Friday, July 1, 2016

DIY Thundershirt

Abby Normal the Labrador is terrified of both thunder and fireworks.  Most storms she just goes in the closet in the bedroom or the one behind my office where the winter coats are kept.  We will put a soft pet bed in there and she'll lay on it the her head peering into the room. But when there are fireworks - she immediately goes into the  bedroom closet and as narrow as it is, folds herself up like an accordion so she can get horizontal in the very back of it.  It just looks painful

Unfortunately, fireworks in the city aren't limited to July 4th.  No, all the locals will be shooting their personal ones off every evening as soon as they are  off work starting a good three days prior.  Last year, we went to the crash pad in Indianapolis which was in a more rural area and a strict "no fireworks" in the condo complex so it was quiet. Now that I no longer commute we thought about going out to the country to stay with friends, but plans changed and we were both going to have to be close to home and I regret not getting that Thundershirt ordered.

So Plan B (as in bow wow).
Yes, I should have ordered a Thundershirt.  My Vet says about 80% of dogs have great success with them and they h ave a money back guarantee. But it's too late now to get one, things already starting to pop around the neighborhood.

So DIY Thundershirt.  Acting on the same principals that the gentle pressure on certain points on your pet will calm and sooth, I made one out of an ace bandage (that was about 5 feet long).  You could also use a long scarf on a smaller dog.

Since the bandage wasn't quite big enough to hit all the pressure points, I used supplemented the back section with a long narrow scarf.
Take the section of bandage and wrap the middle of it across the dog's chest.   She's not looking too sure about this, and has already heard some "Pops" which are making her nervous.
Bring the back of the bandage up over the withers, cross and then bring down below the chest.  If long enough bring it back up to the spine and tie it off at the base of the spine like this diagram.

Since my bandage (which was about 5 feet long) roll wasn't long enough to bring  it on up again over the her lower back, I just fastened the ends on the belly with the piece of Velcro that came with the bandage and used separate section of scarf to cradle and pressure the back part of the belly, tying it up above the base of her spine.

It should be snug, but not so snug your dog can't easily sit or lay down.  I also added a drop of PURE frankincense essential oil to the bandage on the chest and put a drop, warmed in my hand, rubbed into the fur on the top of her head and around the outside of her ears. Frankincense is pet safe and is VERY calming for dogs.. Lavender would also work but remember, dogs are quite scent sensitive, before you apply it, put a drop on your hand and see if they have a "no thanks" reaction to it and don't force it if they don't like it.  Abby loves the scents. JUST a drop is plenty and check with your vet if you consider any other oils as some can cause liver and kidney toxicity.  Also don't use the cheap synthetic oils that are just a fragrance of frankincense, not the actual essential oil.

Sit!  Stay!
 "Sure, I can sit Mom but there's a unacceptable level of food crumbs under this table for me to snag".
Somebody is MUCH happier now.   BOOM!
"I'm not afraid of no fireworks!"
"Thanks Mom - but seriously the next time, don't use the animal print scarf.  I'm a Lab, not a cougar!"

Next time there is noise - I'll get the real Thundershirt -  but this really worked and was all made things we had on hand.


  1. My oldest son uses one of these on his boxer - chow mix, but I never saw any improvement. Glad to hear it worked for you.


  2. I suggest that you let Abby get hungry, then light a few firecrackers to let her know where the food bowl is.

    After she is properly conditioned to run to the sound of firecrackers, I think you should get her one of those doggy-spider costumes (

    Just saying. Change it from Abby's problem to their problem.

  3. Glad it worked for her! We had no luck with a Thundershirt with my smaller dog. He turned out to be one of the small percentage that it causes him to shut down instead of helping him calm down.

  4. Indy has the same issue with loud bangs, fireworks or firearms. We suspect he has been shot at back when he was running stray prior to adopting him. I got him a thundershirt back in June just for this weekend! L

  5. FWIW, my experience has been the Thundershirt has been very effective with my & my friends standard schnauzers. As they got older (10+ years) they became sensitive to fireworks and the thunderstorms. The Thundershirt was a god-send. No more pacing, drooling nor general nervousness. They would just lay down and take a nap like there was nothing going on. We did find that they were most effective if we put them on at the first sign of a storm or that first firecracker "pop" before the unease set in. My friend's husband just laughed and told her is was never going to work the first time she put it on Cinch. After Cinch simply curled up and took a nap he was convinced!
    I think Abby would be a happy camper with one, but good to know that your DIY substitute is working!

  6. What a terrific home solution!


  7. I wish I had thought of this when we had Boo, our neurotic little peekenese Boston terrier mix who went nuts during thunderstorms.

  8. Glad it worked for Abby! When we had a dog years ago, he would hide under the bed with his blankey!

  9. Remmy could care less about the boom of the 12 gauge, that means birds. Storms and fireworks usually require hiding in the dog cave, a spot under the covers between the people.

  10. Smart! And I never knew about using a scent to calm them... sigh...

  11. My dog ate the Thundershirt. It was so shredded that we could only identify it by the tag. I wish we had a camera on him to see how he got it off.

  12. Thundershirt somewhat worked for our pup. Without it, she would be a quivering bowl of jelly. With it, she would yawn and smack her lips but (mostly) no quivering or shaking. She was even able to sleep while wearing it and the fireworks going off until midnight. Glad to see you found an alternative for Abby.

  13. Puppies can be trained with a cap gun. Food cannot be left down. But, when the food is put down, use a cap gun while the dog eats. Soon, the dog will think bangs mean food. Then, the later puppy can be taken outside with a gun. Retrieving birds will be fun. I think if a person has a gun for protection, it might be a good idea to have their dog not afraid of the sound of a gun. The capgun trained dog will be an adult with no fears of thunderstorms.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion, but Abby isn't afraid of the sound of a gun, it's the high pitched SCHREEEEEEE before the Pop! that has her hiding. Barkley, spent a lot of time out in the field with firearms and he was still deathly afraid of thunderstorms - I think it was the pressure changes and the flash of lights more than the thunder.


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