Does your pup need a thunder jacket for separation anxiety?
When you become a dog owner, you expect to face certain obstacles and challenges. Dealing with housebreaking and training, calming a hyper young dog, working your schedule around walks, feeding times, and so on.
However, when looking into adopting, many dog owners may not consider the possibility of having to deal with anxiety in their pet.
While it may seem like a very specific issue, it is actually fairly common for dogs to suffer from anxiety. Approximately 29% of all dogs have at least one fear or anxiety issue. That accounts for 23 million dogs in the United States. Many phobias develop in a dog’s younger years when they are still developing, but they can continue to arise and form in older dogs as they experience different life events.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear or unease due to a phobia around certain triggers or events.
These phobias, while often not actually life-threatening, won’t necessarily lessen as a dog becomes more exposed to them. Rather, they can be consistent—or even grow to become more severe.
There are many courses of action dog owners can take in order to ease or eliminate their reactions to certain phobias. Options include medication, specific training, and specialized treatments. A easy solution is thunder jackets, which will be discussed later in this article.
However, before deciding how to treat your dog. It is important to get an understanding of some of the different anxious behaviors dogs display. What may be the root cause of them.
Anxiety and Behaviors
Separation anxiety is one of the most common phobias, and can be seen in dogs of all ages.
It can be triggered by certain events, such as moving homes, a change in owner, or a member of the family moving away.
It could also be something a dog is simply predisposed to, and can start to take shape when they are younger.
Separation anxiety can be incredibly taxing for the owner and dog alike. As it is often a daily struggle, as opposed to other triggering events that may not occur as often.
While separation anxiety is likely the most recognized of fear issues for dogs. There are other common phobias as well. These include loud noises (such as thunder, fireworks, or a vacuum), coming in contact with strangers or other dogs, and fear of travelling.
There are a multitude of behaviors that signify a dog has anxiety, and they will differ from dog to dog. They can include:
The tricky part is identifying if these behaviors are due to a dog’s anxiety, or a separate cause. Things like not being fully trained, having a physical medical issue, being over-excited and hyper, or simply being bored could be attributed to many of these types of behavior.
Take a good look at your dog’s history and current condition to decide whether a phobia to a certain occurrence truly could be the root issue behind their behavior.
For example, a dog eliminating indoors could be related to their anxiety. It could also be attributed to something else. Things like not having enough opportunities to potty outside, over-excitement, or a medical issue.
Often, if a dog can hold it through the night (while the owner is sleeping in the house), but eliminates during the day while the owner is at work. That typically points to a separation anxiety issue.
Likewise, if a dog causes destruction in the house, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are dealing with a phobia. If the destruction seems like it could be an attempt to escape the house—clawing at doors, trying to knock down window screens, etc.—it likely is due to separation anxiety.
If it is less specific or happens when the owner is present, the behavior may be the fault of something else, such as not getting enough exercise time in their day.
Of course, every dog is different and will express their anxiety in different ways, so these examples can only be taken as general guidelines. You will need to monitor your dog’s behavior and analyze what outside sources (beyond a phobia) could be the culprit.
It is important to take note of your dog’s behaviors, figure out what is causing them to act in that way, and determine whether anxiety is the cause.
Once you have determined your dog does have anxiety issues, it is time to take action. Unfortunately,many dog-ownerschoose not to attempt to find any remedies for their dogs’ anxieties. Many feel that there aren’t any viable options for treatment, while others think that it simply isn’t necessary to treat.
On the contrary, anxiety can be incredibly taxing on a dog (as well as the owner), so a form of treatment is very important for their general well-being.
There are many options for treating a dog with anxiety, and it is important to find a method that works for you and your dog so you can manage the behavior before it gets more severe
Forms of Treatment for Anxiety
It is possible to use different training methods to help ease reactions to phobias, which in turn minimizes the anxiety revolving around whatever situation causes them distress. When it comes to anxieties, punishment isn’t the most productive practice. It will only further stress out the dog, and doesn’t address the root cause, which is the actual phobia they are dealing with. Rather, techniques like positive reinforcement and counterconditioning have been successfully used by owners of dogs with mild forms of anxiety.
However, for some dogs, simple training techniques won’t be enough. For those with more severe forms of anxiety, a form of treatment may be required. Alone or in combination with training, in order to more successfully lessen anxious reactions.
