Guide to Thunder Jackets For Dogs – Anxiety Shirts & Calming Coats
Another storm is here. Thunder is cracking. Both you are your dog are stressed. Some dogs will bark non stop. Others will panic and injure themselves trying to escape. Some will hide under the table or bed and not come out for hours. Many will tremble and even soil themselves. Whichever way your dog reacts to noise and stress, doing what you can to calm him or her down means you can feel confident that next time a stressful situation occurs, you’ll have more control and your dog will be calmer.
Calming jackets for dogs are designed to do just that – bring about calm and reduce anxiety.
They are also sometimes called pressure wraps, because they are designed to apply just enough gentle pressure around a dog to naturally encourage a sense of calm and security in stressful situations.
Why put a calming jacket on your dog?
Anxiety and fear is a common cause of excessive barking which can lead to neighborhood complaints. Aside from that, it’s stressful and unhealthy for your dog to regularly feel anxious. Some of the scenarios where an anti-anxiety shirt helps a dog to calm down include:
- Seperation Anxiety
- Vet Visits
- Car trips
- Air travel
- Other excessive barking situations
Once you know what triggers your dog to become anxious, you’ll know when it’s the right time to put on his or her calming jacket, minimizing any distress for your dog, your family and your neighbors.
In 2014 a study was even undertaken by experts and published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. The goal was to evaluate whether the Thundershirt had any effect on lowering stress levels in dogs who had been diagnosed with either of two anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder and seperation anxiety.
Thundershirt is the best known and certainly the most popular brand of anxiety jackets for dogs. There are three different styles: Classic, Polo and Sport.
What’s the difference between them?
Not a whole lot in terms of function. They are of course all designed to do the same thing: bring calm and comfort to a dog in anxious situations.
It’s the style of the jacket that differs between the three types. The Classic and Polo Thundershirts are made from a blend of polyester, rayon and spandex. They are different in cosmetic design only with the Polo having a notably sleeker appearance, but the materials used are the same.
The Sport Thundershirt on the other hand, is 100% polyester. It’s a more breatheable material with what they call “airflow technology”. This is considered the top of the Thundershirt range. More details on all three of the Thundershirt styles can be seen below in this guide.
It’s important to choose the best size for your dog’s measurements and weight. Use the official Thundershirt size chart to select the right size, for the best and most comforting fit for your dog so he or she gets the maximum possible benefit from wearing a Thundershirt:
Thundershirt Size Guide
The ThunderShirt Classic is like the Big Mac of calming coats for dogs. It’s incredibly popular. Why? Because it just works – for most dogs.
One of the big selling points of the ThunderShirt line is that the company has done research and has determined that over 80% of dogs had reduced anxiety when wearing the coat.
As a result, it’s often recommended by professional trainers and vets. What this means is that there’s a high chance that you will see a reduction in stress and anxiety behavior when your dog is wearing a ThunderShirt – maybe not immediately, but after he’s become used to wearing it.
For many people, this high success rate makes it an appealing and low risk option to at least try.
An important part of this research is described in the scientific study The effect of a pressure wrap (ThunderShirt) on heart rate and behavior in canines diagnosed with anxiety disorder which was undertaken by world renowned animal behavior expert Temple Grandin and other scientists. The study showed a reduction in many stress and anxiety related behaviors and heart rate when the ThunderShirt was worn as instructed with ample pressure being applied on the dog (as per the instructions).
This anxiety jacket is made for pretty much every dog, no matter their size. Any dog ranging from tiny tots weighing under 7 pounds, up to XX large size for the biggest individuals of the biggest breeds weight 110 pounds and up.
All you need to do is check the sizing chart and match your dog’s weight up with the correct sized jacket.
One of the problems that you can find with low quality dog jackets is that they will get a build up of fur because of the less than ideal fabric that’s used. ThunderShirt has made it a priority however to make sure that the Classic does not have this problem.
The fabric of this dog coat has been designed to resist the collection and build up of fur. So keeping it clean is going to be easy and without the bother of dealing with tufts of fur everywhere.
The company does provide a money back guarantee on the Classic and all of the ThunderShirt line. This gives you additional confidence and peace of mind. Just make sure you give it ample time to take effect rather than giving up if there are no instant changes (often there are).
The benefits of persisting with using the ThunderShirt to help with anxiety are certainly well worth it.
Check the price of your dog’s ThunderShirt Classic size at Amazon
or find out more about it
The Polo version of the ThunderShirt features a slightly different design than the Classic.
There are two lines of the Polo: the regular one, and a special MLB licensed design which comes decked out in five different licensed Major League Baseball teams logos that you can choose from.
The regular Polo comes in three cool colors: pink, blue and camo.
Currently the Polo ThunderShirt is available in 5 sizes: from X Small up to X Large, so this would fit most breeds of dogs.
