thunderstorm relief? ~ {Ontario pet photographer}

among the many issues that merrick deals with as fallout from the abuse and neglect suffered during his six years as a puppymill stud-dog, fear of loud noises — especially thunderstorms — is just one.  he shakes and scrambles, and is desperate to get onto my lap or as close as possible to me … and if the thunderstorm is at night, that means climbing all over my face.  if he can’t do that, he frantically crawls under the bed, then back up to my face.

my old man morley wasn’t quite as bad, but also suffered through thunderstorms and fireworks.  i never coddle dogs through their fears, but have always worked to build their confidence.  still, at 2 a.m., it’s not always convenience to play a game of fetch.

over the years, i’ve tried homeopathics, herbs, flower essences, Rescue Remedy, all kinds of remedies … you name, it’s probably still rattling around in the fridge or the bottom of the dogs’ drawer.  all useless for both morley and, now, merrick as well.

so when i received the most recent newsletter from Chris of Creature Comfort Pet Emporium in St. Jacobs announcing that they were carrying the Thundershirt and that there was a 30-day money-back guarantee, i thought: “what the heck?”

it certainly wasn’t the first time i’d heard of the Thundershirt.  it’s been around for a while, and based on reviews and what i’ve read about it, i’ve recommended it to many dog owners who have written me in the past.  why haven’t i tried it myself?  well, because i guess i needed to hear that “money-back guarantee”.  it’s not like i’ve got money to throw away, not after i’ve already thrown away so much on all the other so-called proven remedies that never worked.

when i spoke to Chris on the phone, she said out of all the Thundershirts they’ve sold in the past six months that they’ve been carrying them, they’ve had only one return.  so, off we went.

the premise behind the Thundershirt is that with the constant, hugging pressure of the shirt’s velcro-system, the dog’s nervous system calms.  from the Thundshirt’s website:

“As for WHY Thundershirt’s gentle pressure works to calm a dog, experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin believe that pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system. Using pressure to relieve anxiety has been a common practice for years.”

now, i’ll admit … in the store, when we put this on merrick to test for size, he stood stock still, and within seconds found a shelf on which to rest his chin, then remained there, unmoving.  hmm …  calm?  perhaps.  don’t get me wrong, i’m not disputing it works, just how it works.  because you see, once it’s on, it’s like my boy can’t move … or simply refuses to move.

the first time i put it on him at home when some fireworks were going off, he literally flopped over, all four in the air, and remained like that for a good hour.  when i called him, he flailed and thrashed like a turtle, unable to right himself.

i’m not saying that’s a bad thing … just a point to be noted.  and last night, when we finally had a big thunderstorm that sent him scrambling up to my pillow — of course, just when i had found sleep — i put the Thundershirt on him, and it lessened his anxiety by a good 70%.  with each boom, he came farther up towards head of the bed, but only by a foot or two, not all the way to my face.  because the shirt calmed him? or because the shirt restricted his movements?

at this point, i don’t care.  as long as it keeps him still and not responding in his old ways, it’s working, because it’s retraining his body — his mind and his muscles — as to how to respond to such noises.  part way through the night though, i had to take it off of him as i do worry about it being on him too long.

along with the Thundershirt — for those of you in the Waterloo area able to make your purchase through Creature Comfort Pet Emporium — Chris includes a homeopathic remedy …

again, i’m not a big believer in homeopathics as they’ve never worked for me, and after years of using them on the dogs, have never seen results.  however, last night was very interesting.  in the throes of his panic over the thunder, i gave merrick his two pellets, and he immediately gagged them out.  i’ve never had a dog do this, but he actually sniffed out the pellets on the duvet cover and took them himself.  truly fascinating.  as though he knew it was what he needed?

so … the Thundershirt is a keeper in this house … maybe it will work for your thunder-fearful dog as well.  it might be worth a try.


  

Thundershirt - Thanks for writing the review, the pictures look great!! Glad Thundershirt has been helpful in your home:)

-The Thundershirt Team

illona - just breathe, Sandi. we’re thinking of you!!!!!

Sandi Jones - We need a counterpart for humans – a Thundershirt for us. Might work going in to an MRI?

