Known as anxiety shirts or the name brand variety the ThunderShirt, this simple piece of attire has a very unique function that is both clever and surprising.
I had never seen one of these shirts used until I stayed with a friend who has a somewhat nervous dog that often reacted to too much noise and excitement. I was a doubter. I didn’t see how simply putting a ThunderShirt on a dog could make any difference or help her with her stress, but I was wrong. It did help, and I saw the results within minutes. She actually seems to enjoy wearing it, too.
How They Work
If you’ve ever noticed the contentment and security your dog gets cuddling against you or being close to you, you will have a sense of what an anxiety shirt does for your dog. When a dog is scared, they need to feel secure, safe and connected to help them deal with what is troubling them. Emotion and fear can overwhelm a dog that is under duress.
An anxiety shirt wraps the dog in a pressured jacket that surrounds their body and gives them what is basically a constant hug to keep them calm and reassure them. The shirt not only helps with the various causes of stress, it provides an alternate method of helping your dog when she needs it. Read More »
When I was a kid, we had a Manchester Terrier who would race to the front door and bark during severe thunderstorms. She’d bark and race over to us and then back to the door as if she thought someone was knocking. Distant thunder didn’t bother her, but loud and close thunder did. Our two other dogs would sleep right through a thunderstorm. Why does thunder and lightning scare some dogs and not others?
Lightning is formed when ice and water particles inside a cloud are compressed by warm air currents. Friction from the quickly moving currents causes electrical charges to form within the cloud. Negative charges build up at the bottom of the cloud and positive ones go to the top. When there’s a large buildup of negative charge, a feeler is sent towards the ground where it meets up with a positive streamer reaching up from the ground and causes a lightning strike. The negative charge descends rapidly, heating the air surrounding it to around 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit and creating a shock wave – thunder.
A low pressure is when the atmospheric (barometric) pressure is lower than the surrounding area. Lows produce snow, rain, wind, humidity, thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes. A change in barometric pressure can bother some dogs more than others, especially arthritic pets that can experience more pain and stiffness in their joints during storms. Lightning is a natural source of nitrogen oxides, and dogs that are sensitive to storms may be able to smell these odors from the atmosphere as well as the ozone.
My dogs can’t wait to get outside when the weather is nice, but a rainy day is a much different story. Even when I stand outside in the rain trying to coax them out, I get a look from them that says, “You crazy human. You do know it’s raining – right?” In the end, I usually win out, thanks to patience and the natural urge that sooner or later causes a dog to begrudgingly step out into the rain to do their business.
Keikei is the only one of my dogs who prances around in the rain like Gene Kelly in the classic movie Dancing in the Rain. The other dogs tiptoe through the grass hoping this will keep their feet from getting wet.
Most dogs will resist going outside in the rain, but some don’t seem to mind if they get wet. As long as it’s not storming or coming down in buckets, you can usually coax your dog outside for a quick duty call. It’s usually a hard rain that puts the brakes on for most dogs. I can’t say I blame them, because I don’t want to stand outside when it’s raining hard any more than they do.
For some dogs, it’s not the rain that bothers them, it’s the scary thunder and lightning. One of my dogs, Shelby, has a thunder phobia. The minute the rumbles start, she’s by my side. Dogs with a storm phobia are more often herding breeds and hounds, but any dog can be afraid of storms and it can be a serious issue for an owner to deal with. Dogs scared of storms can have mild to severe reactions. They might chew on anything they can find, salivate, whine, hide, pace, shake, become destructive or aggressive, or cling to their owner for the duration of the storm.
My dog Frosty had a serious fear of loud noises. She was most terrified when it stormed, when there were fireworks or when guns were being shot. She would salivate, pace and hide. Once we were able to understand what she was afraid of, it made it easier to help her when she was faced with the things that scared her.
Fear can be a crippling emotion and when it comes to your dog, fear can drive his actions and lead to bad and even dangerous behavior. Understanding the fears that your dog experiences can help you, as a responsible pet owner, better help your canine companion.
Things that scare your dog may seem silly or inconsequential, but to your pooch they are monumental. What are some common fears that dogs exhibit?
The noise created by vacuum cleaners, certain appliances and even lawnmowers have been known to scare some dogs. In the house, sudden loud noises like those from a mixer, a blender or some other small appliance can startle and upset any dog.
Often, the reverberation of loud sounds off the walls of an enclosed room can frighten your dog. In the great outdoors, though, dogs can react poorly to the lawnmower. In all cases, a dog is simply unable to make sense of the movement and the noise, and it results in fear.
In the same way, some dogs may be frightened by thunder, lightning or fireworks. It is possible to rehabilitate some dogs from such fears through therapy, positive encouragement and even medications. However, avoiding the things that frighten your dog, if feasible, may be the best way to deal with their fears.