The shirt is secured with velcro, like all of the ThunderShirts. This lets you adjust it to just right fit, finding a perfect balance between a firm but gently snug and secure fit around your dog.
It’s made of a blend of polyester, spandex and rayon, giving it a soft, yet flexible feel and helps the jacket conform to your dog’s body shape for a more snug fit.
What are the good things about the Thundershirt Polo?
A warmer dog jacket can be comfortably worn over the top of the Polo, without adding bulk to the dog. So while the Polo wrap itself isn’t particualrly warm (that’s not what it’s designed for), if your dog needs additional warmth, it’s easy to slide another jacket on top as long as there’s no risk of your dog over heating.
The Polo (like all Thundershirts) are designed to be lightweight so to avoid a dog becoming too hot, but the company states that they are not ideal in extreme conditions of 90F or more in the sun (no dog clothing should be used in such conditions). The fabric used is breathable and thin.
Easily and quickly secures and adjusts with the velcro straps. No messing around or extra stress and you can adjust it in a matter of seconds.
Any potential issues with the Thundershirt Polo?
Not an issue so to speak as this is standard across most anxiety vests, having no leash attachment on the jacket. But it doesn’t interfere with a dog wearing his regular collar and leash or even a harness which can easily go over the Thundershirt Polo.
Check out the current price of the Thundershirt Polo at Amazon
ThunderShirt Sport Anxiety Jacket
This sportier design of the ThunderShirt comes in 6 sizes and two colors.
Like all of the ThunderShirt range, the Sport comes with a money back guarantee so you can have the peace of mind that you aren’t risking your money. We do advise though, that you give any anxiety jacket a good number of attempts as it can take some time for any dog to get used to wearing something new.
The company claims that there’s an 80% success rate with using this jacket (and all other Thundershirts) in effectively calming dogs and reducing anxiety behaviors.
The ThunderShirt Polo and the Sport have one main difference: that is the material used. In fact, this is the only difference between the two products. The Sport version has a more expandable material which is lightweight and uses what the company calls AirFlow technology, which is breathable to reduce heat. It also has heavier duty stitching.
The company says that there is nothing wrong with leaving a ThunderShirt on all day – provided the dog has become used to wearing it and you’ve monitored it for the first few wearing experiences to ensure there is no skin irritation or discomfort. Leaving a ThunderShirt on all day where suitable for an individual dog, can give you peace of mind that your dog’s anxiety will be reduced while you’re not at home.
The main benefit of this and all other ThunderShirt styles is the comforting light pressure applied to the chest area of the dog by the band that wraps around this area, and which is wide enough to cover the whole chest (one reason why getting the right size is important). It’s this strap that brings about calm and comfort to a dog.
Like all of the ThunderShirt range, the Sport version backed by the company’s money back guarantee.
See the price of the ThunderShirt Sport at Amazon
Mellow Shirt Calming Wrap
It’s all about keeping your dog mellow when you use a calming jacket. This wrap, aptly named the Mellow Shirt, is light and comfortable. This coat is easy to put on in a similar style to the Thundershirts, with velcro straps. You can then adjust these to give just the right fit for your dog.
It’s easy to adjust to the exact comfort level that your dog is happy with using the two velcro strips – one on the dog’s chest at the front and one that goes under your dog’s belly.
The goal is to apply just a gentle pressure on your dog – not too tight and not too loose – so he or she feels secure and safe. Like getting a big hug.
The Mellow dog wrap has some stretch in it, and is made of a soft thick material that strikes a good balance between comfort, flexibility and providing a firm fit once it’s on.
While there is no leash attachment on this shirt, it can be comfortably and easily used with a harness on top of it
The Mellow Shirt is designed to be comfortably worn for as long as needed, but keep in mind that the company does recommend that the coat is removed at least once a day for a period of time to allow the skin to breathe freely.
I had a good thorough dig around to find out what people are saying about using this calming shirt on their dog. I found that the majority were really happy with it, as an alternative to the much more well known ThunderShirt line.
A few issues popped up though and these mostly revolve around people finding that it didn’t have the effect on their dog in calming their anxiety that they had expected or hoped for.
This can happen for a myriad of reasons and rarely comes down to the quality of the shirt itself – some dogs just require other methods to reduce their anxiety.
See the price of the Mellow Shirt at Amazon
American Kennel Club Calming Coat Review
This is the AKC (American Kennel Club) approved anti-anxiety calming coat. Considering the associated brand name, with the AKC being highly respected, this is a surprisingly reasonably priced coat so you’re not paying a premium for the name.