Medication is an option, and you may choose to discuss this with your veterinarian. However, medication can be expensive, not to mention tricky to use if your dog is uncooperative.
Before taking that step towards medication, many dog-owners turn to non-medicinal options. To see if they provide enough relief for their dog. Options include methods like:
- Exercise. Exercise works on two levels: it stimulates the production of serotonin, or the ‘happy’ chemical, in the brain, as well as helps release any pent up energy.
- Massage. Your dog doesn’t need a full out spa day, but certain massages can help to calm and anxious pup.
- Scents. Dog Appeasing Pheromone, or DAP, is a synthetic scent that mimics the chemical produced by lactating female dogs. It comes as a diffuser, and is undetectable to humans.
- Calming Music. Dogs can relax to music just as humans do, and some music has been developed specifically to calm down an anxious dog.
While these are all great methods to explore, one of the most popular and effective options is using weighted vests or blankets, also known as ‘thunder jackets’.
Thunder Jackets Overview
Thunder jackets work similarly to swaddling an infant. They tightly wrap around a dog, often with the help of VELCRO, and lightly apply pressure. This pressure has a soothing and positive effect on their mood. Which in turn can help diminish feelings of anxiety.
Also known as deep-touch therapy, this sensation speaks to a basic dog need of physical contact by mimicking the feeling of being held.
It is natural that a dog would want to be close to their owner when they are feeling anxious, and the vest helps to provide that closeness.
A dog suffering from separation anxiety, for example, may benefit from that feeling of physical closeness when they can’t actually be with their owner.
Thunder Jackets are versatile
They can be used any time your dog is about to be (or is already in) a stressful environment. Such as when taking a car ride, when the owner is preparing to leave the house for the day, when there is stormy weather outside, or when unfamiliar faces are coming to their home for a visit.
Across brands, they are easy to use, and come recommended by veterinarians and trainers alike.
While thunder jackets aren’t a guaranteed solution for all anxiety-riddled dogs, they have been proven to be incredibly effective.
A study of 1,999 anxious dogs shows that over 80% of the group benefited from using a thunder jacket.
If you are looking into options to help your dog deal with their phobias, thunder jackets are a great place to start. They may end up being the only thing you need to manage your dog’s anxiety problems.
They can be used to consistently deal with anxiety without risk of negative side effects. Furthermore, they don’t require medicating, can be much more cost effective than having to buy medication every month, and are simple to use.
Sizing is important
When looking into thunder jackets, there are a few things to keep in mind. Sizing is incredibly important. If a vest is too large or too small, it will be annoying and uncomfortable for your dog. This defeats the purpose of wearing the vest in the first place. Be sure to follow the sizing guidelines of the vests you are looking into, and properly take the measurements of your dog.
Once you’ve invested in the perfect thunder jacket for your dog, consider timing and the best moments to use the vest.
Picking Out the Best Thunder Jacket for Your Dog
To the best of your ability, try to anticipate when the vest will be needed—such as when you are about to travel with them in the car, when new guests are visiting your home, or when a storm is starting develop outside—and put the vest on your dog before that event happens.
When to start using the jacket
Of course, there may be some unforeseeable circumstances where it will be necessary to use a thunder jacket once your dog has already started displaying signs of anxiety.
However, for the sake of ease for both you and your dog, try to put it on before these phobias may trigger anxious behaviors in your dog. Keep in mind that there may be an adjustment period for your dog to get used to wearing the vest. Once they have warmed up to the new addition to their routine, you will hopefully see the effects start to take shape.
Best anxiety jackets for dogs
ThunderShirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket
Thunder Shirt is one of the top-rated brands on Amazon for weighted jackets. The Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket fits dogs weighing from 8 to over 110 pounds. The material is a blend of polyester, rayon, and spandex.
There is also a sport version available, made of 100% polyester, providing a lighter option. A Polo version is available as well, which is made of the same materials as the Classic, but provides a different style and more color options.
- Variety of sizes: There are seven size options available, as well as a sizing guide that helps owners determine which option is best for their dog.
- Material is durable: The jacket is built to last, and Amazon reviewers noted that the material was able to withstand scratching and movement. The fabric has also been designed to resist the build up of fur, so keeping the vest clean and hair-free will be much more manageable.
- Created with comfort in mind: Reviewers also commented that the breathable material and cut of the jacket allows for maximum comfort.
- Machine Washable
While the smaller sizes are comparable to other prices you will find on Amazon, if you have a larger dog, you will have to shell out a bit more money than if you were to choose another brand.