Amanda - Perhaps he’s like a cat. They won’t move if you put anything across their chest horizontally (tape, teatowel…not saying it’s a nice thing to do, but I have seen it done to cats) – they don’t think they can walk.

Glad to hear it’s helping Merrick some though. I may have to get one for Jess, I think we can get these in Australia somehow.

Lisa Brencis - Used the Thundershirt on Summer again tonight. And I think that the percentage of success has gone up. She’s much calmer and fireworks-tolerant tonight than yesterday’s first wearing. I actually was able to even get her out into the back yard for a pee with some fireworks going off in the distance. With her, THIS is progress!

Jas, BamBam & Eski - We bought the Thundershirt for Eski too!
It’s nice to know it helps Merrick, cos it doesn’t do so much for Eski… maybe it helped 50%, or lesser?
In our country it’s really hot so we can’t have it on her for too long a time too (yes, even when it is raining, boo hoo)

Jane - Zipper has a thundershirt too, but I think it’s too big for her and doesn’t help as it should. It’s really good to hear that it is helping Merrick. Zipper’s mother got one too and it helped a lot!

Holly Garner-Jackson - Wow! I hope this Thundershirt continues to work for Merrick, and for you!!
I’ve had dogs jump out of truck windows because of gun fire, not realizing that I was parked next to a firing range!! It’s a scary thing to come out to your vehicle and find that one of your dogs is gone. Fortunately we found her 1/2 a mile away, and 100 yards up someone’s driveway, just shaking.
If I ever have another dog fearful of loud noises i will give this a try!
Thanks for the info!

illona - great to hear of others’ successes.

Chris, yes, merrick wears a few different coats … you can see his full body suit from K9 topcoat here: http://scruffydogphotography.com/blog/index.php/2010/12/19/group-hike-ontario-pet-photographer/ … used to prevent snow balls during winter hikes.

i think it’s the snugger fit of the Thundershirt or the fact that he’s TOO calm? even enticing him with a ball doesn’t get him up (although i’m not about to engage him in a game of ball while wearing the Thundershirt; i want him relaxed!) i’m sure he can move, he just won’t. i could put it on looser … i’ll try that next time.

Creature Comfort - Hey Illona, glad you had some success with the Thundershirt. I honestly have not seen nor heard of any of our client’s dogs having any restrictive issues with this product, although we have had many who instantly calmed and laid down in the store upon wearing it, even during obvious stress circumstances before they put it on, they were able to freely move around and function as normal otherwise.
I also personally use this on my rescue Katie (whom you met at Cheryl’s school) and she exhibits completely normal range of motion and ease of movement while wearing it, freely jumping on or off the bed, moving about outdoors for potty breaks etc
Silly question perhaps, but is Merrick accustomed to wearing apparel of any sort? I have seen this response in some dogs who wear coats/sweaters for the first time, they seem to feel as if they cannot move, so just worthy of asking if Merrick normally wears coats etc in cold weather re whether or not he is accustomed to the sensation of clothing on his body?
Regardless, I am thrilled to hear about his increased comfort during these stressful times.
Take care
Chris

Elizabeth Uribe - Glad it works! He looks so cute wearing it too! 🙂 Hope you were able to go back to sleep after all that….

Lisa Brencis - I bought Summer a Thundershirt this weekend, too! They look pretty funny on greyhounds but whatever. I think it’s working but certainly not at your 70%. But since they don’t work right out of the box for everyone, I am still very hopeful! There HAS been improvement.

Angela - Gorgeous photos of Merrick. Glad the Thundershirt was a success too. I bought one for my sensitive rescue Collie for our fireworks period in November and I’m certain it helped him. He was more relaxed (and he is fully able to move about normally in his!) and I also noted a faster recovery time too. I also give him Reiki and TTouch but feel the shirt made a notable difference on top.

Usually I’d have a real job getting him outside to toilet after all the noise had stopped (after being holed up inside for hours while the things were going off) but he was fine about going into the garden this time.

I’ve also left it on him at night if he’s been unsettled and I am sure he’s more relaxed wearing it. Plus he looks cute 😉

Angela
UK

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