Reviews of the AKC calming coat are majority positive. Are there complaints? Yes; something we’ve found with all of the jackets. Some dogs simply won’t be a match, but my job here is to point out any potential issues with a coat, while also focusing on the many positives. The AKC jacket is no exception and as with any product, it’s often the small number of disenchanted customers that tend to voice the loudest opinions – but these are always well worth listening to, as we want to dive deep into what possible problems, and their reasons, that people might be having with the AKC coat.
A design difference on this coat is the way the wrap runs under the belly and goes all the way up to the middle of the dog’s back, rather than attaching on the side or under the belly.
This does provide a more thorough wrap on the stomach area.
There are 5 sizes to suit most breeds, from chihuahua up to large Boxers and German Shepherds. The AKC coat might not be suited for dogs larger than this, although it will of course depend on the individual – that’s why it’s important to measure up your dog so you can get it right. It’s important for the coat to fit well, so taking the time to do this is absolutely worth it and it only takes a minute.
Giant dogs will need to look at one of the other brands of jackets I’ve listed here in this guide, many of which are available in extra (and XX) large sizes for the biggest dogs.
The Original Anxiety Wrap
With a simple slogan stating that this is “the wrap that calms your pet”, The Original Anxiety Wrap is made by The Company of Animals, a business with a long history of dog behavior and training expertise.
The leg straps on this coat have actually been patented by this company. But what makes them different or special? They are termed “acupressure leg straps”, which as the name suggests, applies some pressure to the dogs legs, as well as the standard pressure that’s applied to the body with all of these anxiety coats. The company claims that this additional leg security adds to a dog’s sense of calm. Obviously, it’s only the very top of the legs that are secured and as you would expect, there’s no obstruction from the jacket under the tail area.
The material of the coat is both breathable and is described as water resistant, being made of spandex style material that has some stretch in it. It is light weight, but designed to give a dog coverage and security from the neck to the top of the legs.
Sizes are available for the smallest toy breeds with a minimum of 10″ neck size, up to extra large dogs with a 39.5″ neck width. The company has a simple and clear sizing chart on their website which is worth checking out, as well as instructions on how to best measure up your dog so you get the best fitting size.
What’s good about this anxiety wrap?
Those with a calmer, more patient dog don’t tend to have much of a problem with getting the jacket over their dog’s head without causing stress. For dogs that are in a heightened state of anxiety though, this can be a problem (see the section below).
For those who were happily able to get the coat on to their dogs without fuss, many find that it does indeed work well in reducing anxiety, especially in dogs who only have mild or moderate symptoms of stress usually.
One of the main things I would point out about the Original Anxiety Wrap, is that its one that is probably best not worn for longer periods of time, unlike the Thundershirt and some others.
While good results are often seen with dogs that it comfortably fits on, it does tend to be a shorter term benefit (a couple of hours, for example), rather than something you might want your dog to wear all day or night.
What problems are people having with it?
Certainly there is a positive attitude surrounding this jacket in general, however much of this tends to revolve around an older version of it. The current make of the Original Anxiety Wrap has presented a few downsides for some dogs and owners.
There are a few negative points I need to point out about this jacket. Keep in mind that everyone’s (and their dog’s) experience, opinion and expectations will differ, but it’s wise to keep potential problems in mind as you decide which anxiety coat is going to be the best one for you to buy.
- There is concern that the current version is not the same as the original product from long ago. there is a potential for noticeably lower quality, and this can cause some issues with both the comfort and effectiveness
- The material of this latest version is somewhat thinner than the older make, and is generally considered to be of a lower quality compared with other brands like the Thundershirt
- It’s not as smooth and easy to put on your dog as most other anti-anxiety coats. This one requires you to put it on over the dogs head, like we put a shirt on. Nervous dogs need something that goes on smoothly and quickly, otherwise their nervousness increases. unlike most other anxiety coats, anxious and stressed dogs often won’t tolerate this. it can end up increasing stress. taking it off the same way can also create stress for some dogs. the whole idea of a calming coat is to reduce anxiety, so this is a poor design for dogs who need a jacket that can be put on quickly and stress-free.
- getting a good fit has been an issue for some people. It seems that unless the dog is shaped quite closely to the measurements for each size, part of the coat may be either too loose or tight fitting, or too long along the back, so it’s not particularly flexible for dogs who might not conform to specific measurements.
- Excessive/obsessive chewers have been known to chew the shirt off from the back legs. this could be because they find it uncomfortable. Again, this means you need to be sure you can get a good fit.
Well, while it might seem that there are more negative and positives, I can only reiterate that every individual dog is different. Some will love this calming jacket, while others will find greater comfort in a Thundershirt or other brand. With that in mind, there’s little doubt that the potential disappointments of the Original Anxiety Wrap will lead most people to look at one of the other products in this guide.
Check out The Original Anxiety Wrap at Amazon
What is the ThunderLeash?
It is designed to be a no-pull leash that provides a gentle level of feedback to the dog if he begins to pull.
