ThunderShirt vs Adaptil for Dog Anxiety – Which Works Better?

Is a ThunderShirt or an Adaptil pheromone collar, spray or diffuser better for reducing stress and anxiety in your dog?

Along with their popular pheromone collar, Adaptil also makes a calming spray and pheromone diffusers that you can either use on its own or in combination with the collar.

Then there’s this option: using both a ThunderShirt and an Adaptil collar to reduce anxiety in stressful situations and environments. The collar will fit comfortably while your dog is wearing a ThunderShirt.

To throw another small spanner into the works, the company behind ThunderShirt also produces a pheromone diffuser called ThunderEase which works similarly to the Adaptil diffuser.

But I want to focus on reducing anxiety when your dog is moving around. This can just be moving around the house or yard, or travelling. The diffusers are made for use in one room.

The ThunderShirt and Adaptil collar are made for “mobile anxiety reduction”. You can keep them on for extended periods of time and let them do their thing without intervention.

These are two very different approaches to anxiety reduction and calming in dogs. This is how each one works to help calm your dog:

How ThunderShirts reduce anxiety in dogs

ThunderShirts provide a physical comforting method to decrease anxiety in dogs. The snug, firm wrap of the ThunderShirt is meant to provide comfort around the dog’s body in a similar way to if your dog was being held.

How Adaptil Collars reduce anxiety in dogs:

All of the Adaptil products use pheromones to calm your dog. These are odorless chemical substances which are able to gently affect the behavior of dogs.

Pheromones used in Adaptil collars are dog specific, and are meant to be very similar to those pheromones given off by a dog’s mother after they are born.

This can, when it works, induce a feeling of calm in a dog but you as a human (as well as cats and other mammals) won’t notice the pheromones at all. The pheromones in the collar are activated by your dog’s body heat; there’s no spray or refilling needed. This does mean the collar runs out of pheromone eventually. Usually this is at around 4 weeks after activation.

We know that ThunderShirts can start working immediately. One of the first questions people have about an Adaptil calming collar is, “How long does it take to work?”.

The collar releases pheromones which are activated by your dog’s body heat. There’s no guarantee this will start immediately, and you won’t actually be able to tell besides by monitoring your dog’s behavior.

Pros and Cons

The ThunderShirt never “expires” or needs to be changed. Like any item of clothing, it will last as long as the material does and in the case of ThunderShirts they are well made and durable.

Adaptil collars last about four weeks only, then you need a new one.

This is fine for one off stressful situations, but if you want a longer lasting or more permanent solution that you can use whenever there’s a stressful situation, Adaptil collars can start getting expensive if you’re having to regularly replace them.

ThunderShirt or Adaptil? Which one for your dog?

So if you only want to use one – either a ThunderShirt or the Adaptil system – which should you choose?

It depends on your lifestyle, it depends on the types of situations your dog will be faced with which cause stress and it depends of course on your dog. Most dogs take perfectly fine to wearing a ThunderShirt, a small minority might not and in some cases the ThunderShirt won’t necessarily reduce all anxiety behaviors – you will not know until you try.

You’re not likely to see an immediate anxiety relief response from the Adaptil collar, but a more gradual relaxing of fear and stress symptoms if the collar is going to work.

This could be over a period of a few hours or a few days.

The collar lasts one month and some people will find it’s going to take a week or more to see changes. Put simply, if you need a more immediate response to a short term stressful situation then the ThunderShirt can be the better option.

If your dog is going to be exposed to stressful situations over a period of several weeks (keeping in mind the collar is effective for about one month before needing replacement), the Adaptil is a viable option.

You could also use both – a ThunderShirt combined with the Adaptil collar.

They don’t cancel each other out but they do provide a backup of sorts for each other, and you get to cover multiple bases of anxiety relief with the comforting snugness of the ThunderShirt, with the proven pheromones of the Adaptil collar.