I've got one dog who is unfazed by fireworks and one who is only interested in them if they're in cookie form. Our house is about half a mile from where fireworks are set off in town and our neighbors are quite fond of setting off some of their own as well, so July is a long month for my Barley girl.
When our friends at Chewy.com asked if we'd like to try the Thundershirt, I hesitated for a minute. We'd actually purchased a Thundershirt several years ago because we were visiting my parents during a particularly stormy period. When we'd tried it on a beautiful sunny day so that Barley didn't immediately associate it with scary things, she had shut down and refused to take a step while wearing it and she wouldn't take treats from me until I took it off her. We returned it the same day because they're not cheap and I couldn't see the point of keeping it for a stormy day if she hated it so much.
But I decided that this might be a better time to try the Thundershirt. For one, we were going to be in our own house while trying it instead of traveling. Also, we hadn't tried it for fireworks and the Fourth of July was quickly approaching.
When we got home from our trip to my sister's on July 2, the Thundershirt was waiting for us. My neighborhood started shooting off fireworks days before the actual holiday, so we immediately pulled it out of the box and tried it on.
The first thing I noticed is that they've changed the design since our last try. The Thundershirt is in some light, breathable, moveable material that reminds me of my favorite jersey dresses. They've also changed from boring grey to blue or pink--we were sent a blue one. The insert in the packaging provided illustrated instructions on how to fit the Thundershirt, but I still struggled a little bit with fitting it. Part of that is because Barley is oddly shaped with a tiny head, a huge neck and chest, and a teeny tiny waist, so the very end of the shirt was really loose and kept flipping up further on her back. Part of that is because Barley wasn't thrilled with being dressed up and I think she held her breath to keep me from getting a good fit around her middle. Another part of it is that there are three flaps that you have to wrap around the dog and the inner flap kept going to the wrong side, so I was trying to keep Barley still and readjust the straps so I could velcro them.
We also had a little thunder early in the month. Normally, Barley panics at the first sound of thunder, but I actually got her to go out long enough for a bathroom break while she was wearing the Thundershirt.
But did the Thundershirt really work? Yes and no. When there were sporadic fireworks or far-off thunder and Barley had the Thundershirt on she'd stay in the room with me instead of hiding under the bed or in the bathroom. She wasn't her normal happy, wagging self. We tried to practice noseworks one day and she refused to sniff anything while wearing the Thundershirt. But the fact that she wasn't in hiding was a pleasant surprise to me.
|She often hangs out on the cooling mat while I cook, but usually she watches me to see if anything will drop.|
When there was a big storm or fireworks going off more consistently, Barley was back under the bed. Of course, this meant that I didn't sleep much at all because I didn't want her wearing the Thundershirt all night long, so I'd half sleep and wait for her to come out in the middle of the night so I could tackle her and take the shirt off her before she decided to go back under the bed.
The insert in the box mentions that dogs might have an adjustment period where it takes several uses to see any difference and also includes some tips for helping your dog embrace the Thundershirt, but we've tried the Thundershirt several times a week all month and haven't really seen much difference except for during minor storms and sporadic fireworks. Thankfully, when Barley is bothered by the storms, she does seem content to just go under the bed or in the bathroom and sleep until it's over. Since she's not destructive or hurting herself, I can live with her napping through storms and fireworks (honestly, I am pretty content to nap through storms myself).
Overall, the Thundershirt was relatively easy to put on, it was easy for Barley to move in, and it didn't seem to make her hotter even during the heatwave we've had, but I don't think it's quite the right solution for Barley. I did put it on Rye when she was having a conniption fit over a squirrel she could see through the window. Our shirt is a large, so the neck was a little loose on Rye, but the body of the shirt fit her well when wrapped as tightly as the velcro would allow. As soon as the shirt was on her, she settled right down and watched the squirrel quietly from her perch.
We'll continue to try the Thundershirt for Rye's squirrel-induced excitement to see if that was just a coincidence or if the Thundershirt really did help calm her down. I'm happy we had the chance to really try out the Thundershirt because I've spent the past several years wondering if I should have given our original one more of a chance.
Disclaimer: We were provided with one Thundershirt in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program for Chewy.com.