Although designed for use with the ThunderShirt, the ThunderLeash (of which there are 3 different types) can be used effectively both with and without a ThunderShirt.
The idea behind these leashes is that they operate on a no pull basis through the giving of gentle feedback to the dog when she starts to pull on the leash while you’re walking. This is then meant to encourage the dog not to pull, although it will take gradual training over time as with any behavioral issue.
The ThunderLeash is recommended by a number of reputable trainers, and has proven effective (stopping pulling) with around 80% of dogs which is a very good success rate.
It’s a 6 foot long leash, which is quite long but since it works by being wrapped around your dog’s body, it becomes shorter once it’s ready to actually use. The idea of this sort of design is that a pulling dog is not going to choke as happens with a regular neck leash collar, but instead the pressure is felt around the chest area without harming the dog.
Thundershirt vs Anxiety Wrap
A lot of people narrow their choice down to the two most well known thunder jackets: the famous Thundershirt or the original Anxiety Wrap. They both look similar at first glance (indeed, most dog anxiety coats look similar to each other with many copy cat designs out there) – but what are the differences?
Take a look at my comparison chart below comparing the Anxiety Wrap to the Thundershirt Classic:
|ThunderShirt||Original Anxiety Wrap|
|Number of Sizes||7||10|
|Dog Size Range (Chest)||9″ – 50″||13″ – 41″|
|Material||Polyester/Rayon/Spandex Blend||Lycra type|
|Chest Strap Type||Velcro||None|
|Belly Strap Type||Velcro x3||Velcro|
The main things to consider when it comes to the differences between these two jackets are:
The Anxiety Wrap needs to be put on the dog like a t-shirt: over the head. This isn’t easy to do on an anxious dog, so most people would need to prepare in advance and have the coat on earlier to avoid squirming and making the anxiety worse, and in some cases, not being able to get the wrap on at all.
The Thundershirt on the other hand, only needs to be placed on your dog’s back, then velcro’d closed and adjusted at the chest and under the belly.
When it comes to comfort and ease of use, Thundershirt is the clear winner there.
The Original Anxiety Wrap just doesn’t provide a very user friendly, low-stress way of getting it on your dog (let me be clear: this doesn’t mean all dogs as some dogs will be fine), but that is an issue with a product that is designed to reduce anxiety. The Anxiety Wrap company has stated that their reasons for choosing the over-the-head design is based on both safety and comfort according to their research.
They believe the stretchy material makes it more snug on the dog, while reducing the risk of the coat getting snagged on something. In any case, we see the trade off for actually getting the wrap on the dog to potentially not be worth it, unless you have a particularly calm dog or intend to put the wrap on in advance of stressful situations (noting that it is not meant to be left on for long periods in warm weather due to the potential to overheat).
All things considered, I believe the Thundershirt is the better option for most dogs (and most people) when compared to the Original Anxiety Jacket.
Tips For Getting Results With Anxiety Jackets
Getting it right: From before you even make a decision on which jacket to buy, until the moment you’re faced with the first time you’re dog will try it on and beyond – making sure the whole process goes smoothly will mean all the difference in whether an anti-anxiety coat will have the positive effect on your dog’s feelings and behavior as you want it to.
Timing is everything: Aways try and put the jacket on before the stressful event starts. For example, if you know a storm is on the way and your dog is a known storm fearer, or if a firework event will be happening which you know is going to distress your pup. It could be before going in the car, or to the vet; wherever and whenever you think your dog will be faced with an anxious situation. The calmer the dog is when you put it on the easier it will be and the more likely they wont reach a heightened state of anxiety.
Make sure it fits well: there is no point having your dog wear one of theses vests if it’s too loose (or too tight either). The goal of a well made anxiety wrap is to WRAP the dog, and provide gentle pressure as if he is literally being held. This comforting feeling is required if the jacket’s purpose is to come to fruition – which is to reduce anxiety symptoms and lessen or eliminate stress, no matter what the cause of it may be for your dog. Each manufacturer or brand will have a unique sizing chart for their jackets, and some will require you to measure your dog in different spots, as well as weigh them. Whatever is required, make sure you follow the instructions (it literally takes a minute or less to measure up your pooch), so that you will be buying the right size the first time, and so your dog will be at maximum comfort level from the first time you put her new thunder jacket on!
Photos of Dogs Wearing ThunderShirts & Calming Jackets
6. L. M. Bernhardt
With frequent storms occurring through the night at present, and the nights tending to be warmer, is it safe to leave the thundershirt classic on all night or will it cause my dog to over heat? Thanks
Yes they certainly can. The Thundershirt does not cover that area so no need to take it off to pee!
I have looked long and hard without finding an answer, so i hope you can help out. Can male dogs go pee with thundershirt or jacket on? Do u need to take it off?