the big, bad world: enter, ThunderShirt, part 1 (Rex)

There's a lot to be afraid of in this world. I have heard amazing things about the ThunderShirt. Though I'm thankful my dog does not suffer from anxiety issues, I really wanted to find out what all the buzz is about. The product line has expanded since the company's inception, but their flagship product is the ThunderShirt for dogs, which, according to,

uses gentle hugging to calm your dog or cat. With its patented design, ThunderShirt’s gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs and cats if they are anxious, fearful or overexcited. Based on surveys completed by over two thousand customers, over 80% of dogs and cats show significant improvement in symptoms when using ThunderShirt. ThunderShirt is already helping hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats around the world and is recommended by thousands of veterinarians and trainers. How does ThunderShirt work? Experts believe that pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system, possibly by releasing a calming hormone like endorphins. Using pressure to relieve anxiety in people and animals has been a common practice for years.

Could it be true? I asked around, and one of my clients, Leah, was happy to sing ThunderShirt's praises. She rescued her pooch, Rex, from a year of neglect, where he had very little contact with people, and no contact with other animals. Since it was the first year of his life, she had to start over with him. "While he is very intelligent," she explained, "the world doesn't quite make sense to him." Leah helped Rex become happier and healthier, but there were still things that scared him and caused him stress. She sought the help of a behaviorist who taught Rex coping techniques that he used–and still uses–to his benefit. The techniques helped Rex work through the stress, but the stress, itself, was still there. Leah decided to try the ThunderShirt to minimize Rex's stress. She admits that she was skeptical, but was familiar with the use of pressure vests for people with autism, so she was willing to give it a try. She started by putting it on Rex for brief periods absent of stress, and by the second or third time she put it on him (calling it his "shirt" each time), he was comfortable with it. Soon after, a large monsoon–a major stressor for Rex–rolled through. Leah noticed Rex beginning to get anxious, so she asked him if he wanted to wear his "shirt." He gave her his "yes" response. Leah explained,

He calmed down long enough for me to slip the ThunderShirt onto didn't seem to be helping. However, when I asked him if he wanted me to take off his 'shirt' and started to take it off, he gave me his 'no' response...After the storm had passed, he positioned himself as he had when I put the vest on him, clearly ready for it to be removed, so I asked him if he wanted me to take his 'shirt' off, and got a 'yes.'

As monsoon season goes here in the Phoenix area, she soon experienced a similar situation with Rex. She saw even more improvement when using the ThunderShirt.

The third monsoon of the season approached, and, this time, Rex recognized the benefit of the ThunderShirt, himself. He found his "shirt" and brought it to Leah, asking her for help. Leah reported that it didn't calm him 100%, but she saw definite improvement.

She started putting the ThunderShirt on Rex whenever there was a stress trigger. He really liked wearing his "shirt" at these times, as tightly as Leah could get it. She reported that if it wasn't tight enough, "he would stay put, waiting for me to fix it." Smart guy!

Then New Year's Eve rolled around. Leah recalled,

Fireworks are one of the things that stress him out, and between the various local fireworks (shows) and neighbors with fireworks, there were BOOMS galore. At first, I had forgotten to put his ThunderShirt on him, and he was very stressed. He was running laps of stress through the house, barking and generally agitated. Once I remembered...I asked him if he wanted his 'shirt' and got a 'yes!' So I grabbed his ThunderShirt and put it on him. He gave me a big kiss and laid down on the sofa next to me, and within a few minutes, he was enjoying a nice calm nap, as the fireworks continued.

Rex relaxing in his Thundershirt as New Year's Eve fireworks explode. (Client-submitted photo.)

Rex continues to have success with his Thundershirt. After hearing his story and others, I decided I wanted to see for myself. Stay tuned.

Smarty-pants cutie-pie Rex and his BFF, the Thundershirt. (Client-submitted photo.)

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ThunderShirt in exchange for my honest opinion.