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Thundershirt - Does it work? Any experience?

(16 Posts)
SnakeyMcBadass Mon 24-Feb-14 19:15:17

The spaniel is an angsty, nervous boy. He's on a good quality kibble (Skinners duck and rice) as well as meat/carb scraps and raw bones. He is walked for a bare minimum of an hour a day, off lead. He has fear aggression issues with other dogs, choosing to ignore them and slink past but reacting vocally and with flashing teeth if they come too close. He is stressed out by travelling in the car, the hoover, light reflections and shadows. We have had consultations with behaviourists, both good and bad, and the one I trust the most said he's a stressy dog who wasn't well bred or socialised early, probably puppy farmed so came from a stressed dam and that the best thing we could do would be to try and stay calm and reward him for calm behaviours. This is difficult, as when he's very stressed he is uninterested in treats etc so distractions don't work. We've just got back from a weekend away and he was kennelled for two nights. He hasn't relaxed since. I've been looking at thundershirts and wondering if they would help. Does anyone have any experience of them? Tbh I'm about to down a bucket of gin because my anxiety levels are reaching fever pitch <twitches>

SpicyPear Mon 24-Feb-14 19:20:58

It's always worth a try as they do a money back guarantee. I've heard great reviews but it just stressed my nervy girl put even more. She hated it!

SpicyPear Mon 24-Feb-14 19:21:10

It's always worth a try as they do a money back guarantee. I've heard great reviews but it just stressed my nervy girl put even more. She hated it!

SpicyPear Mon 24-Feb-14 19:22:02

Oh dear. Did not mean to post that twice. She does get on with Dorwest valerian tablets and drops though.

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 24-Feb-14 19:39:58

Have they made a real difference, Pear? As nerve wrecking as it can be living with him, it must be worse for him. He has finally collapsed, exhausted, but will be up like a shot if anyone makes any sudden movements <more gin>

SpicyPear Mon 24-Feb-14 19:44:08

Yes they have. I was quite surprised as they were a bit of a shot to nothing. We keep her on them all winter to help through fireworks, dark evenings and bad weather, which make her anxious.

JemimaPuddle Mon 24-Feb-14 19:50:43

I've not used thundershirt do can't say if good or not but an ordinary tshirt worked wonders on my dog.
I had a lady come and do ttouch and she suggested it, I laughed and said you'll never get him to wear it! Ten minutes later he was asleep on the sofa wearing it smile
Normal tshirt (big dog so used a man's size L) label at bank, legs through sleeves and gathered the excess at 1 side with an elastic band.

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 24-Feb-14 19:54:15

That might be an idea, Jemima. I could certainly try it <eyes washing pile>

moosemama Mon 24-Feb-14 20:13:34

I have heard of plenty of dogs the thundershirt worked for. It didn't help with Lurcherboy's separation anxiety, but he's a bit of an odd shape and seemed to fall between sizes. The rescue he came from uses them successfully though and there have been great reports from some of their fosterers.

Just a thought, but at this point, have you spoken to your vet about possibly medicating? I wouldn't suggest it as a first line treatment, but you have been working him for a long time now, tried different behaviourists and had a lot of advice. If none of it is helping, medication might be worth a try.

If you remember I told you about my old GSD x Boxer boy. He was a rescue from puppy farm and despite coming to us at 8 weeks was just a very anxious, fearful boy by nature. He was extremely big and had fear aggression towards both people and other dogs. We did a lot of counter-conditioning, saw two behaviourists plus our behaviour qualified vet, but eventually gave in and allowed her to prescribe Prozac for him. It was only once he was on the Prozac that his anxiety levels came down low enough for the counter conditioning to actually work. We couldn't afford to keep him on it for long, it wasn't licensed for veterinary use at the time (still might not be for all I know, but we are talking mid 90's here) so cost £70 a box plus charges and had to dispensed by a 'human' pharmacist - but he made the most progress in the shortest period of time while he was on it.

Clomicalm (Clomipramine Hydrochloride) - although that one is more commonly used for separation anxiety - and even Amitryptiline are also used in some cases.

There also are less 'serious' options such as Zylkene, which you can buy online yourself or Tryptophan and L-Theanine, which are also over the counter supplements. There's a great deal of discussion and advice online about using these if you Google.

I know the idea of medicating dogs for anxiety/fear can provoke strong reactions in some people, but I just thought I'd put it out there as it really was the biggest leap forward for our boy, even though we could only do it for a few months.

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 24-Feb-14 20:41:05

Right, the spaniel is now sporting one of the DC's t-shirts complete with an elastic band top knot configuration at a jaunty angle. He looks like an extra from a Wham! video, but isn't bothered by the t-shirt and is settling (finally!)

