Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday: Thundershirts

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Did you know that our German Shepard has some significant struggle  with anxiety when we travel (read "vomit") , I leave the house or there are loud noises?  It has been something we've struggled with since we brought her into our family in 2008.  That's a LONG time to be searching for help and many sleepless nights due to:
  • thunderstorms and/or strong winds
  • fireworks
  • car back firing
  • dynamite blasting - okay this is not typical, but there is a sand and gravel company within 2 miles of us and this is a frequent method.
We have found a few "bandaids", but they really don't help her cope and feel calm:
Hiding from the storm in laundry room
  • giving her Benadryl, but what if we gave it to her and then the storm would completely bypass us. 
  • Leaving the laundry room light on with the dryer on air (nice way to run up the electric bill), but it's really hard to sleep with that bright light shining down the hall  and the noise reaches every corner of our home. 
  • "sleeping" on the couch - note: there is actually no sleeping involved because she is constantly jumping on the furniture, trying to hide behind the recliner, or crawl on my lap or join me where ever I might be attempting to sleep.    The whole couch shakes because she is so afraid!
  • percription meds - they are very expensive and we are not crazy about drugging her up. She developed a keen ear and sense of smell for the pepperoni package opening, because that is what we would wrap her meds in. It was traumatic to attempt to shove a pill down our dog's throat and hold her mouth closed to make sure she swallowed it. No wonder she hates storms!
A very relaxed Lady with distant rumbles
It is quite a helpless feeling to see the fear overtake our sweet dog and we have searched for ways to help her, so we were thrilled to hear about Thundershirts from a friend of ours who got one for their dog to help with some anxieties. We contacted Mary Gilbreth, dog trainer and Behavior Consultant of MySmart Dogs and were thrilled to spend time visiting with her about Lady and her anxieties.  I was so blessed with the time we spent talking with Mary and we are so incredibly thankful for her concern and care to help people and their dogs with behavior, anxieties, agility, house-training, and so much more.  

What are Thundershirts?  
Thundershirt’s gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited.

They are made of comfy t-shirt type material that has velcro to help secure it on your anxious dog that gives them a sense of feeling secure. There is no tugging or fighting to get it on, which would add more stress to an already anxious dog.  When we put it on Lady, she actually gets so incredibly relaxed, that the results are incredibly better than anything else we've tried!

Advantages: Sizes from the smallest tea-cup size up to 110 lbs, it is machine washable and stylish as well, but more importantly, it helps with: 

As I was talking to Mary, we discussed how this type of pressure comfort helps those with:
  • People with autism use pressure to relieve their persistent anxiety.
  • Children with certain behavioral problems use pressure shirts and weighted vests to relax and focus.
  • Parents use swaddling to calm an inconsolable newborn infant.
So I asked "W" (the Aspergers/ADD student I teach) why he likes to wear long-sleeved shirts or his jacket/coat and he told me because it made him "feel safe and secure."   It was light bulb kind of moment for me!  Was so excited to share this with his father and he is going to see about trying some Under-Armour to see if this would help.  I was almost giddy to learn this!

I hope that, if you have a special four-legged family friend/dog that suffers from any of the anxieties above, please check into a Thundershirt.  It's what Works-For-Me!
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Anonymous said...

I wish I had known this years ago. We had a beautiful golden retriever with the same problem. He ended up busting through a basement window during a storm and we never found him. Other than that fear of storms he was such a super dog! That is good to know about autism too. I will pass that info. on to family and friends!


How fascinating . . . and it helps people, too. So glad you found something that worked.


Jodi said...

Oh wow, I had never heard of those. Our lab/golden gets anxiety when we travel. When we drive on a long trip, we cannot feed him that morning or it can get pretty messy...ewww. But that is what has worked for him. Glad you found something to help ease your dog's anxiety, she's a cutie.