While most humans are accustomed to loud noises or crowds of people, dogs can sometimes get pretty agitated. During the summer there are plenty of noises and events that can frighten dogs. Fireworks on the 4th of July, family cookouts, neighborhood gatherings and thunderstorms are just a few of the things which can upset your dog. Some dogs are even scared of water; the things that can frighten and agitate your dog are varied and depend on the personality of the dog and his environment.
Each dog reacts differently when scared, nervous or feeling crowded. Some dogs may get vocal with barking or growling when they feel agitated, while others may retreat when they are frightened. Even well mannered dogs have been known to have potty accidents when they get agitated, or to snap at people when they feel crowded and cornered. Responsible pet owners always try to keep their dog from feeling fear, but there are some things that even the most dedicated doggy mom can’t do anything about.
Our dog Bear is terrified of thunder. She hears it long before we do and begins rounding up the family. She pants and does rounds of the house trying to make sure we are all where we need to be. As the thunder gets closer she begins searching for a safe place. For a dog as big as Bear, it’s amazing that she can squeeze into some really small places when there’s a thunderstorm. She will go under the bed, try to get into the bottom shelf on a bookshelf or the tiniest cubby underneath the desk. She shivers and shakes and pants until I sometimes worry about her having a stroke or a heart attack. Her response to thunder or fireworks seems quite similar to a human having a panic attack. She doesn’t focus on any one thing, and will often roll her eyes in fear.
We think of our dogs as being fearless in their protection of us if an intruder were to ever enter our homes. Most dogs will protect their property, but dogs are like us when it comes to things they’re afraid of. Dog behavior can be hard to figure out, but we can understand when dogs get scared, even though we don’t know why some things scare them.
Thunder is a sound a lot of dogs and cats are scared of. I know a big boom certainly gets my attention. A normally happy dog can show different levels of dog aggression when they become nervous because of loud, sudden sounds. Some dogs have issues with separation anxiety or they may be afraid of another dog in the home or even a neighbor’s dog. And sometimes the big bad scary thing is a cat that intimidates the dog.
Dogs get scared by things that are unfamiliar or confusing to them. Wild animals that wander into their yard can make a dog nervous. I’ve always enjoyed sitting outside at night with my dogs in their dog pen. One night about ten years ago, we had an expected visitor who scared all of my dogs so much it gave me goose bumps, and still does to this day. We were sitting outside on a beautiful night with the moon shining down on the freshly fallen snow. The town clock had chimed midnight and all was quiet. The dogs were wandering around the pen when suddenly they all huddled around me. None of them uttered a sound. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw what scared them – a coyote had quietly stolen up on the other side of the pen and was watching us. He was a beautiful animal, but I quickly decided it was time to go inside. I still sit outside at night with my dogs, but I always bring a good flashlight and pay attention if they huddle around me suddenly.
Dogs get scared by all kinds of things we take for granted. Last winter a dog was found wandering around the parking lot of a local restaurant. When the manager couldn’t find her owner, he asked if we’d take her. She’d apparently been lost for quite awhile and was extremely skinny. She’s doing fine weight wise, but this dog is scared of going up and down stairs and going outside at night. When we started turning on the ceiling fan in the living room and kitchen, she’d sit in a corner never taking her eyes off that spinning monster above her. She doesn’t like thunderstorms, sudden movements, loud noises, flashlights or all the little noises cats and animals make outside as they roam around in the dark. A breaking stick can send her tearing back inside with her tail between her legs. We can only guess what she went through as a lost dog. She is making good progress though, one scary thing at a time.
It can be challenging when dogs get scared. Some can become aggressive or develop behavioral problems related to whatever it is that scares them. Most dogs are happy, carefree pets who eagerly wait for us to return home and take them out for a game of catch or a walk. But we all have things that scare us, even though we may not admit it. If something scares a dog, they do remember it. I know the dogs I had at the time of our brief encounter with the coyote remembered the smell that scared them enough to huddle beside me. I don’t know if I was supposed to protect them or if they were trying to protect me.
Dogs get scared of the vacuum cleaner roaring across the living room carpet, snakes hidden in tall grass, a trip to the vet, and getting their toenails clipped. Some dogs get scared riding in a car, being yelled at, and being around unfamiliar dogs or people. Fear is a normal response to something that isn’t understood and there’s a difference between a fearful dog and one who is scared by something that confused him and caused his reaction. However, dog aggression can result from both. For most dogs who get scared, once whatever it was that scared them is gone, they will return to normal.
Most of the time when dogs get scared, their fear will pass, but it’s up to us as responsible pet owners to recognize if it’s nothing to worry about or if it’s something we need to help them understand.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.