Moose, I remember your boy very well, and you have given me so much hope/advice/leant me a sense of humour over the years <smooch> I'm reluctant to medicate, purely because of the sheer cost involved. I've tried cheap over the counter remedies, but with negligible success. I think unless you've had a dog with issues, you really can't imagine the constant internal struggle to keep on moving forward. I've dreamed of a perfect home for him, with a dog expert in residence and a job on hand to keep him busy, but I know that's bullshit. Dogs like my boy are not high on the rehoming list, they end up languishing in kennels driven ever more demented with anxiety and stress before being put to sleep. But it is exhausting. Sorry, maudlin this evening. It's been a rough day.

nuttymutty1 Mon 24-Feb-14 20:52:49

I do know how hard it is to leave with stressy reactive dogs but you are the best home for him and don't ever forget it.

Do concentrate on his good points - what does he love to do, how does he make you smile etc.

He may not be having the life you imagined eg stress free playing with other dogs and constantly wagging his tail but he is having a good life and he is loved and has a very caring owner.

You may find that he picks up a bit on your maudlin mood so maybe you can feel stressy together tonight smile

Does he have a crate or a dark quiet place to chill? Many dogs come out of kennels a bit hyper so he is not alone in that.

Re Thundershirts for some dogs the results are amazing, and generally bring down the stress levels. In other dogs it does not seem to make a difference. I would certainly try it.

Also he will have had a lot of adrenalin buzzing around over the weekend so keep life very very chilled over the next few days to avoid adrenalin stacking.

Tomorrow is another day wine

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 24-Feb-14 20:58:55

Thanks, nutty. You're right in everything you say. He is the sweetest, gentlest boy and my DC's best mate. I wish I could fix his issues, but I think I'm beginning to realise that this is actually about managing his fear so that he can cope with everyday life. We have to kennel him for short periods a few times a year in order to visit overseas family. I used to home board him, but tbh I think that was more stressful as he had to mix with unknown dogs. The kennel walks him separately, and he at least has his own space. They say he is fine while there, eats and plays with the staff etc. Tomorrow is another day etc etc <more gin>

And for everyone who criticises the doghouse, I wish they could see just how supportive this board has been to me and my boy despite many mistakes (mine).

BastardDog sported a variety of DD's old t shirts and a bobble whilst recovering from his injury from hell. He looked best in a JLS one.

Sorry to hear your boy isn't settled.

What is a thunder shirt?

moosemama Mon 24-Feb-14 21:12:08

Snakey, even the well adjusted dogs I've had have been jittery and found it hard to settle when they've come back from kennels, even though they have a ball when they're there and practically drag me down the drive with excitement when we drop them off.

I do completely understand your reluctance to go for medication, but thought I would mention it anyway. Our boy did improve, he never a 'normal' dog, but he was happy with his own 'managed' small little world and we were happy to do that for him to facilitate a life for him where he felt safe and happy.

I bought an amazing downloadable seminar from Suzanne Clother's website (incredible woman) last week. It was Arousal, Anxiety and Fear. It cost $20 but it was money well spent, as it really helped me to understand these things from the dog's perspective, better than I ever have before and also gave me a great insight into how to handle my current fearful pup (nowhere near as bad as my GSD x boy, just some fear around other dogs that is really improving).

One of the things she said that really struck me is that you simpy cannot counter-condition or adjust the behaviour of a dog that is in a state of high anxiety. She explained the pyramid of dogs' needs with food, water, shelter etc as the largest section at the bottom and the next biggest category being safety.

She went on to explain how we need to do whatever is necessary to get the dog into a position he feels safe in, before we can even begin to think about changing their response to the stimuli. She also said that some dogs will never get there and then it's about management and making sure we give them the best life possible, whilst ensuring that we have done everything in our power to make sure that neither they or anyone else is ever put at risk. It was the first time I've ever heard anyone validate the route we chose to take with our boy, after years of intensive behavioural work and much soul searching. It actually made me cry. blush

Do remember what we talked about before as well. Give yourself a break, both you and he need to step away from the stress sometimes and time spent playing with him at home, training and either just having short walks or walks in carefully considered remote places will benefit you both. Neither you or he can live permanently full to the max of anxiety, sometimes you have to take a step back and just BE, it will do you both the power of good.

As nutty said, give him a really quiet week, give him chance to regroup and feel safe again, before you embark on any situations that might push his adrenalin levels up again.

... and be kind to yourself. You are an amazing person for committing to supporting your boy. He is very lucky to have you. flowers

needastrongone Mon 24-Feb-14 21:42:19

Lovely posts.

Ddog1 goes back to the breeder when we go away (rare, no life...), so he sees his mum, gran and sister. Theoretically, it should be perfect and he couldn't be more loved (spoilt) when he's there, but he comes back wired and takes a day or so to settle, even from an environment that, in some sense, he must recognise.

I recommend taking a hip flask full of gin on your next outing smile

cashewfrenzy Mon 24-Feb-14 21:44:28

Just to add that I'm not sure whether you've tried Adaptil (you probably have!) but my experience of the collars is much, much better than when it was just the plug-in diffusers. Clients report improvements consistently, and it is more common to see quite major improvements than when I was using the plug-ins. It might be worth revisiting even if you've had limited success in the past.

And yes, the most important thing to remember is that dogs can't learn when they are frightened. Repeat easy simple basic cues and tricks during these times of anxiety. It is exhausting but you are doing a great job by him smile

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