American Kennel Club Calming Coat
The American Kennel Club has created a budget-friendly Calming Coat with a soft and light material. It works for dogs weighing 10 to 100 pounds, ranging from Chihuahua to Boxer and German Shepherd breeds.
It fully wraps around a dog with easy to adjust straps.
- Price: This is one of the cheaper weighted jacket you can find on Amazon, especially if you have a larger dog.
- Great Material: Reviewers comments that the material is soft and not too heavy for their dogs.
- Coverage: This vest wraps under the belly and up the dogs back, providing a good amount of coverage around the stomach and back area.
- Machine Washable
- Sizes: There are not as many size options as the ThunderShirt, and some Amazon reviewers complained that it was difficult to get the right fit for their dog. Owners of larger dogs may need to look elsewhere.
- Durability: Some reviewers complained that the coat wasn’t durable enough for their dogs’ scratching or general rowdiness.
Comfort Zone Calming Vest
The Comfort Zone Calming Vest is another great option, made for dogs with chest sizes between 13 to 37 inches.
It is made with comfortable material, and you can put it on your dog in three easy steps. One unique feature is the Comfort Zone Spray Spot, which allows you to apply calming scents that will further relax your dog.
- Breathable Material: The material is soft, breathable, and flexible, allowing for maximum comfort.
- Made with Safety in Mind: The vest was designed with reflective piping to keep your dog visible and safe.
- Machine Washable
- Sizes: Similar to the American Kennel Club version, there are five sizes available, which means it may be harder to find the perfect fit for your dog. Some Amazon reviewers mentioned that the vest runs large.
- Leg Holes: The front legs have to be placed in holes in the vest, rather than wrapped around. This may be difficult to maneuver with uncooperative dogs.
- Price: This vest is on the pricier side of other options available on Amazon.
The Company of Animals Original Anxiety Wrap
The Company of Animals Original Anxiety Wrap is the only full torso coverage vest on the list, which adds pressure to the lower torso and legs. It comes in 11 sizes.
The material is water resistant and breathable, and has some stretch to it.
- Full Torso Coverage: Unlike other options on the list, the Original Anxiety Wrap covers the entire torso, which could provide further comfort to the dog. This includes leg straps, which are also meant to put pressure on the legs as well.
- Variety of Sizes: There are 11 sizes available, the most of any on this list.
- Complicated to Put On: With the full torso coverage comes a few more steps, and some Amazon reviewers found that it was hard to get the hang of putting this vest on their dogs.
- Durability: While some reviewers liked the lighter weight material, others noted that it wasn’t durable enough for their dog.
Mellow Shirt Calming Wrap
The Mellow Shirt is an affordable option that comes in six sizes, as well as multiple colors. It covers a large range of sizes, working for dogs weighing less than seven pounds to 110 pounds.
It is made of a breathable and lightweight material, and has easy to adjust VELCRO straps along the chest and under the belly. This vest wraps around the dog using hook and loop fasteners.
- Price: Mellow Shirt offers one of the most affordable thunder jackets on Amazon.
- Variety of Sizes: With six size options, Mellow Shirt has just one less size than Thunder Jacket, making it one of the most accessible brands.
- Machine Washable
Sizing: Amazon Reviewers commented that, while there are a good option of sizes, the Calming Wrap does run a bit big, so you may need to do some guess work when ordering.
The Canine Coddler
The Canine Coddler is a 36” x 48” weighted blanket that can be an alternative to the more commonly seen vests and jackets.
The lighter blanket is designed for dogs under 50 pounds, while the heavier blanket is made for larger dogs over 50 pounds.
- Ease of Use: Using the blanket is effortless, particularly if your dog is uncooperative or hyper, as you won’t have to worry about harnessing a vest or jacket onto your pet. This is especially great during times when someone else is watching your dog; they can simply drape the blanket on top of them, rather than have to struggle with putting a vest on an anxious dog.
- Well Made: Many Amazon reviewers commented on the high quality of the blanket, as well as how soft it is.
- Easy to Clean: The cover comes off of the interior blanket, and it is machine washable.
- No Way of Fastening: Since it is a blanket, there is no way of attaching it to your dog as you would a vest. This may not be a con for most, but could pose a problem to owners with dogs who don’t initially warm up to the blanket and try to shake it off.
- Price: The blanket is considerably more expensive than other weighted products.