as was scratching at the door. The one thing I did notice, however, was that he seemed calmer while he was watching me get ready to leave. You see, his anxiety is so profound that it actually begins when he senses that I’m leaving. For example, if I go into the bathroom to do my make-up Dash will begin to cower and shake. His tail immediately goes between his legs and he tries to hide underneath the bed or in his crate. With the Thundershirt, he didn’t exhibit this behavior nearly as bad as he usually does. However, ultimately it didn’t elminate the worst behavior.
It then was brought to my attention by that the Thundershirt was actually similar to an item called the Anxiety Wrap. The Anxiety Wrap is exactly what it sounds like – a tight (and do I mean tight) fitting wrap that goes around the dog’s body. The main difference is that the Anxiety Wrap also has straps that wrap around a dog’s hind legs. It was explained to me that when a dog is in full panic mode, it can lose “sensation” in its hind legs which causes further panic and anxiety. The straps add pressure to that hind leg area.
Since I’d do anything to help Dash with his separation anxiety, I ordered one. The Anxiety Wrap retails for $35.99 and can be purchased at AnxietyWrap.com. It also comes with a money-back guarantee. It’s patented design (created by Susan Sharpe) uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce anxiety. I have to admit that I wasn’t nearly as excited about the Anxiety Wrap as I was the Thundershirt, perhaps because I was expecting to be let down again.
I had a difficult time getting the Anxiety Wrap on Dash – that’s how tight it is. As you can see in the video, the Anxiety Wrap literally fits like a second skin. It made him look like a sausage. I was worried that perhaps I bought the wrong size, but I was sure that the next size up would be too big. I figured it was better to be snug.
I carried out the test the same way as I did with the Thundershirt. I noticed that while I was getting ready Dash did not seem as reactive as usual. When I came home and played the tape recorder, I was surprised to hear that there was no barking. There was whimpering and a few high-pitched yelps, but it was significantly better than before. It did not, however, prevent him from scratching at and throwing himself up against the door.
So was it a success? I think so, to a degree. It clearly helped reduce the barking and I think if I consistently paired it up with some separation anxiety exercises it might break this habit once and for all. I contacted the designer, Susan Sharpe, and she promptly responded to my questions and offered further help if I needed it. When I tried it on him a second time, though, he tried to pull away before I could get it on him. He clearly doesn’t enjoy getting stuffed into it but he also doesn’t seem to mind wearing it, once it’s actually on. But I think that pairing it with some of his favorite treats would get him past the difficulty with putting it on. I thought that the Thundershirt was much easier to get on, however.
So why would a tight wrap of either brand work on easing a dog’s anxiety? The product is based on a technique called the “Tellington Touch,” which is a method of using constant pressure on an animal. You may have heard about the autistic woman who created a “pressured” method of shuttling cattle off to slaughter that was more humane as it eased their anxiety. Swadling babies has the same effect as being soothing.
Since my landlord kicked Dash out and he’s been with my parents, I haven’t been able to routinely use the Anxiety Wrap. Hopefully when I get Dash back, we’ll be able to make use of it.
If your dog has anxiety or phobias, I recommend trying the Anxiety Wrap over the Thundershirt. Both are built on the same premise, but I found the Anxiety Wrap to be of a better quality and their website is much more helpful.