(Cue thunder and lightning)
The opening scene:
When lightning strikes, and thunder rolls, Henry takes cover, under the bed.
There is nothing worse than feeling helpless, as a pet owner, when your companion is scared or ill. I would try in vain, to coax my dog Henry, out of hiding and sit with him, reassuringly. Henry would stay, reluctantly for a few moments, before slinking off my lap and crawling back under the bed skirt. I felt so bad for this normally happy-go-lucky, playful dog, now reduced to a quivering, whining bundle of fur by the loud, clapping of thunder and bright, flashes of lightning. There had to be something we could do for him. In the meantime, we let him take refuge, if that made him feel safer; although, perhaps not so comfortable, as he had to flatten himself right down to squeeze into the space.
I don’t know when Henry started to be frightened of the storms; he’s not a fan of holiday fireworks, kites, or other articles that appear out of nowhere, and flap, or float about mysteriously. That includes all inflatable Santas and reindeer that are everywhere, in the neighborhood, this time of year.
We administered ‘Rescue Remedy’ and played relaxing music throughout the house. When those methods failed to make a difference, we visited the other end of the spectrum and did not give attention to the situation. No matter what approach we took however, we still had an unhappy dog.
I’m a fan of ‘Tellington Touch,’ a practice, not unlike acupressure, which has proven to help with several behavioral issues, and illnesses. Unfortunately, I’m not always in a position to stop what I’m doing, and practice the technique.
I had heard of the ‘Thundershirt’, similar to the aforementioned practices, in that it creates a comforting amount of pressure around the centre point of dogs, and cats. I also read several positive reviews. Every company is going to share positive reviews about their product. I’m more of a ‘believe it when I see it’ kind of person. After a particularly stormy season, I was more than ready to give it a try. The following, is an account of our experience using thundershirts.
The stormy skies had cleared by the time I arrived home from work, picked up the pups and headed over to Pet Valu to purchase a Thundershirt for Henry. The excitement of being in the retail environment distracted him and he was easily sized and fitted with his new shirt. Or, maybe it was the Benny Bullies I purchased that had his attention. I read online that it is best to start getting animals used to the shirt at a time when they are comfortable; not when a situation already has them scared/nervous and anxious. Also, to associate happiness with the shirt (Benny Bully treats).
As instructed, I left the shirt on for a couple of hours and continued our routine as normal. The bribing of treats worked. Henry snapped out of the ‘grumps’ and practically flew onto the cocktail ottoman and had a big stretch, before I reminded him; he is not allowed on the ottoman. After I removed the Thundershirt, I noticed that Henry started itching again. This we assumed was due to seasonal allergies. Could it have been a nervous itch?
I came home from work, the following week and hung Henry’s shirt on the corner of the shoe rack in the closet. After changing out of my work clothes, I called him over and showed him the Thundershirt. He had a sniff and wandered off to find his toy. A few minutes later, I called Henry over again and labeled the item ‘shirt’ and walked into the kitchen. Naming actions and items, familiarizes dogs with these things. I find this technique of association helpful, for positive communication. Henry ran out of the room and dove onto the sofa. “Here”, I called. He came, and I immediately gave him a treat. I fitted the shirt and gave him another. It seemed I had hypnotized him; he became lethargic and glum as he’d been the week before. The weather was also back to being cloudy, and I know animals are sensitive to storms. Perhaps he could sense one was on its way. After several takes of ‘hide-and-seek’, Henry was distracted from both the shirt and the impending storm. When finally, the storm did announce itself, Henry looked up, startled momentarily, and remained on his own bed for several minutes, cuddling his stuffed toy. Alas, the thunder got the better of him and once again, Henry disappeared under the bed.
Over the next few weeks, we continued fitting Henry in his shirt, so this became more of a routine and not associated with the things that make Henry nervous. During these trials, I have noticed that Henry becomes quite relaxed and pays less attention to itching, caused by seasonal allergies. In the past, I’ve resorted to using socks and dog t-shirts, to avoid ‘hot spots’ (caused by licking and chewing). This result was an incredible bonus!
Our Ontario storms are generally not without warning. I have my own built-in weather network; in addition to the sight of darkening skies, I can feel the pressure building, in my head. Dogs, can also sense storms before they arrive. We noticed Henry would become nervous and restless, before the first drops of rain fell, or claps of thunder could be heard. Because we integrated the thundershirt during our everyday routine, Henry does not associate it with his fears. The severity of the storm, determines Henry’s whereabouts. These days, for the most part, Henry is comfortable on top of the bed with his family, as opposed to hiding beneath it. We like it much better too.
No heckling please:
I had noticed, during our trial with Henry and his shirt, he seemed less interested in what was going on in the neighbourhood. At least, he was much less vocal and seemed to keep his comments to a minimum. Although confused by this, Henry’s sister Reese stepped out of her understudy role and performed a monologue. Henry ad-libbed on occasion.
Henry’s leading lady:
We received a thundershirt, as a gift from Thunderworks, for little Miss Reese. I was very excited, about the arrival of the beautiful, hot pink, polo shirt and couldn’t wait, to return home, and try it on. I mean, I couldn’t wait, to return home, and try it on Reese!
In true diva style, her tail wagged and she strutted around the house, performing to….well, Henry and I. She loved her new shirt – hot pink, is definitely her colour. No conditioning required for Reese. Her shirt was definitely, a hit.
Henry and I (supporting cast members), don’t really count, so we took the show on the road. En route, we met several other dogs. I held my breath as the scene unfolded before me; Reese was a superstar, taking her cue from Henry, the two of them walked nicely past the other dogs without any drama.
While I can’t say Reese has this act down pat quite yet, I definitely feel her performance is improving and her confidence grows, each time we rehearse. She is definitely less reactive to other dogs and doesn’t turn and run in fear, quite so quickly.
Henry – barking dog, frightened of thunder, lightning, and all flappy, inflatable things
Reese – barking dog, frightened of other dogs, and unfamiliar people
Wardrobe – Thundershirt, provided by ThunderWorks; www.thundershirt.com
Definitely, two paws up!
A dazzling performance by Henry and Reese. Thunderworks, makes every matinee, an enjoyable experience.
Disclaimer: Her and her dogs received a complimentary Thudershirt from THUNDERWORKS for posting an honest review of this product. The feedback and opinions shared in this post are ours, in our words. We did not receive monetary compensation for this review, and it is our choice to share this product/service information.
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