When thunderstorms hit, our black lab, Tuff, is beyond consolation. As he’s aged, his fear of thunderstorms has only gotten worse. He paces about the house, drooling and panting, unwilling to settle.
During an afternoon thunderstorm, he’d hide under the dining room table, shaking like a leaf, fearful to come out. Nothing could tempt him ... not his favorite pheasant squeaky toy, pepperoni treats or the sound of the mailman (whom he barks at and plays tug-of-war with through the mail slot each day).
During evening and late night storms, he would jump on the bed, standing while his frame was illuminated in the moonlight like a superhero canine. It was nearly impossible to calm him down. Sharing the bed with a large black lab, which under normal circumstances is forbidden, can be quite uncomfortable during a terrifying thunderstorm. As hard as it is to admit, his behavior was becoming more and more frustrating, especially his late night panic attacks. Waking up in the middle of the night tending to an infant is expected, but the dog? The following mornings were horrid. It was like nursing a hangover after a dud party.
Our vet was well aware of his neurotic thunder behavior. It’s so extreme, we’ve have to medicate him. Since Tuff can sense a storm, we know well in advance when to administer his doggie downers. Until then, it was the only thing that kept him calm.
His most recent episode was a 2 a.m. desire to find solace under my bed. I woke to four legs kicking uncontrollably, as if his body were wedged. My husband and I jumped out of bed, and he lifted the bed frame while I grabbed Tuff’s collar and pulled him out. It was as if his fear had taken over. Not the best time to run out of doggie downers. It was at that moment that we both realized his anxiety was beyond normal. It has escalated over the years, but now had recently evolved to a level including self injury.
For months, a friend of mine had been telling me about the Thunder Shirt. After Tuff’s 2 a.m. dance party under the bed, I finally ordered one. Medicating Tuff does work, but preferring a more natural approach, the Thunder Shirt was the one option we hadn’t tried.
With in two days, the Thunder Shirt arrived. It’s a simple concept. Thunder Shirt is designed to be easy when putting on and off, with no pulling or threading through your dogs head and legs. It’s one piece of flexible, thick comfortable fabric with strips of velcro for a secure and snug fit. According to the website, Thundershirt.com, it uses gentle, constant pressure to calm your dog, effectively reducing anxiety, fearfulness, barking and more.
The day our Thunder Shirt arrived, a thunderstorm was brewing. Tuff began to pace, pant, drool and shake as expected. We pulled out the Thunder Shirt and read the simple, illustrated directions. Putting the Thunder Shirt on Tuff was like wrapping an oversized burrito ... tight and warm while the goodies remain wedged inside. He looked ridiculous and humiliated, but comfortable. I wasn’t expecting miracles. I was actually apprehensive, almost expecting failure.
During the thunderstorm, Tuff curled up on the floor, as usual, but instead of hiding, took a nap. Occasionally we glanced over, checking on his progress with the Thunder Shirt. He was aware of the thunder and lighting outside, but his breathing had calmed. The fear had disappeared from his eyes along with the panting, shaking and drooling.
Because of the Thunder Shirt, we no longer have 2 a.m. dance parties under the bed, no more neurotic pacing all over the house and no more trips to the vet for doggie downers.